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Sugarloaf Mountain - Maricopa
3 Photosets

mini location map2020-11-21
4 by photographer avatarGrangerGuy
photographer avatar
Sugarloaf Mountain - MaricopaSouthwest, AZ
Southwest, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 21 2020
Hiking8.00 Miles 1,217 AEG
Hiking8.00 Miles   4 Hrs   45 Mns   2.34 mph
1,217 ft AEG   1 Hour   20 Mns Break10 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The Road

Arrived at the intersection of Microwave Station Road and Eagle Eye Road and set the odometer to zero. If you navigate to Ambrosia Mill from home, it will take you to this intersection. The mill was a processing plant for ores from nearby mines in the 1950s and 1960s.

At 0.2 miles, there are two intersections close together. Take the second right, which keeps you on Microwave Station Road. Going straight at the second intersection would take you to the mill. Microwave Station Rd. is also known as BLM Route 9110. I thought this road was supposed to be paved but it is dirt. It is clearly a high clearance road, a 5-15 MPH sort of route.

At about 3.6 miles, Route 9110A continues straight, while the main 9110 goes left. Follow 9110. At 8.7-8.8 miles from Eagle Eye Road, turn left on the unmarked road going to Dead Horse Tank. This road is high clearance, 4WD recommended. At 9.8 miles from Eagle Eye Road, you arrive at Dead Horse Tank. You can continue straight through the gate, down into and across the tank, if you have 4WD and the tank is dry.

Once through the tank, you can continue on the 4WD road toward the trailhead. The brush does close in on the 4WD road, so I found it a better plan to walk from the tank. If you carried a set of loppers, or didn't mind Arizona Pinstripes, you could drive all the way to the wilderness boundary, where there is plenty of parking.

The Trail
About 9:00, I headed out on the 4WD road on foot, toward the wilderness boundary. Vegetation continues to be creosote bush. As I headed out, it was still not quite clear which mountain is Sugarloaf. I was not sure I had actually seen it yet. At the wash, the road follows the wash for maybe 5 yards, then turns up out of it. At 0.9 miles from the tank, you arrive at the wilderness boundary. There is a fence, and a permanent gate that allows passage for people, and maybe some animals.

On the other side of the gate, the road is very obscure at first. Pay attention to your map or GPS so you don't head off in the wrong direction. Fairly quickly, the path returns to being fairly obvious 2-track. It is curious that that the BLM tried to obscure the road entirely inside the fence, then backed off to trying to make it single track, then gave up altogether and left it as two-track. The walk is so flat and so smooth, that I walked with my trekking poles folded up, which I rarely do.

Once inside the wilderness, the creosote bush starts to give way to Palo Verde. From Eagle Eye Road to the wilderness boundary, the road is almost completely flat, and the vegetation almost completely Creosote Bush and grass.

There are many burro paths. At 2.2 miles from the tank, I followed one that cut off a little triangle of road, but usually the road was the best plan. At 2.3 miles from the tank, the road follows the bottom of the wash for some distance. This wilderness, as wildernesses go, is a little dull.

After crossing the first saddle, you cross the main wash, and the remains of the road turns left. From here, it is now straightforward to see which peak is Sugarloaf. It is not the easy one I was looking at up to this point, but a much more rugged, rocky peak. I had mapped out a route up the shoulder to the right and down to the left, but that now appears to be a pretty risky plan. The shoulder that one sees on the left turns out to be a sheer cliff, and does not seem do-able at all. Clearly one should stay to the right of the drainage when climbing up. Staying to the left of the drainage would be insane, in fact. I checked this with Google Earth later. In spite of careful reviews of aerial photos, it is easy to be misled about the difficulty of a route. There is no substitute for on the ground recon.

A good waypoint to leave the wash, and head up to the saddle is marked on the recorded route. A second good place would be the Saguaro that has its arms up as if signalling for a touchdown. After arriving at the saddle, the views start to open up for the first time today. Bear left along the top of ridge from the saddle. There are a number of places one could think about penetrating the wall in front of you but staying to the right end of it turned out to be a good plan. There was just one class 3 scramble of about 8 feet, and the rest of the climb can be done standing up.

There is no need to expose yourself to any hazardous ledges. After the initial penetration of the rock wall, contour around the rocks, staying to the right of them and continuing to work your way up hill. It is a good idea to take pictures looking backward, or at least looking back and taking some mental notes, so you can follow your route back. The GPS track will also be helpful.

Arrived at the summit in about 2 hours 20 minutes, 4 miles from the car. It is a beautiful view, but stark. Not much color today. It doesn't generate awe in me. Signed the register. I was the first person to sign since March of this year.

From the summit, looking back toward the city, you can see Quartz Peak, the White Tank Mountains, and the Four Peaks. The Supersitions, and all of Phoenix, are hidden by the intervening mountains, but you can see smog spilling out from the city. Looking northwest, the Harquahala Mountains and wilderness are prominent, and looking southwest you see Big Horn Peak.

After about 15 minutes at the top, I picked up a little litter at the summit, and headed on back down.

Once off the summit and through the little scramble of the rocky shoulder, returning down the side of the saddle, there are many routes down, as it is quite grassy and open. At some time along the return route, the burro paths become easier than the wash. Try them out, and see what works for you. From where you pick up the two track, it becomes an easy walk back.

On the return you climb up out of the wash, over a minor saddle, and down fairly smartly, then the road levels for the remainder of the trip. Pay a little bit of attention to the route on the way back. It is possible to be misled by the burro trails.

There is burro scat and burro tracks all around, but did not see any animals. When I stopped walking it became utterly silent. No bugs, no machines, no wind.
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