Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mount Hopkins - Arizona

Mount Hopkins Super Loop Hike
Mount Wrightson Wilderness Area
Madera Canyon, Arizona
Mileage - 11.8
Time - 4:34
AEG - 4215ft

Madera Canyon sounded like the perfect destination for a late October hike, and a great way to cap off a nice birthday weekend.  There are several peaks left in the Santa Rita Mountains I still need to summit, and at 8,560ft, Mount Hopkins certainly takes precedence over most.  Even though it doesn't rank in my prominence list of top 100, I couldn't leave this one alone. Situated West of the range highpoint Mount Wrightson (pictured right and below), Mount Hopkins is an attractive pointed mountaintop housing the Whipple Observatory.  Ben and I met in Chandler early Sunday morning and made the 2.5 hour drive South past Tucson to the ever-popular Madera Canyon where our trek would begin. 

The route we chose started from the Old Baldy trailhead and veered Southwest up the Vault Mine trail for 1.8 miles and 2,000 feet of vertical gain to the Aqua Caliente trail.  From there is was a left turn and we followed a ridge line to a spur trail (exactly 3 miles in) that took us to the road leading up to the summit where the observatory rests at 8,560 feet. My Garmin showed exactly 5.01 miles to the peak.  Talk about a view!  A quick break and we were on our way back down. This time when we reached the Aqua Caliente trail, we turned right instead of left and hiked 1 mile to the Josephine Saddle and 3.7 miles back down the Old Baldy Super Loop trail.  Just before 1:00pm the hike was over and we were definitely sad to see this one end.  Arizona has so many unique places to explore, and Madera Canyon is one of my all time favorites.  If you have yet to make the drive down South, it's time to start planning!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bill Williams Mountain

Bill Williams Mountain Trail #21
Kaibab National Forest
Williams, Arizona
Mileage - 7.65
Time - 3:20
AEG - 2474ft

Bill Williams Mountain has been on the hiking "to do" list for quite some time now, and this weekend presented the perfect opportunity to make it happen.  To my surprise, Brittney asked if I wanted to go camping, so of course I started planning.  Nearly every campground across the state was booked Saturday night, except a KOA outside of Williams.  I reserved a spot right away knowing we could wake up Sunday with plenty of time to summit the 51st most prominent peak in Arizona.

This route truly has everything I look for in a hike, and it all starts with easy access from I-40 or the town of Williams itself to reach the trailhead.  The trail follows a well marked, nicely maintained path through a healthy forest of old growth pines and aspens on the way to a summit offering incredible 360 degree views spanning across Northern Arizona.  The ascent is less than 4 miles and climbs over 2,400 feet providing a nice workout with a big payoff.   Mount Humphreys, Kendrick Mountain, Sitgreaves Mountain, even the North Rim of the Grand Canyon can be seen from the top.  Be sure to check out the fire tower on the summit (which was constructed in the 1930's), its accessible to the public and you can capture an even greater glimpse of the surrounding landscape.  Pretty cool...unless you don't like heights! 

So if you're planning a trip to the Grand Canyon or Las Vegas, I would recommend staying in the historic town of Williams and hanging out downtown, hiking Bill Williams, or making a drive through the wildlife park; Bearizona.  There is so much to see and do in Arizona, this place never ceases to amaze me!