The Dos Cabezas ("Two Heads") Peaks are two dramatic rock outcrops that top the Dos Cabezas Mountains in southeast Arizona, between the city of Willcox and the Chiricahua Mountains. The notable summit is easily visible from Interstate-10 in southeast Arizona, with the best access coming from the north and west via the city of Willcox. The USGS topographical map lists an elevation of 8,354 feet, but this is for the benchmark which is located on the northern summit. The southern summit is higher by a few feet, and this has been conclusively demonstrated by various climbers over the years. Many people will seek both summits during the outing, but range highpointers can be satisfied with the southern summit only.
Despite the imposing appearance, there is a convenient ledge and ramp system on the south face of the south summit that allows for reasonably easy access to the top. Parts of the ledge are exposed, but never too bad. There are a couple chutes higher up that are class 3 with some exposure and some awkward positioning, but most fit hikers with some bravery can easily handle these impediments. The north summit is usually achieved by dropping into the notch and up more chutes. I personally did not climb this, but others said the rock and exposure was about the same as the south face, perhaps a shade under class 4.
Most of the range is public/BLM, with a large segment of it protected as wilderness. However, the summit lies outside the wilderness boundaries. Unfortunately, most of the lower slopes and surrounding valleys are privately owned, and the landowners have little interest in allowing public access into the range. In previous years, hikers could start walking along Mascot Mine Road in the village of Dos Cabezas through an easement, but this has been shut, effectively barring access. This issue has become a point of contention, and some lawsuits have compelled at least one landowner to grudgingly allow access through organized hikes with the Southern Arizona Hiking Club, or through people with connections. Otherwise, you are out of luck, or may need to scamper on your own across these posted lands.
The double summits of Dos Cabezas as seen from one of the high roads nearing the base of the first radio tower, April 2013.
Getting There & Red Tape
Our meager parking area at elevation 7,220 feet, immediately east of the first radio tower. Our route starts up the steep slope in front, about 700 feet to get to the tower. The peaks are to the right (north). April 2013
From Willcox on Interstate 10, drive about 15 miles southeast on State Route AZ-186 to the small town of Dos Cabezas. Turn left at the green Mascot Mine street sign. If you have no permission to proceed farther, admire the summit from this vantage and emit a small sigh of frustration.
If you do have permission to proceed, drive onward and up Mascot Canyon. Another gate at the second landowner's property comes after about 3 miles. Assuming you get past this, you can drive ever upward on the main road to a saddle immediately east of the radio tower, elevation 7,220 feet. The total driving distance is about 6 miles up steep, exposed roads. The roads are in pretty good shape, given they access a couple active tower complexes up here. However, a beefy vehicle and 4-wheel drive is a good idea. The roads on the map are accurate.
The Mascot Mine itself comes about a mile past the second gate. A couple of concreted adits can be found here along with tailings and old buildings in disrepair.
This link includes some phone numbers (but no names) that you can call to try to arrange permission.
The route description attached to this page is accurate. Below are some images that may help you:
Above the radio tower, we cross a nice meadow, heading toward the south face of the south summit, April 2013.
Close-up of the south face. We plowed through the thick scrub to the rock with some green lichen on it, then followed a hidden ledge behind it and up to the right. April 2013
Ken J and Dean M carefully negotiate the ledges and brush as we approach the top, April 2013
There is no camping near the range nor along Mascot Mine Road. The town of Dos Cabezas has no services. Willcox features an assortment of chain and locally-owned hotels with very low rates.
View of the radio tower and of the high deserts, looking south from the summit, April 2013
Scrambling up the cliffs near the top of the South Peak.
I climbed this one by the regular route - the one described here - on 8/9/05. About 2.5 miles from the turnoff in the "town" of Dos Cabezas, there's a locked gate across the road accessing the Dos Cabezas peaks. So the gate is very soon after you pass the side road at 2.25 or 2.3 miles. It's actually more of a bar than a gate, but the effect is the same - you can't drive any further than this, unless someone's left it open. No big deal, but it does add a few miles to your trip, so plan accordingly....