This pair of rock outcrops sits on the northeastern slopes of Gibbon Mountain
22 Nov 2012
If you like relatively small desert peaks with big open views, Gibbon Mountain is your kind of place. The mountain rises between Bear Canyon to west and Solider Canyon to the east. Trails wrap around the peak on three sides providing good accessibility, though a desert bushwhack is required to reach the summit. No trail and prickly desert scrub keeps most hikers on the trail and away from this mountain top, allowing for surprising solitude very convenient to Tucson.
The summit is not super-apparent and at the time of my visit was unmarked. There are three good summit candidates along the highest contours of the summit ridge, so enjoy visiting each rocky little top. Views from the wide-open summit area are lovely, especially big country views of Santa Catalina neighbors to the north and the northwest. From the top, enjoy gazing into the depths of Bear Canyon.
Rank: 2109th highest peak in Arizona Prominence: 781 feet USGS Quad: Aqua Caliente Hill Recommended Map: Green Trails Santa Catalina Mountains, AZ – NO 2886S
This sign for the Arizona Trail sits at the saddle at 5040 feet between Gibbon Mountain and UN 5506 | 22 Nov 2012
One of several great rock outcrops along the slopes to the top of Gibbon Mountain | 22 Nov 2012
This peak can be accessed by trail from many different directions, though most visitors would be content to gain the summit from the General Hitchcock Highway, also known as the Catalina Highway or the Mount Lemmon Highway. The Trailhead by the Molino Basin campground (past milepost 7), a great jumping off spot to reach the summit of Gibbon Mountain, can be reached within an hour of downtown Tucson. Take Tanque Verde (often pronounced “TANKy VURdy” by the locals) diagonally across the northeast edge of town to East Catalina Highway. Follow East Catalina Highway North for about 4.5 miles to the Forest Service boundary. Here the road becomes the General Hitchcock Highway…or the Catalina Highway…or the Mount Lemmon Highway. Take the turnoff for the Molino Basin campground, then head west until the trailhead where the road ends. The trailhead at the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site (former WWII prison camp) also serves a segment of the Arizona Trail.
Note that the highway is paved, but longer vehicles (22 feet or greater) or those towing a trailer may have difficulty negotiating tight curves.
Solider Canyon (Trail #53) or Bear Canyon (Trail #296) would be nice ascent options if wishing for a longer route with greater elevation gain.
You may wish to carry a fine-tooth comb in your pack to remove spines from clothing and skin in case you bump into one of these | 22 Nov 2012
Enjoying sitting on one of the summit candidates on top of Gibbon Mountain | 22 Nov 2012
Use of the Mount Lemmon area, including the Catalina Highway, is subject to a $5 vehicle / use fee.
The scenery is fantastic from the top of Gibbon Mountain | 22 Nov 2012
Nice open views to the northwest of Gibbon Mountain | 22 Nov 2012
The Santa Catalina Ranger District operates several campgrounds along the Santa Catalina Highway to Mount Lemmon. These are (in distance up the highway from the valley):
• Molino Campground (convenient access to Gibbon Mountain form the east)
• General Hitchcock Campground
• Rose Canyon Lake
Weather & Seasons
Looking across one possible summit contender on Gibbon Mountain | 22 Nov 2012
Gibbon Mountain is a year round mountain. Predictably, spring and fall would be delightful times to visit this peak. In the summer, the heat blasting up from Tucson could make it hard to escape the heat. Winter should typically be sunny and pleasant, but can be cold, windy and snowy. Occasional snowstorms slamming the Santa Catalina Mountains might close the “highway with many names,” or at least encourage the Forest Service to put a “4x4 or chains only” rule in effect.
Before planning a trip to Gibbon Mountain, I suggest checking the weather both for Tucson, Arizona, as well as for Mount Lemmon or Summerhaven, as the road to the peak will cover both extremes and everything in between.
I encourage fellow SPers to contribute any links to beta, trip reports, etc., associated with this peak via the Additions & Corrections.
Views to the east from the top of Gibbon Mountain | 22 Nov 2012
Views to the west from the top of Gibbon Mountain | 22 Nov 2012
Nice views to the southwest from the top of Gibbon Mountain | 22 Nov 2012
"It's beer thirty, kids, let's head back to the truck."