OverviewHackberry Mountain is a hump-shaped summit sitting within the broad Verde River Valley in northern Arizona. The Verde River Valley is hemmed in by the Verde Rim on its west, and the Coconino Plateau and Mazatzal Range on the north and east. The Verde River is one of Arizona’s premier rivers, its headwaters located west of Sedona and traveling south into the lower deserts before merging with the Salt River northeast of Phoenix. Much of the river is rugged, difficult to reach and protected as wilderness.
The city of Camp Verde is home to the historic Fort Verde, and the whole region is noted for the cliff dwellings built by the Sinagua Indians during the past fifteen centuries. The most famous is Montezuma’s Castle, located in the heart of Camp Verde. Smaller ruins are found in the voids and grottoes overlooking the river, including many along Towel Creek, a small feeder into the Verde system. Hackberry Mountain sits due north of Towel Creek, with the Towel Mountains due south. The Towel Creek Trail ambles up this creek, and looking up into the canyon walls you may see some remnant structures from the long-ago inhabitants.
Hackberry Mountain is visible from Interstate-17 and Camp Verde, looking southeast. Its hump shape seems out of place amid the sharper profiles of nearby ranges, but it does stand noticeably taller than the immediate peaks. The peak has a summit elevation of 5,831 feet, and a prominence of 1,391 feet. The views from the summit are stunning, and very few people hike this peak, perhaps less than a half-dozen per year. The maps show a trail running across the north flanks of the peak, but there is none. The whole hike is cross-country, up open pinon-juniper slopes, with some route-finding required to get through the small cliffs near the top.
Getting ThereExit Interstate-17 at the AZ-260 interchange in Camp Verde, about 90 miles north of Pheonix and 40 miles south of Flagstaff. Proceed east about six miles (slightly past milepost 228) to Prescott National Forest Road 708, also called Fossil Creek Road. Turn right (south) and proceed another 8.2 miles (approximately) to a point just past Needle Rock. Park in the pullouts on either side of the road.
Forest Road 708 is solid but very washboarded as it sees a high volume of traffic. Many people continue past to the Childs Power Station and even on to the town of Strawberry, about 20 more miles. Passenger vehicles should be okay. The drive is very scenic, but beware the drop-offs!
Red TapeThere is none.
CampingThe closest developed campground is Clear Creek, along AZ-260 about two miles west of the FR-708 junction. It caters to RVs and crowds and is not peaceful at all, although the creek istelf, with a dependable flow, is very pretty. The charge is $18 per night as of 2011.
There are a few free pullouts along FR-708, some with fire rings, mostly along the road.
External LinksCoconino National Forest
Town of Camp Verde, Arizona
Montezuma's Castle National Monument. Definitely worth a visit and easy to get to.
Towel Creek Trail #67, by Todd Tidyman.
About the Childs-Irving Power Plant
Trip Report, www.surgent.net
Route to the topFrom the parking area, it's about two miles one-way and 1,700 feet of elevation differential to get to the summit. You can eyeball your route from the start. No one way is best, and navigation is very straightforward.
Directly south of Needle Rock is a side road that is gated and evidently is a residence. The map shows the Towel Creek Trail (#67) starting here. However, to avoid this part altogether, do this: walk about a quarter-mile south along the road to a hard-to-see gate on your right. There is a sign pointing to it from the other direction. This is the let-in point for the Towel Creek Trail.
Pass through the gate and walk up to an open grassy bald area. Now start walking a beeline toward the lower slopes of Hackberry. You'll cross a fence-line here, descend into a small drainage, then start up the slopes. Just aim up and the route will unfold naturally,
Closer to the top there are some small rocky sections, not true cliffs, but jumbled enough to require a little attention. The top is marked by a benchmark and a witness marker on the actual summit rock.
When descending, keep Needle Rock in sight, aim to its right, then aim right of the residence. Figure about 4 hours at a moderate pace.