The land In the far southeastern corner of California, near the town of Yuma is one of the starkest desert landscapes in the world. Little can grow natuarally in this arid land where the Colorado River struggles to avoid complete evaporation before entering Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. Sticking up out of this flat desert are majestic rock monoliths that began as volcanic plugs and have been carved into wonderful shapes by the endless erosion of wind and water. The most spectacular of these monoliths the 1000ft tall Picacho Peak, visible from Yuma, 30 miles away. From a distance it looks like a very difficult technical climb. Yet the ledges worn into its sides allow ascent with only a few technical manoevers.
Take the "Winterhaven Fourth Avenue" exit from Interstate 8 about a mile west of Yuma and proceed north about 100 yards to where you make a sharp right turn onto S24 following the signs for Picacho State Park. About 3.7 miles from I8 continue straight where S24 turns right. in a short distance the asphalt ends and you proceed onto a embankment, turning sharp left and then right again after crossing a bridge over a water channel. About 13 miles from the bridge you pass the entrance to the Picacho Gold Mine. Two miles from the entrance, the wash you are in broadens and you turn left to head up a wash going west. A 4WD vehicle is needed from here on. Follow a rough dirt road for about 3 miles to where there is a wide car camping area on the left. Park here.
The hike continues up the wash for about 0.5 mile where you should be able to follow a use-trail that proceeds up a low ridge and moderately steep scree slope toward the monolith. This leads to the bottom of a gully leading steeply up to a notch where the climbing begins. You then follow a complex ledge system, switchbacking back and forth as you climb the otherwise vertical side of Picacho Peak. In one place there is a gap in the ledge which requires a belayed traverse. In two other places, people have left wooden ladders to allow transitions between ledges. Above the higher ladder you emerge onto the summit ridge. However to get to the peak at the far end of the ridge you must ascend and then descend a false summit which presents an even more difficult obstacle on the way back.
No permit needed.
When To Climb
Fall, winter or spring is best; summer is very hot.
People car camp at the trailhead described; there is also camping at the nearby Picacho State Park.
- C.E.Brennen's account of climbing Picacho Peak
- Picacho CA State Recreation Area
CA State Parks website
- Website Picacho Peak
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