OverviewRed Mountain is the prominent summit rising directly south and east of the small southern Arizona town of Patagonia, about 25 miles northeast of Nogales. The mountain has an attractive pointed summit and not surprisingly, houses a Coronado Forest Service lookout tower (and the usual mix of communications towers). The peak is heavily forested in juniper and mountain oak, woody shrubs and grasses. The foliage is thick but not tall; you have good views over the countryside for virtually the entire hike. On the south-facing slopes, there is less foliage and more exposed rock and cliff bands, including some very interesting formations. Much of it is red, pink and orange in color, which presumably was the inspiration for this peak's name. The summit has an elevation of 6,373 feet with a prominence of 1,398 feet, while the usual hiking route will entail about 2,000 feet of gain.
This region of Arizona, including Patagonia and the nearby towns of Sonoita and Elgin, is located in a moderately elevated valley hemmed in by the gigantic Mount Wrightson to the north and the Patagonia Range (which includes Red) to the south. The weather here is not as severe as it is in the lower deserts and has spawned a few vineyards and wineries. Patagonia and Sonoita are both small (about 1,000 people each) and feature a nice blend of ranching, wineries, curio shops, museums and art galleries. This is definitely an area to spend some time exploring in between your big hikes. Summers can get warm, and snow does fall in winter, but conditions are usually amenable for a hike most of the year. If you insist on a summer hike, get an early start.
Patagonia Town Website
Sonoita Town Website
Getting TherePatagonia is about 25 miles northeast of Nogales along State Route AZ-82. It can also be reached by Interstate-10 east of Tucson, following State Route AZ-83 south to Sonoita, then another 12 miles or so to Patagonia. From either direction, this is a very scenic loop.
On the east edge of Patagonia, turn south onto Harshaw Road (signed) and follow it south and east out of town as it enters the Coronado National Forest. Big Red Mountain is plainly visible above you for much of the drive. 4.7 miles from the main highway, look for a small side road on your right (FR-4649), which is not well-signed (the only sign as of Oct 2010 was the usual warning about smuggling activity). Ease onto this road. Small cars must park early. High clearance will be needed as the road runs in and out of a creek a few times, with some steep parts. Rumble upward toward the peak as far as you feel comfortable. Some parking areas are found along the way down low. You could conceivably drive to the top but the road would require 4-wheel drive. I was able to get up onto a flattish bench of land and park in a clearing with a fire ring, about a mile in from Harshaw Road. I needed 4wd to get past one very eroded section of the road.
Red TapeThere is none.
CampingThere are free ad-hoc pullouts along Harshaw Road and along FR-4649. Note that there are many private in-holdings in this area, so be sure you aren't camping on someone's private property.
Patagonia had a hotel, the Stage Stop Inn, but as of 2010 it is closed and I am not sure if it's being refurbished, or closed for good. There are no basic hotels in Patagonia or Sonoita. It's either camp for free, or pay big bucks for a bed and breakfast in town.
Beyond Harshaw RoadWhile in the area, I strongly recommend the loop drive south along Harshaw Road (it will become graded dirt a few miles south of Red) down into the San Rafael Valley and to the Mexican border at the town of Lochiel. The scenerey is utterly gorgeous and is one of Arizona's best kept secrets. There are old ghost towns along the way (Harshaw, Duquesne), a monument to Fray Marcos de Niza, who was the first European to set foot in what would become Arizona in 1539, and miles of elevated grassy valleys and mountain views. The motion picture Oklahoma! was filmed here in the 1950s.
Our San Rafael trip, 2004
You can loop east toward the Huachuca Range, then catch AZ-83 at Parker Lake and come back to Patagonia via the town of Elgin.
The Border Being so close to the border, you should be aware of the usual border issues. However, this area is crawling with Border Patrol vehicles. Don't be surprised to be stopped by one. Use normal precautions and a sense of awareness and you'll be fine.
Hiking RouteYou'll likely park lower down and start from the flats below the peak. Just follow the forest service road to the top. It surmounts a pass about halfway up, traverses to the north of a sub-summit then south of the peak istelf, coming to a saddle west of Red Mountain. Turn right and drop about 100 feet to a lowpoint, then continue up to the top. A gate blocks vehicle access to the top, but hikers are free to pass.
Given the numerous switchbacks and my time and rate, I reckon the one-way distance to be about 3 miles and 2,000 feet of gross gain. Add about a mile each way and another 200 feet of gain of you start from Harshaw Road.
I did this hike in October 2010. It was still warm (90s when I returned to my truck) and very buggy. When it's cooler, this could be a very nice winter hike.
Coronado National Forest Home Page