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Thomas Canyon

Thomas Canyon

Thomas Canyon

Page Type: Route

Location: Arizona, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 31.77110°N / 111.595°W

Object Title: Thomas Canyon

Route Type: Trail/Bushwhack/Rock Climbing

Time Required: Most of a day

Difficulty: Class 4 or easy Class 5

Route Quality: 
 - 3 Votes


Page By: streeyyr

Created/Edited: Mar 10, 2005 / Apr 29, 2005

Object ID: 164272

Hits: 5784 

Page Score: 72.08%  - 2 Votes 

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From Robles Junction at the intersection of AZ 86 and 286, drive about 29 miles south on AZ 286 to milepost 16. About 0.2 miles south of milepost 16, turn right onto a dirt road and drive about 2.7 miles to a fork. You will pass through a gate shortly after the turnoff. At the fork, turn right and drive northwest about 2.8 miles to a second gate. Drive through this gate, and drive about 2.2 miles to a locked gate, passing by a windmill in the process. Park here. The elevation here is about 4,500'.

Route Description

This route is also known as the Forbes Route. From the parking area, you can clearly see Baboquivari Peak towering above you to the west. You can also see a prominent saddle just to the right of the peak. You will climb up to this saddle on the trail. It doesn't look that far away, but it will take you a good three hours or so to reach it. It's further away than it looks.

From the parking spot, walk through the hikers gate, then start walking west up the road. After about a third of a mile or so, you will pass by a ranch. Walk past the ranch, where the road soon turns into a use trail. This is not a maintained or designated trail, but you shouldn't have any trouble following it. Walk northwest along the trail as it climbs along the bottom of the scenic Thomas Canyon. The route is brushy in places. The trail will then turn slightly to the right, and the climb will steepen as you start your push for the 6,400' saddle located just northeast of the peak at UTM 440154. The trail leads all the way to the saddle, but it essentially ends there. The saddle is a good place to camp, but there is no water here. From here on out, it's mostly a rock scramble and bushwhack. Baboquivari Peak can be seen towering above you from this point.

From the saddle, start heading southwest towards the peak on the west side of the saddle. There is a faint use trail here and there, but it isn't real obvious. You will have to rock scramble and bushwhack your way in places as you climb up to the base of the first pitch. Some guidebooks say you should aim for a deep notch at a 250-degree bearing from the saddle. The best way I can describe the route is to climb up the faint use path along the western base of the cliffs until you can go no higher. At this point, you will reach the notch in the cliffs. Hike into the notch until you reach the cliffs on three sides of you. The first pitch is on the right cliff face. There are two routes here. One goes directly up through an opening beneath a chockstone, and the other goes just to the right of the chockstone. This pitch is about 20' high or so. There are several good handholds on either route, and the climbing isn't very difficult, but it's no cakewalk either.

Once above the first pitch, start climbing up the slope and/or faint use trail to the base of the second pitch, which is only a short distance away. In my opinion, the 40' high second pitch is the easiest of the three pitches. I never even used a rope on it going up or down. However, a rope here is still a good idea. The rock is knobby and rough, which provides lots of friction. Once above the second pitch, you will continue scrambling up some sloping rock slabs, then bear right and exit the second pitch area. You'll have some good views of the surrounding mountains from here. Then, follow the faint use trail as it angles up and to the right through the brush, where you will arrive at the base of the third pitch at 7,400'. This is the most difficult of the three pitches, but it still isn't very difficult. As you climb up the pitch, you will angle up and to the right to reach a ledge about 50' or so above the ground. This is the belay point, and some good anchoring points are available here. Once you reach the ledge, climb up the rocky and brushy slope about 50' or so until you reach more level ground, where you will pick up the use trail again. The route then turns to the left and starts heading up a brush-filled gully. Climb up this gully, then turn right and make the final push to the summit, where you can enjoy the wide-open vistas of southeast Arizona. A powerful thunderstorm hit us on the way down during my 1991 trip.

Hiking Distance: About 9 miles round trip.
Elevation Gain: About 3,400'.

Essential Gear

The usual gear for desert hikes. In addition, you will need a rope, a rappeling device, and other rock-climbing gear as required.

Miscellaneous Info

Baboquivari Peak is the highpoint of the Baboquivari Mountains, and is one of the most spectacular mountains in the southwestern United States. There are many classic peaks in the desert southwest, but Baboquivari has to rank near the very top of the charts. With a towering, pinnacle-like summit, an unusual name derived from the Papago Indians, and surrounded by a rugged desert landscape, Baboquivari symbolizes the true nature of the desert southwest. With a prominence of 4,190', Baboquivari rises impressively above the Altar Valley to the east. It's distinctive spire is probably the most prominent landmark in southeast Arizona, and can be seen from almost any vantage point in this part of the state. The Papago Indians consider Baboquivari a sacred mountain. In the Papago Indian language, the term Baboquivari is interpreted as "a neck between two heads" or "with its bill or beak in the air". Certainly, the latter phrase provides an adequate description of the mountain. The summit of Baboquivari Peak is located on both BLM land and the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. The famous Kitt Peak Observatory is located about 15 miles north of Baboquivari. Contact the BLM Field Office in Tucson at 520-258-7238 for the latest information about this area.

Baboquivari Peak can be approached from the east via Thomas Canyon. The Nature Conservancy maintains a pedestrian access route to the Baboquivari Peak Wilderness through Thomas Canyon. The Thomas Canyon route involves a scenic climb on a trail up to a saddle, followed by a 3-pitch technical rock climb to the summit.


The summit of Baboquivari Peak.A view of Baboquivari Peak...A view of the third pitch.Climbing up the third pitch.Climbing up the third pitch.Looking down at the third...Climbing up the rock slabs...
Rain clouds over the...Climbing up towards the...Looking down at the second...A view of the brush-filled...A view of the third pitch.Rappelling down the second...Looking up at the deep notch...
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