|Miller Peak is a spectacular landmark mountain located in far-south Arizona near the town of Sierra Vista and the Fort Huachuca Military Base. The summit reaches to 9,466 feet and has three very good trail options. It is also one of just five mountains in Arizona with over 5,000 feet of prominence (a so-called "ultra" peak), and is visible from miles in all directions. The summit used to house a lookout tower, but is now a jumble of rocks and light brush. The views, as one might expect, are outstanding. This is one of Arizona's premier peakbagging objectives.|
The summit is accessible via the Crest Trail, which runs along the main range crest. There are three main trailheads that access the Crest Trail: the Carr Canyon/Reef Townsite from the north, Lutz Canyon from the east, and Montezuma Pass from the south. Technically, the Crest Trail does not go to the summit. A spur off the main trail leads steeply to the top, but the hike is short and the trails are all well maintained.
This peak can be hiked nearly all year. Snow in the winter may obscure trails, but snowstorms tend to be spaced out so that it rarely collects to any great depths. Spring and early Fall are dependably dry and cool. Summer is a possibility. My wife and I hiked it on July 4th when the temperatures in Phoenix and Tucson were above 110 F (43-44 C). Up high, we had warm conditions, but we did not find it to be that hot. The only bad time might be during the monsoon, generally late July-early September. Thunderstorms are common and they build fast. If you hike it this time of year, get a dawn start and try to be down off the peak before noon.
Given the peak's proximity to Mexico, there are often border crossers who are entering into the United States via the Crest Trail. You will probably see a lot of trash along the southern half of the trail, and possibly some of the crossers too. This may be unsettling to some people. However, attacks on hikers just do not happen. They want nothing to do with you and will hide given the chance. If you should come across a group, use your best judgement. See below for some encounters.
|Carr Canyon/Reef Townsite Trailhead (Northern Approach): From Sierra Vista, drive seven miles south on state route AZ-92 to the Carr Canyon Road (Coronado National Forest Road 368). Turn right and start driving up the road. It is initially paved, but turns to dirt a short distance in. After a mile or so, you will enter the Coronado National Forest. Continue up the impressive road as it switchbacks up the Huachuca Mountains. The road climbs nearly 2,600' en route to the top. After seven miles, the road ends. There are two campgrounds up here, along with a good trailhead parking lot.This road is well-maintained but very narrow where it switchbacks up the mountainside, with no shoulders and steep drop-offs. Drive these segments slowly and with care.|
Lutz Canyon Trailhead (Eastern/Southern Approach): Drive another five or six miles south past the Carr Canyon Road junction on AZ-92 to the Ash Canyon Road, and follow it to the trailhead. The canyon splits farther up, Lutz Canyon going to the right.
Montezuma Pass Trailhead (Southern Approach): Stay on AZ-92 until the highway bends to the east, then turn south onto AZ-83, signed as Coronado Mountain Road, and also for the Coronado National Monument. Drive south about a mile and a helf, then west toward the National Monument. The pavement ends here, and the remaining couple of miles to Montezuma Pass and the trailhead is up steep, but well-graded dirt roads. Passenger vehicles should be fine. From Sierra Vista, this is about 25 miles of driving. You will be less than one mile from the Mexican border. The Crest Trailhead is signed and easy to see.
Mountain ConditionsContact the Sierra Vista Ranger District at 520-378-0311 for the latest information.
Forest Service Map: Coronado National Forest (Nogales and Sierra Vista Ranger Districts). Topographical Map: Miller Peak.
CampingThe Reef Townsite and Ramsey Vista campgrounds are near the north trailhead. There is no formal camping at the Lutz or Montezuma trailheads.
Sierra Vista has a selection of chain and locally-owned motels.
Encounters With Mexican Crossers or the Border PatrolFrom Jeff12633: When I hiked Miller Peak, the road to the trailhead was being patrolled multiple times per day by the border patrol. Apparently the mountain is a favorite hide-out for illegal immigrants sneaking across the Mexican border, just 5 miles away. I was told to keep my group together and for our own safety make plenty of noise as we hiked. Along the summit ridge there was plenty of evidence of constant activity, and the otherwise beautiful trail was strewn with discarded food containers and torn up clothing. Unless the mountains are cleaned up of this sort of presence, Miller Peak is probably not the sort of trail one would want to hike alone or during non-daylight hours.
From DRCWMILLER: Yes, the last report is accurate. Tons of trash. My small group made the top & started back when we witnessed several illegals coming up. They disappeared immediately. We got down & were met by border patrol who volunteered that they had just apprehended some 42; those we saw were probably part of that group.
From surgent: My wife and I encountered two Mexican men heading south as we hiked north along the Crest Trail from Montezuma Pass. We spoke very briefly, just long enough to make it clear we wanted nothing to do with them, and vice versa. Our encounter lasted about 10 seconds. Much later, after we had summitted and were hiking down, we were surprised by two heavily armed and armored Border Patrol agents who came busting out of the brush "looking for 20 or 30 Mexicans". We had not seen any, but we mentioned the two men, who were probably back in Mexico by now. We asked specifically if we should be concerned and they said no, the crossers never hassle hikers and will do everything they can to hide. We knew the risks when we hiked this trail, but never felt in any danger.
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