|Silver Peak is a hidden gem of a mountain, tucked away in the far-southeast corner of Arizona, hidden by the gigantic wall of the Chiricahua Mountains. The easiest approach is from neighboring New Mexico, following roads in from the small town of Rodeo in toward Cave Creek Canyon. Along this road, Silver Peak does stand out, being one of the first "big" mountains one sees. |
A fine trail leads all the way to the summit, on which used to house a Forest Service lookout tower. The tower burned over 20 years ago and will not be rebuilt. However, the stone footings, plus some concrete steps put in for the tower personnel, still exist. The last few dozen feet to the top work up these steps. The views from the summit are tremendous. offering unobstructed views of the sweeping Chiricahua Range. Portal Peak, a brushier peak popular with Arizona peakbaggers, lies across the Cave Creek Canyon to the southeast.
Cave Creek Canyon is called the "Yosemite of Arizona" because of its interesting cliffs and rock formations. The Chiricahuas are the result of the massive Turkey Creek volcanic eruption from about 27 million years ago. The eruption let loose tremendous amounts of ash, which cooled and melded into tuff, a rock that easily erodes into finger-like spires and hoodoos. There are camping opportunities within Cave Creek Canyon, and few people venture out this far, given the distances from major cities.
The peak may be climbable most of the year. Late Spring and Fall are best, when the air is dry and snow has melted. Summer gets warm and the thunderstorms build fast. Winter may present challenges due to snow and possibly closed roads. The nearby Idlewilde campground is seasonally open, usually late March through October/November.
|From Road Forks on Interstate 10 west of Lordsburg, NM, take US Highway 80 south for about 28 miles toward the town of Rodeo, still in New Mexico. Turn right on Portal Road, and drive seven miles to Portal. Continue west another mile or so on Forest Road 42 to the Cave Creek Visitor Information Center. The Silver Peak trailhead is located at a pullout about a half-mile past the visitor center. The road is paved all the way. The trailhead elevation here is 4,960’.|
Beware that the topographical map seems to be a little misleading: it bunches the campground, trailhead and forest-service buildings closer together than what is actually the case. It's not hard to find the trailhead, but you'll need to pay attention.
It is possible to reach Cave Creek Canyon by following dirt roads south from the town of San Simon in Arizona. The roads are generally good, but would be better for high clearance vehicles. If coming from Tucson or Phoenix, this route saves about 50 miles of extra driving.
|Contact the Coronado National Forest, Douglas Ranger District. Their number is 520-364-3468.|
Topographical Map: Portal.
Forest Map: Coronado National Forest (Chiricahua, Peloncillo, and Dragoon Mountain Ranges)
Stair Steps!The last few feet to the top is up a rocky pinnacle where concrete steps were built for the lookout people. Here are some photos. They're fun to climb.
CampingThe closest campground is the Idlewilde Campground, which has 9 spots along the road shaded by large cypress trees. The cost is $10 per night, large RVs not permitted due to a narrow one-lane bridge that needs to be crossed lower down. The campground is not far from the trailhead so that you could walk to it from your spot. The spots are near the road because the cliffs start immediately behind you. It is very scenic.
You should do a web-search for latest updates. I would supply a hyperlink, but the forest service seems to change their URL wording every few weeks, so any links I provide will be dead soon. Type in "idlewilde camping chiricahua".
Black bear are common in the area so use precautions. I had a skunk poke around my campground when I was there.