Bryce Mountain is the highest peak of the Gila Mountains, located on the southern boundary of the San Carlos Indian Reservation and visible north of Safford in Eastern Arizona. Historically, the Gila Mountains have been the site of many mining operations, including some in operation today. Some large ranch properties lie below the range in the southern foothills. The land here is mostly private but with some state and BLM lands intermixed. The north side of the range is within the San Carlos Indian Reservation, but access is not necessarily prohibited from that direction, although it is very remote and difficult to reach. Fortunately, a decent dirt road leads from the towns of Pima and Bryce to a point a couple of miles southwest of the summit, allowing for easy access to the start of the hike.
Not many people hike to the summit of Bryce: the logbook held about 20 signatures dating back to the early 1990s. From viewpoints in Safford and Pima it is not immediately obvious which high peak is the summit, nor is it very clear how to get there without detailed maps. In recent years, Bryce Mountain has gained notice as one of the 2,000-foot prominence mountains in Arizona, ranking 53rd on the state list with 2,233 feet of clean prominence. For those who make the effort to climb the peak, the rewards are tremendous with unique views of the mighty Pinaleno Mountains (Mount Graham) to the south, the rugged Gila Range to the west, and the vast and unpopulated highlands of the San Carlos Reservation to the north. The Turtle Mountains rise immediately to the east, cut below by Bonita Creek and the Gila Box Riparian Area.
Big Alligator Juniper sits below Bryce's summit in a high meadow.
Safford is the main city in Graham County and of Eastern Arizona. The farming "suburbs" of Thatcher and Pima are located west of Safford, all lying along US-70 and paralleling the Gila River with the Gila Mountains forming a continuous wall of mountains to the north. Safford has complete services, while Pima and Thatcher are smaller places with more limited services. Travel west along US-70 from Safford to Pima (about 6-8 miles), and turn north (right) onto Main Street. Follow Main about 2 miles to the town of Bryce (named on the maps only, but not on any signs). Keep your eye open for a culvert; immediately north of the culvert is Black Point Road, with an elaborate metalwork arch spanning the road with various ranch logos hung on it.
Follow Black Point Road generally northwesterly (it starts east at first then bends around some hills) for 6.7 miles to a set of junctions, then turn right (east) for 3.6 more miles, eventually dropping into a small basin called Bobs Flat with a large corral. Park apart from the corral and south of the gate. There is plenty of room to park. This is apparently part of the Bryce Mountain Ranch and it is a working ranch, so be considerate of the workers who may need access to the gate or corral. However, they do not seem to have any objections to hikers. Be a good neighbor and don't leave trash or cause damage.
The road from Bryce is dirt and slightly rough in places. High clearance is suggested, four-wheel drive probably not needed in most conditions.
There seems to be other roads that lead to Bobs Flat, but not shown on the maps. We heard obvious mining noises so these roads may be private.
Bryce Mountain and its south and west-facing cliffs are visible from the Bobs Flat corral.
Bryce Mountain (centered). A rock pinnacle called point 6,047 is to the right, while the western approach ridges are to the left
Bryce Mountain is located on BLM land. No permits are required. Some of the approach hike crosses the Bryce Mountain Ranch.
There are no developed campgrounds near Bryce Mountain.
In the Safford area, there is the Roper Lake State Park
a few miles south along US-191. You can camp here and enjoy the natural hot springs. There are also some private camping options in the Safford area, too. Most of the surrounding lands are devoted to farming or ranching so finding a quiet place to bush-camp might require some effort.
External LinksArizona Prominence Map
Bryce Mountain Trip Report (www.surgent.net)