North across Rattlesnake Canyon
China Peak is a prickly little desert peak located on the east side of the Galiuro Mountains, about 2 hours northeast of Tucson, Arizona. Sitting south of the scenic Rattlesnake Canyon, overshadowed by better-known Kennedy Peak, this mountain apparently sees very few visitors. Though moderate in elevation and prominence, there really is no quick and easy way to reach the summit of this peak. The primary options are a moderate length, stiff desert bushwhack, or a longer-mileage, indirect route that leverages trails most of the way but features a lot ups and down in and out of drainages.
The saddle west of the summit features a grassy savannah dotted with scrub oak and cedar. The cone of the peak is covered in agave, known commonly as “century plant.” These succulents, well known for the long spear of their bloom of a lifetime, are monocarpic, meaning they flower once, and then die. Large and robust Cane Cholla is common on the summit, as well.
Views immediately north across Rattlesnake Canyon are particularly striking, though views east across the Aravaipa Canyon and Sulpher Springs Valley toward the Pinaleno Mountains are nice as well. The summit observatory structures of high-prominence Mount Graham are visible from the summit of China Peak.
Rank & Prominence: Lists of John
Cedar snag Century plant
Per the US Forest Service, this area is “35 miles northwest of Willcox, 45 miles northeast of Tucson, and 30 miles southwest of Safford. (Straight line distances, not road mileages.
)” Safe to say, China Peak is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is Klondyke, Arizona, and that, my friends, still is not saying much. There are rumors that a few residents still live in the ghost town of Klondyke. China Peak is best accessed from the east side of the Galiuro though it could be approached from the west as part of a multi-day trip.
The east side trailhead is the “Deer Creek Canyon
” trailhead via FS 253.
Mount Graham with Clouds
Northeast from the summit
On the summit
Cane Cholla Agave palmeri
China Peak sits on the boundary of the Galiuro Wilderness boundaries and wilderness travel and use rules apply. There are no fees to access this area. There are active cattle leases throughout the area, however. Please close gates behind you.
China Peak rises above a canyon Close-Up of Mount Graham
The Forest Service does not operate any front-country campsites in the Galiuro Mountains. Several campgrounds can be found to the east across the valley in the Pinaleño Mountains (Mount Graham Massif) but these are not particularly convenient to China Peak.
• Map of Coronado National Forest Campgrounds
• List of Campgrounds in the Coronado National Forest
Weather & Seasons
|Winter is a great time to visit China Peak, with average daytime highs in the 60s. With an elevation over 4,000 feet above sea level, Willcox summers are a bit cooler than those in nearby Tucson. Still, the record high temperature recorded in Willcox was a blistering 110°F*. Do not visit this peak in the summer. Take note, however, that winter nights can get quite cold in this area, with record lows below zero degrees Fahrenheit*, and snow may be encountered on north-facing aspects. |