Spur Cross Ranch is one of the newer additions to the Maricopa County Park system, comprised of 2,154 acres of mountainous desert at the southern end of the New River Mountains and the northern-most terminus of the Valley. The park has many well maintained trails that weave through washes and connect with a larger network of trails in Tonto National Forest. Elephant Mountain and Indian Fortress are among a handful of summits entirely within the park, with volcanic cliffs guarding the ridgelines to the summit. Elephant Mountain is named for its elephant like shape, made by a volcanic spire along it's east ridge forming the "trunk." Indian Fortress features some Indian ruins near the summit, although the park intermittently closes the trail to help preserve them. While these summits require a longer drive than the various summits in Phoenix, those make the journey will be rewarded with solitude and rugged, Sonoran views.
To get there from Phoenix, head north on AZ-51 or I-17 to the 101 and exit at Cave Creek. Follow Cave Creek north for approximately 13 miles until the road begins to hook east as it enters town. Make a left on to N. Spur Cross Road. The road briefly jogs right onto Grapevine Road, but a quick left will bring you back onto N Spur Cross. Follow this all the way to its end on a maintained dirt road, following signs for the hikers parking lot.
The statistics for both summits and a loop hike:
Mileage: 8.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 2500'
Crux: Class III
Instructions are for a counter-clockwise loop. Start out on the Spur Cross Trail, following this for 0.6 miles, keeping left at 2 junctions. Turn right on to the Tortuga Trail and follow this another 0.7 miles to the junction with the Elephant Mountain Trail. Turn right and stay on this trail for about 1.5 miles to the high saddle between Elephant Mountain and Indian Fortress. The earlier section of the Elephant Mountain trail follows a deep wash closely, and is a very scenic approach.
Now at the saddle, you have the option to go for one or both summits. Indian Fortress has a class I use trail to its summit, which bypasses some old Sinagua ruins. The trail has been closed for resource protection, so use your own judgement if proceeding.
Elephant Mountain is a more difficult undertaking from this point, with the summit a solid 800' of brushy and loose cross country above. Leave the saddle to follow a network of loose use-trails heading directly for some volcanic cliffs along the ridgeline. Keep to the north side of the cliffs and follow a thin use trail along the base of the rocks. The trail disappears as it enters a loose gully, which will require 150-200' of loose class II climbing to regain the ridgeline. While that section isn't the technical crux, it is probably the most dangerous part of the climb given the looseness of the rocks. From here, the going is a bit easier, following a good use trail along the ridgeline at a more gentle grade. Follow the ridge up a narrow section to the base of another series of cliffs, this time keeping to the south. The use trail enters a loose gully, with about 25' of class III climbing up the left side. Due to the loose dirt in the gully, it may be easier to begin the class III climbing sooner rather than later. Once on top of the gully, the summit is some easy boulder hopping along the rest of the ridge to the summit, featuring a huge summit cairn.
To complete the loop once back at the saddle, continue along the Elephant Mountain Trail south from the saddle to meet with the Spur Cross Ranch trail. Turn left and follow this in and out of multiple washes 4.2 miles back to the trailhead.
Entrance to the park is $3/ hiker. On weekends volunteers are often stationed at the park entrance to collect fees. The park is open sunrise to sunset. No water at the trailhead.
When to Climb
Can be hiked year round, but summer can be dangerously hot, with the threat of monsoons almost daily. There is a spring north of Elephant Mountain, but I wouldn't bet your life on it having water.