Escudilla Mountain is located in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona near the New Mexico border. It is considered the third highest mountain in Arizona and like the others, is volcanic in origin. Though there are eleven higher named summits in the state, most are considered subpeaks of either Humphrey’s Peak or Mount Baldy. The name Escudilla is Spanish for a small bowl, and the mountain may have been named by early Hispanic settlers in the region, or possibly by a member of Coronado's 1540 expedition through the U.S. Southwest. In 1984 the Escudilla Wilderness Area was created, encompassing 5200 acres of Escudilla Mountain and the surrounding area of the Apache National Forest.
The fire lookout tower on Escudilla Mountain is the highest in Arizona although it is not on the true summit. A climb to the top of it offers spectacular views into New Mexico and the surrounding area. Mount Baldy can be seen to the west.
The tower is occupied daily and permission should be acquired from the lookout before ascending the steps. Permission will not be granted if it is raining.
Elk, mule deer, chipmunks, and squirrels are commonly seen. Signs of black bear, coyote, and mountain lion are occasionally found, though the animals themselves are rarely seen. The endangered Mexican grey wolf has been reintroduced in the area and may be seen on or near Escudilla Mountain. The last grizzly bear in the state was killed on Escudilla Mountain in the 1930s, an event described by the early conservationist Aldo Leopold in his book "A Sand County Almanac". Currently, the grizzly is being considered for reintroduction in the region. Bird species that may be seen include wild turkey, three-toed woodpecker, downy woodpecker, mountain chickadee, raven, Stellar's bluejay, nuthatch, brown creeper, junco, and red-shafted flicker.
The Escudilla wilderness includes aspen (particularly on the Escudilla National Recreation Trail #308) and a variety of conifer species including old-growth stands of Engleman spruce, Douglas fir, and white fir intermingled with grassy meadows. Seasonal wildflowers are also encountered.
Escudilla Mountain is located in the Escudilla Wilderness Area of the Apache National Forest between Springerville and Alpine in eastern Arizona. It takes approximately 4 hours to drive to the Escudilla Wilderness Area from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The drive from Phoenix, Arizona takes roughly 4 hours.
To get to the trailhead from Springerville head south on US 180/191. After 20.5 miles turn left (east) on Forest Road 56. Follow the well signed road past the left turn for Hulsey Lake (1.6 miles from US 180/191) and the closed left turn for Watts Creek FR 56A (1.9 miles in). The following left turn (2.6 miles) is also closed and bears a sign for the Wildlife Habitat Area as well as a plastic blue diamond on a pine tree. This is where you park for the Government Trail #119. If you are interested in the Escudilla National Recreation Trail #308, continue another 2.1 miles to to a signed fork for the trail and Terry Flat loop. Turn left at the fork and curve past Toolbox Draw 0.3 miles to the signed trailhead (5.0 miles from US 180/191).
To get to the trailhead from Alpine head north on US 180/191. After approximately 5.5 miles turn right (east) on Forest Road 56. Follow the well signed road past the left turn for Hulsey Lake (1.6 miles from US 180/191) and the closed left turn for Watts Creek FR 56A (1.9 miles in). The following left turn (2.6 miles) is also closed and bears a sign for the Wildlife Habitat Area as well as a plastic blue diamond on a pine tree. This is where you park for the Government Trail #119. If you are interested in the Escudilla National Recreation Trail #308, continue another 2.1 miles to to a signed fork for the trail and Terry Flat loop. Turn left at the fork and curve past Toolbox Draw 0.3 miles to the signed trailhead (5.0 miles from US 180/191).
The forest road leading to the trailhead is maintained and passable to passenger vehicles under normal conditions.
No fees/permits are required for parking or hiking. Escudilla Mountain is located in the Escudilla Wilderness area so mechanized transport of any sort (including mountain bikes) is not permitted.
When To Climb
The normal season is from May to October, with October a popular month due to the changing fall leaves. Forest service literature notes that some ski it in winter. Snow or hail may occur any month of the year.
Arizona has suffered through erratic snowfall in recent years. Deep snow precluded easy access New Years eve 2005, but one year later we were able to drive up to 9500 ft where it was snow free.
Camping is allowed but is discouraged on Escudilla Mountain because of the small size of the Wilderness Area and the lack of water. Camping at large may be found on the Terry Flat loop past the trailhead. The nearest developed campground is the Alpine Divide Campground located 1.6 miles south of FR 56 on US 180/191. Water taps and toilets are available there, but no shower facilities are present. Fees for the 12 campsites are $6.00 per night and $3 per night for a second vehicle. A larger developed campground is available at Luna Lake, 5 miles east of Alpine on US 180. Additional campgrounds in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest are available. Non-camping lodging is also available in nearby Alpine, Arizona.