Mount Washington is the highest point of the Patagonia Mountains, which lie mainly within the United States, extending into Mexico to Sierra San Antonio, about three miles south of the border. The battle for highest point is a close call between nearby Veterans Peak (elevation 7211 feet, a mile north of Mount Washington), and Sierra San Antonio (elevation 7,218 feet, about 4.5 miles south, elevation estimated from a metric conversion). This portion of the Patagonia Mountains is heavily forested with juniper, mountain oak and smaller pines, with little development for hikers. A hike to Mount Washington is not difficult, but the slopes are steep and forested, sections with significant rock outcrops.
The mountain's location near the border means it gets regular traffic from crossers. The Nogales area is particularly active. You will see evidence of the crossers: water jugs, food wrappers, clothing items, that sort of thing. There are many footpaths crossing the range which may not help with your climb. You must decide if you feel safe here. We were aware of the risks but did not feel that we were in any imminent danger.
A number of mines lie east of the mountain, the main one being the Santo Nino Mine, which was most active about 1908. The towns of Duquesne and Washington Camp were built to support the works, but as the mine played out, the towns became abandoned. While officially ghost towns, there are people who still live in the area, and access to the mountain through the town or mine-works is prohibited. The mine claims have been owned or leased by a number of outfits over the years. You may see the series of posts below, dating from 2005-07. I have not been able to find any shred of evidence that these people are still active. The mountain lies on Coronado National Forest land and there is absolutely no indication that access is restricted. Your likeliest route will be a series of ridges from the north and northeast.
Mount Washington from Kino Springs Road, late in the day.
Mount Washington can be approached either from the north through Patagonia via Forest Road 49, or from the west through Nogales via Forest Road 61. The Nogales approach is shorter. From Nogales, drive north about four miles on AZ 82. Turn right on Forest Road 61, and drive about ten miles to where the road crests the range at a saddle, elevation about 5,960 feet. There is a cattle guard here, and a parking area is on the north side of the road. This spot is about one and a half miles west of the intersection of Forest Roads 61.
FR-61 is hardpack and in decent condition when it's dry. Four-wheel drive is not necessary. However, the last couple miles are narrow and steep.
Contact the Nogales Ranger District at 520-281-2296 for the latest information.
Forest Service Map: Coronado National Forest (Nogales and Sierra Vista Ranger Districts).
Topo Maps: Harshaw; Duquesne.
Summers are hot, even at 7,000 feet elevation. Thunderstorms are common during July-September. The best times to hike the peak would be Fall and Spring, possibly winter if it's been dry. The Patagonias do get snow and ice during winter.
There are no developed campgrounds in this part of the Coronado National Forest.
The route from the north starts at the cattle grate, elevation 5,960 feet. It follows a ridge to Veterans Peak, then south to Mount Washington. There are trails up on the ridge and on the slopes that help expedite travel, but beware of the many migrant paths that intersect the main route. The thick forest will slow you down in spots, so will the rock outcrops.
From the cattle grate, find the trail, which supposedly starts just west of the grate. Another trail starting east of the grate seemed to work for about half the gain. Note a fence line too. This fence will actually run all the way to the summit and is a good "assurance" item when bashing through the forested sections.
Whatever route you take, climb steeply to the ridge above, slightly west of Peak 7100. Then travel west on the trail, hiking up and down a number of small (and not so small) bumps, then steeply up the north-facing slopes of Veterans Peak. The trail here is quite steep and some sections have eroded heavily or collapsed into sand slopes. It is a steep 500-foot gain to surmount Veterans Peak.
Mount Washington (left) and Veterans Peak
Mount Washington with Sierra San Antonio in back
Since you're here, you may as well visit the small repeater tower a few feet off the main route. The highest point of Veterans Peak, however, is not so obvious. Rock outcrops line the summit and some rocks about 100 feet to the southwest may be highest. Here, the trail becomes indistinct.
Now heading south, work through a series of rock outcrops. Stay to the ridge as often as possible. Even dips of ten or fifteen feet to one side encounters steep brushy slopes. The rock scrambling is easy, hands may be needed to ease down some parts. You should then pick up the trail again, which leads to the saddle between Mount Washington and Veterans Peak.
Continue southbound, following the trail into the trees again. The trail will soon die out. Keep to the ridge and walk through a couple rock outcrops, then steeply up the final couple hundred feet to the wooded top. One way is about 3.5 miles, with almnost 1,800 feet of gain once the ups and downs are figured in.
There is an open area to the south slightly with good views into Mexico, east toward the Huachuca Range and west toward Nogales.
Mount Washington as seen from Veterans Peak
Summit area of Mount Washington, Sierra San Antonio rises behind
Retrace your route on the hike out, being mindful of the other trails that may throw you off. We tried sidehilling around Veterans Peak on the hike out but that doesn't work. It's best to stay high as often as possible.
The forest is thick but the understory is light. Wear long pants and sleeves because this is a scratchy hike. All three of us bonked our heads into lower tree limbs at one time or another.