Black Mountain is the highest point of the isolated Black Mountains in eastern Pinal County, between the towns of Florence and Oracle. The range sits in the middle of a large patch of land composed of Arizona State Trust Lands and private lands, which effectively pulls Black Mountain off of most people's radar. The peak has respectable prominence (1,907 feet), but is overshadowed by the larger and grander Santa Catalina Mountains (Mount Lemmon), the Galiuro Range, Pinal Mountain and the Superstition Mountains. On the other hand, the view from the summit offers a unique vista in which to view these major central Arizona ranges.
Despite its name, it's not a particularly black mountain. It is a typical desert summit, with a lot of prickly-pear cactus and barrel cactus, plus bunchy beargrass up high. Trees are limited to scraggly mountain oaks, occasional juniper, but no significant forests to speak of. The brush can be thick in places, but it is blessedly free (for the most part) from the horribly pointy plants. There is no teddy-bear cholla, and catclaw is rare.
Black Mountain as viewed from Freeman Road
From the north: Drive to Florence, then follow state route AZ-79 south about 25 miles to Freeman Road on the left (east). The road is signed and is about 3.5 miles south of the Tom Mix Memorial. If coming from the south (e.g. Tucson), follow AZ-77 to Oracle, then AZ-79 north about 15 miles to Freeman Road.
Follow Freeman Road about 13 miles to a signed intersection with Barkerville Road. Continue east about two more miles to Willow Springs Road. Turn right (south) and follow Willow Springs Road about 5 more miles until you see a red and white radio tower to the southwest. Leave the main road and drive west up a side road toward the tower (there is no sign at this road, but you'll know it when you are there). Pass a gate along way (closing it), placing you back on State Trust lands. About a half mile farther, ease right at a Y-junction downhill toward a corral, and park beyond that near a concrete stock tank. One-way mileage will be about 21 total miles from AZ-79.
All the roads off of the highway are hard-pack dirt. They are wide and in excellent condition. A passenger car should be fine, although the final road past the gate and toward the corral may get rutted in places. If forced to park early, park inside the gate, off of the private lands. Don't go to the tower itself. You gain nothing by doing this.
Black Mountain from Pt 5327. There's a deep canyon between this position and the peak ahead.
This is all cross country, but navigation is easy. Start walking northwest aiming for the ridge ahead of you. Walk the ridge and just aim for the next highest ridgepoints. After about three of these, you'll be on Point 5327 as shown on the map. To here, the going is easy but the brush can get thick in spots.
The rocky nature of the ridges
At Point 5327, Black Mountain is visible, but don't make a beeline for it. Instead, go north and follow the main ridge north then west. There are more ups and downs than the map would seem to indicate. The brush gets thick, but cow paths help, and you may need to zig-zag a lot. In a few spots, expect to barge straight through the brush, and possible scramble down or through some rocky sections. Generally stay high.
The final 400 feet to the top is very brushy. Just bust straight up slope. It goes fast. And that's all. The one way hike is 2.4 miles, with about 1,200 feet of gain, counting some regains along the way.
You need an Arizona State Trust Lands permit. They run $15. Click here
Plan ahead. They do not have online payment options. You need to print it out and mail it in.
We followed the ridges north (right) then west(going left) to the top
When to Climb
When the weather is cool is best. The brush hides all sorts of creatures, including snakes. Wear long everything including gloves. If it's warm, expect to encounter a snake or six.
No camping is permitted. You'll just be here for the day. The region is devoted to cattle, so it's not an attractive place to camp.
External LinksTrip report (www.surgent.net) 2-1-14 • Who was Tom Mix?
The sun came out for some photos. Typical brush we dealt with.