Mt. Wrightson, best hike in Arizona

Mt. Wrightson, best hike in Arizona

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Apr 13, 2008
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring

Getting there

Mt. Wrightson, late spring 2004Juh 33's nice shot of Wrightson

I had been planning to do Mt. Wrightson for some time but getting there seemed to be the hangup. Originally I had hoped for late Feb. over the Presidents day holiday and had communicated with Saquaro Hiker (Bill) from the Arizona Hiker's club. He was more than helpful and willing to go with me when I came down but alas, the trip fell through (wife had other plans).Then I had hoped for a weekend in March but that never materialized for one reason or another. Then when Dennis Pouin and I put together the Arizona trip we wanted to do for April, finally Wrightson was on the radar screen.

The plan was that I would go do Harquahala Peak and Wrightson first, and then meet up with Dennis to do Browns Peak, east of Phoenix and highpoint of Maricopa county, then Baldy (in the Whites, highpoint of Apache county), the Greenlee county highpoint and finally, finish the county highpoints of the state of Arizona together on Black Mesa, the highpoint of Navajo county. I did Harquahala with Rick (see this trip report) and then he and I headed for the TH of Wrightson in Madera Canyon. A long drive to get from Harquahala but we arrived at the TH at 7 p.m. and found spots where we could park for the night and sleep in our vehicles. The plan was to meet up with Bill early the next morning at 6 a.m.

After one very windy night, we were up and ready when Bill pulled into the parking area near the TH and it was good to meet this man after having had so many emails. Bill was a person who truly loved Wrightson Peak and lived where he could look out his window and see it every day. One of his goals was to climb it every month, in the heat, cold or wind, it made no difference, he would not be deterred. I'm not sure how many times he had already climbed this mountain but the number fifty or more times is probably close.

As we went up the Old Baldy trail, he shared several stories about the mountain and some of his experiences on it. I understood his passion for this mountain as I have a similar passion for the Enchantment area in Washington State. You just have to keep going back again and again. You get to know every foot of the trails and each of those feet is like an old friend that you are comfortable with.
You know you re in Arizona! the caption on this pic, he is so right.

Bill pointed out things that we would never have seen otherwise and I often am one of those hikers who really don't see much beyond my feet anyway so it was nice to have certain things illuminated for me. Rick and Bill both shared a love for Arizona and it was fun to listen to the two of them discuss things. Of course, Arizona is growing on me too, I had already fallen under the spell of a nice warm day in the desert when I had the opportunity to do Harquahala the day before.

A sober reminder

Boy Scout memorialBoy Scout memorial
At one point you reach a spot where a memorial is dedicated and maintained for three boy scouts who died in a storm on Mt. Wrightson many years ago. Like the white crosses you sometimes see along USA highways in the west, it is a reminder that no matter how much you love mountains and enjoy them, they really are indifferent in certain ways. The unprepared can often pay a high price and even those who are prepared can be snuffed out in an instant of carelessness or as a result of mother nature's whims. A falling rock, a lightning bolt or a mistep can change things forever. We paid our respects to the memories of those boys and Bill related the events that took place.
A ton of informationPointing out landmarks

After lingering there a few moments, we continued on and the trail just melted away with each footstep. We surprised some white tailed deer as we encountered some switchbacks on the way up to Baldy Saddle but they paid us little heed. We could hear the wind above us as we approached the saddle and it was time to put back on a layer or two to keep us protected from the chill of the wind. About this time we were passed by a young man and young lady from Chicago. While we had put warmer clothes on, the chill didn't seem to affect her one bit as she had some skimpy attire on, none of which would do much for warmth. Where did I put my camera?
Great trailGreat trail

Soon we were on the final stretch to the summit. The trail became a bit more rocky and we encountered some snow patches on the trail, one of which required us to walk on the edge of it since the snow itself was very hard and not suitable to walk on. The trail seemed to wrap around Mt. Wrightson as it gained elevation and vistas began to open up in all directions.
Bill would point out various peaks and provide information on them as wanted. Bill mentioned that "its ten minutes from here to the top" and just about at that moment, the Chicago couple passed us again on their way down. I thought "Hmmmm, so that's how you keep warm in minimal clothes, just hike really fast and don't stay at the top long"

Soon the top of Wrightson was right there in front of us with a sign telling the story of where the lookout had been. Views were vast and
360 degrees, a truly terrific viewpoint, you could see everything in this
part of Arizona. We hunkered down out of the wind and Bill shared some information about the register with us which we were soon busy signing.
A lone hiker appeared who was older than myself by about 7 or 8 years and
he kindly took our picture. Unfortunately that pic turned out poorly for me as he snapped the shot at the very moment I had closed my eyes. Sigh..

After a bit of lunch, a cell call to my wife and some more chatting, it was time to relunctantly leave the summit and head back down. On the way down we began to pass a lot of people who were on their way up. I mean, lots of people. It continued like that all the way to the trailhead and I was thankful for our 6 a.m. start.

Thanks to Rick for being a companion on the second of the three Arizona peaks of my trip and to Bill for taking the time out of a busy schedule (he was leaving for Hawaii the next day) to do this hike with us. Would I hike Mt. Wrightson again? ABSOLUTELY. Next time I'll bring my wife, she'd love this one.

Time up: 3 hours (actual hiking time - we talked alot and stopped alot so overall time was closer to 3 1/2 hours)
Time down: 2 hours

Distance 11 miles Elevation gain 4000 feet. We did the Old Baldy trail both ways.

Mt. Wrightson definitely replaced Mt. Humphries and Harquahala Peak as my favorite hike in Arizona. So, as you can see, IMHO, Mt Wrightson IS THE BEST HIKE IN ARIZONA.
Summit areaSummit

Old Baldy Trail

TH sign for Old Baldy

We went this trail the whole way. Maybe next time I'll check out the super trail.


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