Vulture Peak tops the Vulture Mountains, a small but dramatic range in northwestern Maricopa County, south of Wickenburg. Its block-shaped summit mass is a well-known and familar landmark visible from miles in all directions and even from distant mountaintops, if you know where to look.
Despite its imposing appearance, a climb to the summit is well within most people's comfort level. A good trail gets you to a saddle below the summit, while the final 240+ vertical feet to the top is a combination of chutes, rock-scrambling and cactus-avoidance. It's not overly technical, and exposure is minimal, but there are a couple spots where care is needed. The views from the top are well worth the effort.
Classic Sonoran Desert Flora (and 'rocka')
Wickenburg is about 45 miles northwest of Phoenix via US-60/Grand Avenue. The best way to avoid the traffic is to access US-60 from the Loop-101 freeway in Glendale, the Loop-303 expressway near Sun City, or AZ-74 via Lake Pleasant. No matter what, though, you will hit traffic.
In Wickenburg stay west on US-60 past downtown for about 3 miles to Vulture Mine Road. Turn left and drive south about 6 miles (or so... I'm estimating) to a well-marked turn-off toward the peak. Passenger cars park early at the trailhead while 4-wheel drive can proceed another 1.5 mile to a higher trailhead. Vulture Peak will be visible the whole way in.
Wickenburg has full services, including hotels, restaurants and an interesting 'old-west' downtown. There's a major grocery store, discount store and pharmacy at the junction of US-60 and Vulture Mine Road.
For an interesting back way to this point from Phoenix, take I-10 west to exit 103 (339th Avenue). Go right (north) to Indian School Road, then left (west) a couple miles to 355th Avenue. A sign will point to Wickenburg. Follow this fine paved highway about 20+ miles to a junction with Vulture Mine Road. Turn right and go north another 20+ miles to the Vulture Peak turn-off. These roads are paved but rarely traveled. They are not state highways. There is talk that these roads may be expanded as part of the Canamex/Nafta free-trade route, bypassing Phoenix. For now, they are lonely roads through desolate desert country.
No fees, passes or anything required. Just show up!
When To Climb
Winter is best as summer is very hot. Snow is extremely rare and often doesn't last more than a few hours. November to April would be your best window for this peak.
The trailhead area seems to be open to RVs so I imagine you can car-camp here. It's pretty basic bush-camping. Wickenburg has hotels and is a neat place to visit. I do not know of any developed campgrounds in the immediate area other than near Lake Pleasant, which is kind of far off and with its own set of restrictions and hassles.
The Vulture Mine Ghost TownThe Vulture Mine Website
The Vulture Mine and townsite is a remarkably well-preserved gold mine dating from the 19th century, located about 5 miles south of the trailhead along Vulture Mine Road (about 12 miles south of Wickenburg proper). The land is privately owned but tours are available at a very reasonable price. This isn't some ghost town where all you see are foundations. Here, you see the actual buildings - falling apart, of course - but authentic. Well worth a visit!