Today’s adventure took me to the Four Peaks mountain range. It was another first as I work through the 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Phoenix book.
Hike Date: May 13, 2018
Distance: 4.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,909 feet
Difficulty: Moderate to the saddle, very difficult beyond that
Dog Friendliness: Awesome - until you get to the crevasse and boulder past the saddle. Leave the fur babies behind if you want to get to the top. For their safety and yours.
You should go on this hike. Set aside the time, make the drive, and do it. It is absolutely beautiful. Very reminiscent of my Minnesota upbringing – or Southern California. Which might be a bit more relatable.
From Scottsdale, it was about an hour and 50 minutes to get to the trailhead. I opted for the shorter route with the rockier road (87N to 143). High clearance is definitely optimal, 4 wheel drive probably not required. I wouldn’t recommend a normal passenger vehicle. The one thing I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for was the lack of guard rails against a few pretty sheer drops. Going up, you notice it, but it’s not quite concerning. The way down is a little different story – particularly when there are other cars heading the opposite way. Overall, though, it was a pretty easy drive up with beautiful views to distract the passengers. Drivers: get those white knuckles ready.
This is where the MN slash Southern Cali vibe (they’re the same?) began to shine. As soon as you get within a mile of the parking area, the landscape changes dramatically from Arizona desert to Lake Tahoe pines. Roll your window down to fill those lungs with the clean, pine-scented air. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the desert was flowering and that there were Oak trees scattered among the Ponderosa pines. “Am I in Heaven?” I wondered. The answer was no, but also not Iowa.
When I got to the parking area, there were a couple cars getting ready to leave, but otherwise just me and Sir Charles the Beast (my 20 pound rescue dog who otherwise goes by Charlie).
Being my first time here, I can’t definitively say, but I would guess that the solitude is generally pretty high. Which was amazing for a pseudo nomad like me. For the first 2 miles, all you could hear was the sound of the wind, your breath, and the natural wildlife. My soul was full and my mind calm.
During the hike, Charlie and I came across quite a few creatures, including chipmunks, two different deer sightings, a Robin, the sound of a woodpecker, the scent of a skunk (unfortunately) and some lizards repping AZ. More wildlife than I’ve experienced on my previous Phoenix-area hikes (including the Superstitions). The hike also offers beautiful views of Roosevelt Lake shortly after the start and continually throughout the trail. See the main image above for a sneak peak.
Shortly before we got to Browns Saddle (about 2 miles into the hike), we got sight of Brown’s Peak looming above. Looming sounds ominous. It was really more towering there, looking at us, challenging us to make it to the top. Which we did not. But not before first putting up a fight. I just wanted the beast to survive. If they gave out dog mom awards, man…
As mentioned before, there weren’t any other hikers in the parking lot when Charlie and I set out. And I had spent most of the day before binge watching “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” on Prime TV, so my adventurous spirit may have been slightly weakened. Either way, we got above the tree line, past the Saddle, and the through most of the remaining foliage, but decided to turn back when faced with a gigantic boulder followed by a super narrow, not well marked trail next to a 20 foot drop. It was one of those times when the right decision is not the one that you necessarily want to make, especially when being so close to the top, but being slightly dizzy, alone with a dog and knowledge of no other hikers, it seemed best that today be a “turn around” day. But we’ll be back. At least I’ll be back. With another human. And probably not the dog.