The Stats: Trail Name: Browns Peak via Browns Trail Distance: 4.7 miles Elevation Gain: 1,909 feet Difficulty: Moderate to the saddle, very difficult beyond that Dog Friendliness: Very - 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.
Today’s adventure takes us to the Browns Peak trail in the Four Peaks mountain range. Another first as I work through the 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Phoenix book. You should definitely go on this hike. Set aside the time, make the drive, and do it. It is absolutely beautiful.
Getting to Browns Trail:
From Scottsdale, drive 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’s a pretty easy drive up with beautiful views to distract the passengers. Drivers: get those white knuckles ready.
The Hike to Browns Peak:
As soon as you get within a mile of the parking area, the landscape changes dramatically from Arizona desert to mountain pines. Roll your window down to fill those lungs with the clean, pine-scented air. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the desert was flowering and that there are Oak trees scattered among the Ponderosa pines. “Am I in Heaven?” I wondered. The answer is no, but also not Iowa.
Upon reaching 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 is amazing for those with an introverted side. 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.
Animals and Overlooks
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 the typical AZ wildlife. There was definitely more wildlife than I’ve experienced on my previous Phoenix-area hikes. Brown’s trail also offers beautiful views of Roosevelt Lake shortly after the trailhead and continually throughout the trail.
Shortly before approaching Browns Saddle (about 2 miles into the hike), you catch sight of Brown’s Peak looming above. Looming sounds ominous. It’s really more towering there, looking at you, challenging you to make it to the top. Which we did not. But not before first putting up a fight. I 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 lessened than it might typically be. 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 an extremely narrow, not well marked trail alongside 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.