In a last minute decision I found myself driving south of Tucson AZ towards Mount Wrightson (9453 feet) with intentions of a first time peak bagging and checking out the surrounding area. Let me tell you there was no disappointment or lack of incredible views on this hike! Driving up into the Madera Canyon (where the trailhead is located) is a treat in and of itself. This microclimate has lush green trees and killer mountain views; nothing you would assume is in the middle of a desert in Southern Arizona!
I pulled up to the trailhead, got my stuff together, and let out on the trail at mid morning. As I ascended the Old Baldy Trail #372 towards the peak and I was continually surprised at the density of the forest sprinkled with cacti and flowing creeks. I only saw a hand full of people on the way up which didn’t bother me; I needed a little solo trail time. There were a few small patches of snow on the consistent grade towards Josephine saddle. About a half mile after the saddle I found that the northern faced trail was covered in packed snow turned ice and I knew I was in for a slipping and sliding.
I continued to ascend the 4000 foot climb and I astounded by the changes in rocks, plants, and opening of expanded views of the desert floor below. The snow persisted all the way to the peak, and so did the incredible views. It was everything I could do to stop taking pictures and keep moving. The peak was engulfed by a low hanging cloud and despite my hopes that it would burn off the cloud lingered only clearing out 30% of the 360 view only for a few brief seconds.
On the way down I decided to take the Super Trail #134 and attempt to do a small side trip on Josephine Peak Trail to bag Josephine summit (8474 feet) that I noticed on the trailhead map. Let’s just say this “Josephine Peak Trail” was nonexistent. This bushwhack, sketchy (reminiscent of Browns Peak (Four Peaks in the Tonto National Forest)) loose up climbs (in 2 small sections), unmarked, and unclear “trail” lead me along a ridge to the summit. I maybe over exaggerating the toughness of this “trail”, but I was definitely surprised that it was posted on the trailhead map. At any rate, I peaked out, signed the registry, took in the views, and headed back towards the Super Trail.
I tied back into the Old Baldy Trail and headed back down. As I did, a mean dark cloud moved in and blessed me with some light hail, and as I descended (quickly) some cold rain. Despite the weather being what it was I was still really enjoyed all the mountain ridges, canyons, streams, flora, fauna, and just everything that the trail had to offer. This is one gorgeous trail, and it was just what I needed that day to get grounded and get my head clear. Another awesome day on the trail!
Hike Info: http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=158 (Mount Wrightson peak)
I added the Super Trail and Josephine peak as seen in the map in the slider pictures for some bonus miles.
- Weather: Hi upper 60s, Low in the lower 40s, Overcast / Sunny/Hail and Rain (quite a mix)
- Water: 1.5 liters
- Food: 2 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Builders bar, 1 Nature Valley peanut butter granola Bar, Pringles
- Time: 6.5 hours
- Distance: 11.2 Miles Round Trip
- Mule Camelback backpack (3 liter bladder)
- Black Diamond trekking poles
- Smart wool 195 long sleeve shirt
- Smart wool beanie cap
- Patagonia Pants
- Arcteryx Mid Layer Hoody
- Merrell Mid Moab Hiking Boots
- Smart wool medium weight sox and liners
- Giro Mountain Biking Gloves