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Experience an Arizona Climbing Adventure

With an average daily temperature of 110 degrees plus here in Phoenix everyday, it’s by late August that summers start feeling really long and extremely hot! I’ve been asked many times, how do you deal with the heat? Or the popular, why would anyone want to live here when it’s so hot? And I generally respond “well at least you don’t have to shovel the heat!” And in fact, even in the middle of August, here in Phoenix you can get outdoors and out of heat anytime because here in the state of Arizona, its so wonderfully diverse that you will be amazed to discover, if you love the outdoors like I do, that there is always something new, fun and adventurous to do, see and explore here anytime of the year! Arizona, with its vast wilderness terrain, vertical rock canyons and rugged mountain ranges & peaks, has so many beautiful places to get out hiking, but also offers many exciting places to go and experience the adventure of rock climbing too! For a cool break from the summer heat and a very scenic moderate level hike, only a short distance from the Phoenix area with the opportunity to also experience an exciting and thrilling rock climbing and scrambling adventure, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Browns Peak Trail and Summit hike, the Four Peaks Wilderness, Phoenix, Arizona.

Having lived in Arizona for over 20 years now, I’ve always heard of the Four Peaks and the Four Peaks Wilderness but have never actually been out there. So when I saw that the TLC Hiking Group, led and organized by Eric Kinneman, was planning on hiking and reaching the summit of Browns Peak, in the Four Peaks Wilderness, east of Phoenix, I thought, wow, that’s going to be a really beautiful and enjoyable hike! However, as for taking it all the way to the summit though, well, I wasn’t sure about that part.

But I eagerly signed up for the hike and on a beautiful Saturday morning, in late August, I met with Eric Kinneman and the TLC Hiking group at the Fort McDowell Casino and by 6:30am we had gathered up our small group and were on the road on our way to the Four Peaks Wilderness. From Fountain Hills and the Fort McDowell Casino, we hung a left onto Route 87, aka the Beeline Highway, heading east until we reached mile marker number 203. At mile marker 203, but before mile marker 204, on the right at the sign for the Four Peaks, we turned right onto Forest Road 143.

The 18 mile all dirt drive out FR 143 was absolutely spectacular! Wow, gorgeous scenery and mountain views for miles and miles all around as you slowly ascend and wind your way up from roughly 2000 feet in elevation beginning at the desert floor, all the way up to 5700 feet once you reach the base of the trail. I thought the descriptions of the road conditions of FR 143 which I had read in the guides and resources provided for the hike to be pretty accurate. It is a passable road but its somewhat rough in places. Overall, I thought it wasn’t too bad but I definitely backup their recommendations though to either have a 2wd truck or 4wd vehicle in order to safely do this drive.

After about an hour of “off roading”, we had reached the Four Peaks Wilderness signpost, where we made a pit stop and enjoyed the opportunity to get out and stretch our legs for a few minutes. By 7:45am, we had gathered back up again and were ready to move on. It was only a short ways further up the road after reaching a ridge, that we hung a very sharp right hand turn at the sign for the Lone Pine Trailhead and onto FR 648. From there, it was literally just about a mile or so, maybe less than that we finally reached a large parking area and the Lone Pine Trailhead, elevation 5700 feet, and the starting point of our day’s hiking adventure.

By 8:15am, and with everyone having safely arrived and ready to go, Eric quickly began the hike setting out on the Brown’s Peak Trail, #133, with each of us quickly following behind him. The temperatures were absolutely perfect, low 80’s with a slight gentle breeze to keep you cooled off as we each made our way through the beautiful pines and forest trees. We kept trekking it straight ahead on the Brown’s Peak Trail which quickly merges and becomes the Amethyst Trail now, trying to keep up the quick pace with Eric and stay together as a group. The views from all around were absolutely breathtaking though and I couldn’t help but stop to take as many pictures as I could of all the spectacular scenery! From the trail’s edge, looking out over to the east you see the beautiful Roosevelt Lake down below. Gorgeous! Then a short ways further on up the trail, looking out over to the west you saw breathtaking views of the Superstitions Mountains to the southwest, and to the northwest, the southern Mazatal Mountains and McDowell Mountains as well as the entire Phoenix area!. Absolutely beautiful! The higher you got, the more spectacular the views got. Amazing!

Two miles later and about 1000 feet higher in elevation, we reached the part called the saddle or the base of Brown’s Peak, now about 6700 feet elevation, along with my good friend Dan and another fellow TLC hiker named Pam. Here is where you can decide for yourself whether you prefer to stop or to try to press on, but if you decide to go on, the ½ mile hike from here to the summit becomes a Class 4 climb and is rated as very difficult. I took one look down and then one look straight up at the “scree-chute” and said, no way as I am very scared of heights and falling and having had no prior rock climbing experience before, I thought it best that I stop there. But Eric as well as the rest of the group pressed on, up the first “scree-chute”, (a vertical slope consisting of loose rock and boulders which forms a gully or “chute” as its termed, and a pathway with which to be able to reach the summit), then on to an even larger main “scree-chute”, which emptied out onto a ridge, he said. Then with no evidence of a marked trail left, they climbed the last 75-100 feet or so till they reached the summit of Brown’s Peak, elevation 7657 feet and the highest elevation in the entire Phoenix area. Wow! And the 360 views there at the top, they said, asolutely breathtaking.