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10 of the Best Mountains to Climb in Arizona

Highway with a backdrop of the scenic Mountain Valley in Arizona, US.

The best mountains to climb in Arizona feature stunning views and opportunities to engage in unforgettable experiences, ranging from easy to technically challenging elevation gain to the summit. Discover unique cliff lines, cracks, jugs, pockets, and virtually anything you can imagine in climbing Arizona mountains.

Experience these 10 best mountains to climb in Arizona, Discover breathtaking views, amazing formations, and year-round availability for mountain climbers of all levels. The stunning historic sites among the best mountains to climb in Arizona are sometimes the subject of stories, mysteries, legends, and folklore passed down for generations.

Superstition Mountains

Superstition Mountain seen from a distance in the morning.

Superstition Mountain is the largest mountain range in Arizona. Superstition Mountain offers somewhat easy climbing options, and yet, features some very difficult climbs in the area. Some people visit the Superstition Mountains to get a feel for the area and to venture along some of the hiking trails, such as Treasure Loop Trail, where you can get a good view of some great rock formations, without a high elevation gain. Weaver’s Needle, at 4,553 ft., 1,388 m elevation, features mostly at class 4, also has three pitches at about 5.5.

The superstition Mountains is the subject of mystery, lore, and legend, leading some people in search of the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine, allegedly hiding $200 million from treasure hunters. The mysteries of Superstition Mountains, formed by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, including legends from Native Americans, have been the subject of articles, books, and television publications.

Location: The Superstition Mountains are located east of the metropolitan Phoenix area, and just east of Apache Junction. It is part of the Tonto National Forest.

Height: 5,057 ft., 1,541 m.

Length of trail to summit: 4 to 6 miles to Flatiron and summit, 12 miles Superstition Ridgeline climb. There are 45 trails in the Superstition Mountains, with other popular trails like the Dutchman’s Trail at 18 miles one-way in length, and 1,000 feet elevation, and Peralta, which is 6.2 miles in length, and 1,360 feet in elevation.

Various routes to summit: The length of trails to summit depends on where you want to climb, and your destination in the vast expanse of the Superstition Ridgeline. Climb the Siphon Draw trail, with a gain of just under 3,000 feet, and it is approximately just 15 minutes to the unnamed summit.

Best season to hike: The best time to climb at the Superstition Mountains is winter to spring. The extreme heat makes it too difficult to climb during the summer months.

Terrain: Terrain depends on where you start your climb. Are you starting at the Hieroglyphic Trail to see the petroglyphs or attempting difficult climbs, such as the Siphon Draw Trail to the Flatiron, to the unnamed summit? The terrain is rough, mostly trad, and not for the novice climber. Rocky outcrops, cactus slopes, ravines, breathtaking canyons, and lakes encompass the area.

White Tank Mountains

A trail with stone steps inside White Tank Mountains.

White Tank Mountains are a good location for climbers at all levels because there are some easy areas and others that are more difficult. Take the family for a hike where they can see beautiful wildflowers and the gorgeous waterfall along the White Tank Mountain Waterfall trail. Most people stay at the lower level trails and are still able to experience the colorful sunset.

Experienced climbers venture to Barry Goldwater Peak, which is the highest summit of the White Tank Mountains. The pointed peak is indeed the summit, although some people likely say that it is difficult to tell whether the actual summit is at Barry Goldwater Peak, or at the Radio Summit, the site of several communications towers.

Location: Waddell, Arizona, and 25 miles west of Phoenix, close to Buckeye. The White Tank Mountains are part of the White Tank Mountain Regional Park.

Height: White Tank Mountains rise to a height of 4,083 feet, or 1244.498 m. at the summit, with Radio Summit rising to 4,018 feet, or 1244.686 m.

Length of the trail to summit: There are a minimum 12 miles round trip to the summit.

Various routes to summit: Barry Goldwater Peak is not listed on maps, but is well-known by local sources and experienced climbers. Take Goat Camp, and hike five miles up the trail to a junction. The gully is a gain of about 200 feet. Climbers then take a right and continue their climb approximately 6.5 miles to the summit. Some climbers prefer to take the trail to Radio Summit, then continuing on to Barry Goldwater Peak when hiking back down the dirt trail.

Best season to hike it: The best times to climb the White Tank Mountains depend on your choice of climb options. Are you hiking at lower elevations with the family and want to experience nature such as the wildflowers? Plan to visit in March, or in April, when the waterfall is at its finest after the rains. Experienced climbers tackling the summit do not want to climb in the height of mid-summer, so plan your climb between November and April.

Terrain: The terrain is often difficult, through canyon walls, bushy desert, boulders with ancient petroglyphs, and lots of connecting routes.

Dragoon Mountains

This is an aerial view of the Dragoon Mountains.

The Dragoon Mountains are a small mountain range, stretching just 25 miles in length. Do not let the small length of the Dragoon Mountains fool you. There are excellent climbing opportunities. Lower elevations attract less-experienced climbers, who get a wonderful view of grasses, evergreen oak trees, and natural habitats. Climbers with expertise take to the Cochise Stronghold, which features granite domes, rugged canyons, and other steep, rugged areas. Check out the escape route of the famous Apache leader, Cochise.

Location: The Dragoon Mountains are located in Southern Arizona, between Benson and Wilcox, Arizona.

Height: 6,056 feet, or 1,845.9 m

Length of the trail to summit: The high point of the Dragoon Mountains is at Mount Glen, a towering 7,532 feet. The climb to Cochise Stronghold is 4.5 miles one way and takes two to three hours.

Various routes to summit: The route to Cochise Stronghold starts at Cochise Trail. Enjoy a view of gorgeous scenery and the first part of the climb along with a wash that extends about half a mile. Climbers continue their ascent through faint trails, past an old structure, along washes, boulder laced mountains, and opportunities to experience spires, domes and difficult historic routes.

Best season to hike it: Year-round, but only attempt the climb in summer if you can tolerate the heat

Terrain: Rugged terrain, steep, remote

McDowell Mountains

Sonoran desert with the backdrop of McDowell Mountains.

McDowell Mountains features climbing routes that vary in difficulty. McDowell Mountains have been a favorite for climbers over the past several decades. There are over 50 miles of trails throughout McDowell Mountain Regional Park, with easy to difficult hikes up the mountains.

There are both gears and bolted routes, with trad, and the expectation that climbers will place their own protection in some areas.

Location: The McDowell Mountains are located in Northeast Scottsdale, east-southeast of Pinnacle Peak.

Height: 3,068 feet, 935.1268 m. East End is the highest summit at 4,075 ft.

Length of the trail to summit:  The length of the climb is about 1.4 miles.

Various routes to summit: Reach the East End from across Windmill Trail on the south or the Tom’s Thumb Trail from the north. You start here at approximately 3,600 feet elevation.

Best season to hike it: The best seasons to climb is in the winter and spring.

Terrain: Rough-grained granite, large granite boulders

Mount Lemmon (Santa Catalina Mountains)

A look at the peak of Mt. Lemmon from the foot.

Mount Lemmon is the name that most people use when referring to the Santa Catalina Mountains. Mount Lemmon is just one of the ranges in the Santa Catalina Mountains, yet the climbers casually refer to the entire mountains by ‘Mount Lemmon.’

Mount Lemmon is one of the most popular mountains to climb in Arizona. There are over 1,500 routes throughout the mountains, offering something for climbers at every level.

Experienced climbers should be the only climbers venturing to higher elevations, because of loose rocks, the risk of flash floods, other weather extremes such as lightening and extremes in heat and colder temperatures. Then there are the local creatures to avoid, including Gila monsters, rattlesnakes, and scorpions.

Enjoy a diverse amount of climbing in the area.

Location: Off the Catalina Highway, on the east side of Tuscon, Arizona

Height: 2,500 feet, 762 m., with a summit elevation of 9,159 feet.

Length of the trail to summit: The length of the Mount Lemmon Summit loop route is 23.9 miles.

Various routes to climb: Choose your passion from among the more than 1,500 routes through the mountains. Consider routes such as Agatha Christie, Steel Crazy, and Go Speed Racer.

Best season to hike it: Santa Catalina Mountains are closed from January through July. Plan around winter storms.

Terrain: Unpaved roads and trails, generously distributed crags, desert, and alpine forest

Camelback Mountain

A look at the peaks of Camelback Mountain against a blue sky.

Camelback Mountain got its name because the shape of the mountain resembles the head and hump of a kneeling camel. The mountains are a popular destination for both visitors and local residents. While some people stick to the many trails, serious climbers take the ascent up to the summit. There are strenuous trails, yet the round-trip time ranges from less than two hours to around three hours.

There is a cave that was discovered on Camelback Mountain, which has been traced back to the sacred site of a prehistoric culture.

Location: Heart of Phoenix

Height: 1500 feet, 457.20 m elevation

Length of the trail to summit: The length of the trail to the summit is 1.14 to 1.4 miles

Various routes to climb: Choose the Echo Canyon Trail or the Cholla Trail to the summit.

Best season to hike it: Winter to spring, due to extremely high temperatures during summer months.

Terrain: Granite, and red sedimentary sandstone

Chiricahua Mountains

A look at the unique structures of Chiricahua Mountains.

The largest of the Arizona Sky Island mountain ranges, the Chiricahua Mountains are the second-highest of the mountains. The U.S. Forest Service explains that there are ‘rolling hills’ on top of the narrow, and high plateau, rather than traditional-style peaks.

The area is widely undeveloped, making it a climber’s paradise for the climber that wants to enjoy the experience of climbing without the crowds. Check out the varieties of spruce, pine, and fir trees among the slopes and flat areas. Gorgeous wildflowers provide an even greater view.

The state of the under-developed mountains means that climbers get to have access to outstanding geologic formations. The National Park Service refers to the Chiricahua National Monument as a ‘wonderland of rocks.’

The mountains have recently been explored by biologists, anthropologists and other specialists in their fields that have taken interest in the diverse environments of the Chiricahua Mountains.

Location: Located in Cave Creek Canyon, east of Portal

Height: Elevation from mountain base is 5,259 feet, 1602.943 m

Length of the trail to summit: The trail to the summit is 9,759 feet, an estimated 2974.5 m. It takes about four hours to summit.

Various routes to summit: There are literally thousands of trails in the Chiricahua Mountains. Take Rustler Park to the Long Park Trail, until it connects with the Crest Trail. Many trails branch off to different destinations and other summits from there. Other options include starting out at Turkey Creek Rd., or at Mormon Canyon Trailhead.

Best season to hike: Year-round, but you may want to choose good weather days because of the terrain.

Terrain: Rhyolite formations, hoodoos, Precambrian rock, sedimentary rock

Humphreys Peak

A look at the snow-capped peaks of Humphreys Peak.

Humphreys Peak is the highest mountain in Arizona. It is also the highest point of the San Francisco Peaks. The mountains rank among the top most-prominent mountains in the lower 48 states. Reach the summit and marvel at the views of the edge of the Grand Canyon, and White Mountains. It typically takes four to six hours to climb round trip.

Location: North-Central Arizona, just north of Flagstaff

Height: 12,637 feet, 3851.758 m

Length of the trail to summit: The elevation rise is 6,053 feet, and it is a round trip of 9 miles

The various route to summit: Start at Humphreys Trail, which starts at 8,800 feet in the Arizona Snow Bowl ski area. This is the standard route. Another route, more challenging in nature, is the Weatherford Trail.

Best season to hike it: June through October, one of the few Arizona mountains recommended for summer climbs. Some people like the challenge to climb in the winter months. Avoid potential storms, which sometimes causes deadly lightning.

Terrain: Forest with varieties of spruce, firs, and aspen trees, rocky landscape, and steep switchbacks

Mount Baldy

A close look at Mount Baldy in Prescott Valley, AZ.

Mount Baldy is the highest point of the White Mountains and fifth-highest point in Arizona. It is also a sacred mountain to the Apache Indians. The Mount Baldy summit is actually located in the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

The waters located within Mount Baldy offer exceptional trout fishing opportunities. Climbers typically bypass hanging out for a day of fishing, and head for the unnamed summit, choosing one of the two primary trails.

The mountain gets its name from the fact that at the peak, there is little to no vegetation.

Location: Mount Baldy Arizona is located in Eastern Arizona,

Height: Summit elevation is 11,409 feet, 3477.46 m

Length of the trail to summit: Climbers take one of the two trails, which are each approximately seven miles one-way to a fork at the Little Colorado River. Climbers eventually discover the trails converge at a saddle, at an elevation of approximately 11,200 feet.

Various routes to summit: West Baldy Trail and the East Baldy Trail provide lush views of vegetation, pine forests, and different climbs. The West Baldy Trail is considered somewhat more challenging, with slightly more elevation gain, compared to East Baldy Trail. You might want to watch for the black bears and mountain lions.

Best season to hike it: Late spring through early fall

Terrain: Forest, wilderness, meadow, rivers, streams, fallen trees, eroded sub-peaks

Rincon Mountains

A look at the massive Rincon Mountains from afar.

Climbing the Rincon Mountains is a more difficult hike. The mountains are among five mountain ranges of the Tuscon Valley. It is also a part of the Madrean Sky Island mountains. The name means ‘corner’ in Spanish, which is the primary shape of the Rincon Mountains. There is no road access, but there is still easy access for experienced climbers. Most of the mountain range is within Saguaro National Park.

Location: Tuscon Valley, Pima County, Arizona

Height: The Rincon Peak elevation is at 8,482 feet, 2585 m

Length of the trail to summit: The elevation change from the base is 5,664 feet. Expect an 8.1-mile one-way hike. The last half-mile is especially steep.

Various trails to summit: Follow the Miller Creek Trail to Heartbreak Ridge Trail. The trail is at various levels of difficulty, including rocky cliffs, large boulders, and forests, creek beds and lush vegetation.

Best seasons to hike it: Fall through spring seasons

Terrain: Forests, giant saguaro cacti, boulders, wilderness, riparian areas.

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