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Friday, January 16, 2009

BROWN'S PEAK

BROWN’S PEAK Four Peaks Wilderness Several states, including Arizona, feature images of mountains on their vehicle license plates, but unlike Washington’s treacherous Mt. Rainier or the oxygen-deprived peaks of Colorado, our own bumper icon, Brown’s Peak, is accessible to anyone with a high-clearance vehicle and a sturdy pair of boots. Hikers must hurdle a triad of challenges in order to gain the summit of Brown’s Peak, the highest (7,657 feet) of the four signature pinnacles on the horizon east of Phoenix. First, the drive to the trailhead is a kidney-jarring adventure on sinuous dirt roads. Next, hike 2 miles up a boulder-strewn, forested slope to a wide saddle with views of Roosevelt, Apache and Saguaro lakes as well as the silhouettes of seven mountain ranges. The final challenge is a rock scramble to the summit. Experienced hikers will have no trouble following the cairned route up “hiker’s gully” but, if you fear heights, are out of shape or have a dog or child in tow, don’t even think about attempting the 700-feet of vertical, hand-over-foot climbing. The apex is a jumble of crags and wispy grasses bearing little resemblance its stamped-metal knock-off. LENGTH: Four miles round-trip to the saddle or five miles to the summit. RATING: moderate-difficult ELEVATION GAIN: 1,700 feet GETTING THERE: From Fountain Hills, take Highway 87 north and turn right onto Four Peaks Road (FR 143) then drive 18 miles on the unpaved road to FR 648 and turn right. Follow FR 648 for1.3 miles to the Lone Pine Trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle is required.

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