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Monday, November 21, 2016

HUMBOLDT MOUNTAIN

HUMBOLDT  MOUNTAIN
Tonto National Forest
Looking east over Horseshoe Lake
Sometimes I just feel like a brainless hike up a hill with no route finding, treacherous terrain or precarious precipices. Just. Up.  Thankfully, Humboldt Mountain meets this criteria and it's not too far from downtown Phoenix.  You've probably seen this hill and wondered about it ---there's a huge, white “golf ball” (as it’s commonly called) on the summit that’s visible from the back roads north of Cave Creek and Carefree. The white ball, which is an FAA radar station used for air traffic control, shares the summit with a fire tower and a hardware jungle of tech equipment. The hike involves walking up a narrow road of crumbling asphalt via a series of gentle switchbacks and a combination of flat and fairly steep segments. 
Summit views
The 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire took a toll on the area's vegetation, but recovery is underway and desert shrubs are popping up everywhere. With every few feet of elevation gain, the views get bigger and better.  Much of the lower road winds through cactus-studded grasslands with Cave Creek Mountains, Pinnacle Peak and New River Mesa on the horizon. Higher up, the road winds around to the eastern slope of the mountain where there the sprawling Verde River Valley and Horseshoe Lake come into view. Just below the summit, the one and only hairpin turn in the road kisses the edge of a scenic saddle. Here, sycamore-and-cottonwood cluttered drainages appear as  twisted meanders nearly 2,000 feet below. From this saddle, the final uphill slog to the summit rewards with more excellent views and the revelation that “golf ball” is hardly an accurate description of the FAA tower. It is most indubitably, a
soccer ball.
Final switchback to the top
LENGTH: 7.8 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 3,570' – 5,204'
BEST SEASON: October – April
GETTING THERE:
Stunning mountain views all around
From Loop 101 in North Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess Road exit and go 13 miles north on Pima Road to Cave Creek Road.  Turn right (east) and continue on Cave Creek Road (a.k.a. FR 24, Seven Springs Road) to FR 562 (Humboldt Mountain road) located between MCDOT mile markers 9 and 10.  The turnoff is easy to miss—it’s on the right, paved and there’s a “562” sign about 100 feet up the road. If you get to Seven Springs Recreation Area, you have gone roughly 2 miles too far. Park in the turnouts along FR24 and FR562 and hike up FR562 to the summit.

INFO: Cave Creek Ranger District, Tonto National Forest, (480) 595-3300


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