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Vulture Peak Day Hike
Wickenburg
January 21, 2012
by Wendy Rennert
  GPS Map 
group
front:  Wendy R., Jenni, Wendy K., Ajay, Shay
back: Craig, Michael, Janet, Glenn, Anikó, Andy, Monika, Ed, Debbie, Jim

Just outside of Wickenburg, our group of 15 Trailblazers parked at the lower trailhead of the Vulture Peak Trail and began our journey on the trail at the end of the parking lot on the right hand side. There is also a dirt jeep road on the left side that continues onto an upper trailhead, but to drive it requires a 4 wheel drive vehicle, and besides, it would have been too short of a hike parking at that trailhead. We did, however, find that dirt road handy for the tail end of our return trip.

break
Taking a breather along the way.

The weather was a chilly but wonderful 48 degrees at starting time, also overcast and a bit windy.

I signed our group in at the trail register, and found a piece of a bee’s empty honeycomb that someone left inside the register box. This could have been found at the top of the trail, as I have read a couple reports of bees at the peak on occasion.

The first part of the hike from the lower to the upper trailhead has some gentle uphill and downhill sections, crosses a couple of washes, and also crosses the jeep road. There were wonderful stands of teddy bear cholla in several places. Along the way, we ran into a man who needed help finding his way back to the trailhead, so after he took our group picture we pointed him in the right direction.

peak
Are there Vultures around Vulture Peak?
lichen
Interesting lichen patterns.

As we get closer to the mountain, we notice bright yellow lichen and several white markings (bird droppings) on the dark red rocks - whether the droppings are from Vultures or other large birds, we don’t know.

hikers
Climbing up from the valley
into a beautiful rock garden.
red
An early Ocotillo bloom? Nope, it’s
Debbie & Monika in red jackets.

Once at the mountain, the terrain is steeper, and alternates between inclines and boulder staircases. There are a lot of interesting nooks and crannies in the rocks to stop and look at (and a good excuse to catch your breath!).

Debbie rock
We found a cave woman and a bust of Lincoln hiding in the switchbacks.
rock
Erosion treats — Various holes, nooks and arches.
trail
The wild, rugged Vulture Peak Trail.

When we reach the saddle, most of the group finds a nice area between a couple of huge boulders to rest and have snacks.

This location also serves as shelter from the wind.

Wendy Craig
Wendy K.   Settling into our wind shelter at the saddle.    Craig

The other third of the group can’t resist attempting the very steep scramble to the top of the peak. We could see them carefully picking their way up, hand over foot. Meanwhile, we can see darkening clouds in the distance that the peak baggers can’t see from their vantage point, so Michael yells over to them “Come on down, the rain is coming!” That is one area where you don’t want to get caught in the rain, as it’s tricky enough when it’s dry. Only some of them had made it to the top by that point, but they all wisely headed back down to the saddle.

trail
View of the scramble path
from the saddle to the top.
hikers
Take it easy! Proceeding forwards,
backwards, and butt-scrambling.

Ajay and Shay stay at the saddle to explore a little bit, while the rest of us head back down. Although there were literally only 1 or 2 sprinkles at the saddle, it ended up not raining, so the trip back down to the trailhead was a smooth one.

We could hear Ajay calling to us, and it became a game of trying to find which archway he was peeking through or which rock top he was waving from.

Ajay
Peek-a-boo! Looks like Ajay.
red
Early wildflower bloom.

After the hike, some of us continued further on down Vulture Mine Road, to see if the mine tour area was open, but as suspected, it was closed for now.

It looks like a sizable area, which makes sense, because the Vulture Mine that Henry Wickenburg founded became one of the most successful gold mines in Arizona history. Ah well, hopefully it will reopen in the future.

sign
No mine tour today.
mine
What’s left of the Vulture Mine.

We ended our day of activities at Anita’s Cocina in Wickenburg, for a tasty Mexican lunch.

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updated July 3, 2019