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Eagletail Mountains Wilderness - Eagletail Peak

Summary: The Eagletail Mountains Wilderness (which was created with the adoption of the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990) is located just south of I-10 about 50 miles west of Phoenix. The 15 mile range of the Eagletail Mountains (the remnant of a volcanic dike that formed nearly 20 million years ago) form the northern boundary to the wilderness, while the southern portion consists mainly of open desert and washes. Trails are faint to non-existent in the area and water is scarce. Map, compass and maybe a gps are necessary for cross country travel. A hike to the summit (almost) of Eagletail Peak is described. This trip is suitable for hikers comfortable with exposure and off trail route finding.
Directions: Courthouse Rock Trailhead: From Phoenix, drive west on I-10 to exit 81 (Harquahala Valley Road & Salome Road). From the exit ramp turn left (south), drive across the bridge over I-10 and turn right onto Harquahala Valley Rd. After 5.3 miles turn right onto Courthouse/Centennial Rd (which is well graded dirt). After 6.9 miles you'll hit a fork in the road with a sign for the Eagletail Wilderness on to the left. Look for a dirt road on the left before the kiosk which leads diagonally to the southeast. Follow this somewhat bumpy dirt road for 0.5 miles, then turn right (south) on a somewhat rougher road and follow it 0.5 miles to a 'T' junction. Park here.
Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Difficult
Length: ~10 miles roundtrip
Date Hiked: February 2007
Weather Conditions: Partly cloudy
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the parking spot walk due south across the creosote flats to soon hop a barbed wire fence. Head south to skirt the eastern ridge of the Granite Mountains which you will see before you just to the east. Once around the Granite Mountains and the Eagletails come into view, turn your path in a southwesterly direction to head towards an obvious break in the cliffs of the Eagletail Mountains at GPS Point UTM 284988mE, 3699612mN. Looking up the slope that leads to this break in the cliffs you will see a large rock formation about half way down the slope, you'll want to work your way up the slope to the right (west) of this formation. Be aware that the slope is quite steep and the footing is loose in places. Once at the top of the ridgeline, turn left and continue uphill to a point where you can see Eagletail Peak. From this vantage point you will notice that there is a deep saddle which separates you from your goal. The best route to the saddle, though perhaps not the most intuitive,  is to follow the steeply sloped ridgeline (which has huge drop offs and great views to the desert floor to the north). At the end of the ridge, route find down a slick rock slope to reach the saddle at the base of the peak. Looking up to the summit from this point, you will see two main peaks, separated by a deep cleft. Follow the ridge on the right (south) side of the cleft up to a point near the summit where you can climb down into the saddle between the peaks. Hikers can continue a short distance up the north peak to a small rock cairn. Unfortunately this point is as far as hikers will be able to go without ropes. There are 3 vertical fins of rock (the 'feathers' of the Eagletail) that are slightly higher. The western most fin is the tallest and rises ~50-60 feet above the highest point that can be reached on foot. The route up to the summit has a few bolts and can be reached by those with technical climbing skills and vertical gear. The total climb appears to be approximately 120 feet. When ready retrace your steps returning the way you came.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author hiked to the summit, but was not prepared for technical climbing. Total hike time was 6 hours.
Maps: A map of the hike can be found here.
Books: None
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

Eagletail Mountains.

The ridgeline.

The eastern two 'feathers'. The western 'feather' and
the highest point.