Gila County Highpoint Trip Report

Myrtle Point, Promontory Butte (7,920+ ft)

Date: November 2, 2005
Author: Dave Covill

This CoHP has been written up in the past rather nicely but never coming from the northwest, always the southeast, and there are some subtle points to be made that have not been mentioned previously. Both of these places must be visited. They are maybe 5-6 miles apart as the crow flies. They are on the famed Mogollon Rim (high plateau to the onrth, steep dropoff to the south, along an east-west axis for over a hundred miles), and accessed from FR 300, known as the Rim Road. Myrtle Point is simple, although there is an unmarked road to confuse things. Promontory Butte is tougher and I messed it up similar to Dave Olson years ago. Future HPers should do better.

Note that the Mile Post markers are sometimes absent and universally read too high.

From I-17 north of Phoenix, take exit #287 onto AZ 260, and drive 33.2 miles east on it until you reach the junction with AZ 87. Go left (east) for 2.5 miles to the junction with good gravel Rim Road (FR 300). Reset to 0.0.

There are MANY turnoffs, mostly left (north). Stay straight on Rim Road 300 on all of them. Of import, stay left at FR 218 at mile 0.1. You can see Myrtle Point about 2-3 miles prior to arriving at it. You will reach it at mile 21.4. This is FR 300-C. This is the old jeep road you want. It is passable in almost any vehicle. I had no problem in my Rodeo in 2WD. At mile 21.45, you reach another road not shown on the topo. This is FR 9714-P. This goes downhill and bends sharply to the SE after 0.3 mile. Do not take this road. It is more easily seen than the FR 300-C you want. At mile 21.50, you will reach a turn to the left for Fr 300-H. From here, you are about 500 feet too far past the road you want. Yes, I did this. MP 22 was just BEFORE the turnoff to FR 300-C.

Drive 0.4 mile out FR 300-C on mostly level ground. There is a clearing and turnaround here, and the road begins to go downhill. Park here. About 300 feet to the southwest, there is an 18-inch cairn with a red can, signed by the usual suspects. It seems to be slightly higher here than elsewhere and was a few feet higher than right on the rim edge. Andy Martin left me a note on October 29th saying hi. I was only a few days later. Smoke was visible in the valley far below and was present along the first 6-8 miles of Rim Road. The USFS was doing controlled burns. Quite tough on the eyes and throat. I was amazed they didn't have the road closed.

For Promontory Point, continue southeast on the Rim Road, continuing with the mileage picking up at 21.4. At mile 25.0, reach the Coconino / Sitgreaves National Forest boundary. This is a very open plateau with few trees. At mile 30.0 reach Mile Post 31. At mile 30.3 reach FR 89, a nice road to the left (north) to Bear Canyon Lake. At mile 30.4, reach FR 76, which goes right (south). There are no gates or signs about closures or anything here near the Rim Road. This is a pretty good road for the first portion.

Reset to zero. At 0.1 mile reach a gate locked open. Continue through, and at 1.7 miles note a faint trail to the left, proceed straight. At 1.9 miles reach a "Y"-junction, stay right. This is around the first "T" in the national forest on the topo. At 2.2 miles I reached a "Y"-junction, and FR 76 was signed to the right. I stayed right on 76. At 3.0 miles, approximately near the "P" in "Promontory Butte" on the topo, there is another "Y"-junction and FR 76 was signed to the left, which is sort of straight ahead. I took this to the left. This was a mistake. This took me very slightly downhill and eastward and I ended up after 1.4 miles with the road deteriorating and I was about at the middle of the bottom of the section line of section 12, near the contour line noted as 7,720 ft, and above the small print word "boundary", maybe 1/4 mile to the rim, and 1/2 mile or more to the east of where I wanted to be. Doctor Olson describes a similar plight.

I should have taken the unsigned right. I walked to the rim from my car, then back west-northwest along it for a long way to the HP. There are numerous little peninsulas which jut out from the rim and I kept thinking I was at the HP when really I still had a ways to go. I finally got to the right spot, as described by others, and found the appropriate markers and cairn. Nice views off the rim to the south. I then walked due north a bit from the rim and found a faint road after a bit which I believe was the one that others have driven straight to the HP. I walked north a bit on it, noticed I was getting further from my vehicle, and cut due east through the nice open woods about 1/2 mile and found the junction where I had turned, then continued to my vehicle. I estimate I blew over an hour and a half by not having gone the right way.

To recap, go right at the "Y"-junction at 3.0 miles and it will lead you eventually to high ground near the rim. There was almost no snow on the ground at all.

From the Rim Road junction with FR 76, I noted the mileage to the east, in the direction others had come before. I reset my odometer to zero, and went 9.0 miles to pavement at a turn for Woods Canyon Lake. At 12.2 miles I reached Highway 260, and curved down the cliff side to the valley below on it. It was another 30 or so miles on to Payson on AZ 260. Obviously, you can approach equally well from either direction, although with these directions, you may be able to approach from the west if the east end is closed for some reason.

Of note, I drove in much farther than Scott Surgent did and I did not have a GPS with me. I left my car to seek out the rim and see if I could "see" where I was. Once there, I kept walking west along the rim, expecting to find the HP momentarily. I did nothing of the sort, of course, and was away from my car for more like 2 hours than 2 minutes. Wrong decision.