Pinal County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: November 13, 2004
Author: Roy Wallen

With the benefit of an all-wheel-drive vehicle, we set out for the north slope of Rice Peak. Mileages from the east side of the highway across from Picacho Peak State Park ($12/night to camp) are:

We were able to proceed up the road, rocky and steep in places but quite passable. The road has been significantly improved since my visit in April 2000 when we were turned by back by significant washed-out areas. It is 2 miles up the forest road (FR) which heads west out of Peppersauce Canyon (named for a camper who mysteriously lost his hot sauce). Stay left at the first junction and proceed up the canyon to a junction with FR-29C. Turn right onto FR-29C and soon find the intersection with FR-4472. Turn right again and traverse the headwall of Peppersauce Canyon. A short way past the headwall, there is a junction of several roads; follow FR-4483 up and ignore the rest. You will ascend to Oracle Ridge, pass a few junctions, always staying on the main track. At a saddle, FR-4475 bears left at a fork. Rice Peak is straight ahead. We parked in the saddle at this junction.

The 2003 fire left a wasteland of the area but the views are excellent without the trees. Proceeding up FR-4483, the road traverses the west side of Rice peak, climbing steeply at times. At one point, about halfway up the road, there is a significant gully and a partly washed-out area of the road. Shortly after this gully, the road bears around left then meets a short right-turn switchback. From this switchback, it is possible to strike a bearing due east, staying to the south of the previously-mentioned gully, to find the cairn marking the liner.

However, we proceeded up the road and around to the north side of Rice peak, with fine views to Mount Lemmon (Pima County's highpoint). Where the road stops ascending and meets the ridge north of Rice Peak, there is a lesser road south to the summit. Proceed up this lesser road to a pile of conglomerate concrete and a register.

Looking to the north, you can see two outcrops and the road you ascended. Proceed north from the summit and find an old road crossing southeast to northwest. You can follow this road down to a fairly open area (after the fire) to a cairn marking the county line. Richard Carey's trademark register was placed in the cairn in October 2003 and only had a couple of entries before our visit.

To descend, head due west from the cairn, staying just south of the deep gully, where you will meet the road at the last switchback noted above. If you proceed down the gully, you will also hit the road but only after a bit more slipping down the hillside than necessary.

It's 0.55 air mile from the saddle to the cairn and 0.66 air mile to the summit. The round trip from the saddle took a bit over an hour, including signing both registers.