Pinal County Highpoint Trip Report

Rice Peak liner (7,300+/- ft)

Date: April 15, 2006
Author: Dave Covill (with Scott Casterlin and Rick Hartman)

This CoHP has been documented rather nicely but only coming from the north side from below. We visited Mount Lemmon first, walking up the mile from the gated road and parking lot by the ski area, and had no trouble walking to high ground. For the Rice liner, leave the Mount Lemmon Road about 2 miles below the summit of Lemmon and park downhill from the fire station a few hundred feet west to a parking lot, about 0.2 mile north from the road. This is just before the Summerhaven community and Loma Linda and is right where the control road heads downhill.

The walk is along the Oracle Ridge Trail, about 5.5 miles one way, with several gains and losses of a few hundred feet. The entire area, full length, was burned in 2003. There are about 12 downed large trees across the path in the first mile but more or less none after that. The burn has done little to deter a hiker, although there is now less shade than before, I am told. The TH is at 7,800 feet and the ridge stays mostly in the 7,300-7,500 foot range the whole walk. Dans Saddle is roughly the halfway point, at 6,900, and is the one major dip. Once you are close to Rice Peak, you encounter an old road, which climbs steeply straight up to Rice Peak. We chose to leave our daypacks on top of Rice, and wandered down the north face of Rice to the county line of Pima/Pinal about 275 vertical feet, encountering the large cairn where we expected to find it. Scott and Rick had been there previously from below. Gerry & Jennifer Roach had walked the Oracle ridge a few weeks prior as well and had kicked many small tree limbs off of the trail, they said.

From the cairn, I could tell by my trusty 5X level that I was substantially above the little rocky knoll that lies 1/4 mile or less to the north in Pinal county. I walked downhill to a point on the ridge where I could level directly even with the knoll standing up, and then went further to the spot where by laying on the ground I could tell I was dead even with the knoll. I constructed a very small cairn there, complete with an "X" made of stones in 4 directions. I then leveled back uphill to the main cairn by eyeballing the ground ahead of me, walking to that spot, and adding 5.5 feet each time I did so. I deduced that the cairn is ~42 feet higher than the knoll, a fact that is more or less confirmed by the contours on the map. I would not bother to visit the knoll unless you were suspicious of the placement of the cairn, viz a viz its relationship with the county line. If the line on the map is accurate, then most visitors have felt that the cairn is well placed by the topography. Charlie Winger used his GPS and said he got an exact placement from his coordinates and the cairn. We did it in about 2 1/2 hours each way, spending about an hour researching the highpoint and having lunch atop Rice Peak.