Cimarron Peak, Arizona, February 2019

On Sunday, February 17, I joined Eric Kassan, Stacey Samuels, and Adam Humphreys on a hike of Cimarron Peak in Southern Arizona. Cimarron Peak lies west of the village of Kaka and north of the village of Hickiwan, Arizona. The peak has been of interest to me for several seasons in Arizona. It has only 4124 feet of elevation, but 1984 feet of topographic prominence, making it the 74th most prominent peak in Arizona.

Cimarron Peak from Rabia Benchmark
Cimarron Peak is the broad peak in the center horizon in this view from Rabia Benchmark (Sierra Blanca highpoint)

Cimarron Peak also has 26 miles of isolation, meaning the nearest peak higher than it is 26 miles away. This makes it the 36th most isolated peak in Arizona. It certainly feels isolated, as it is miles from paved roads and the road providing best access to it has some nasty erosion in spots. Cimarron Peak has few visitors and visiting it seems an adventure in exploration.

Cimarron Peak from our parking spot along the Pipeline Road
Cimarron Peak from our parking spot along the Pipeline Road

I had scouted the usual access route a few weeks earlier via the Pipeline Road west of the village of Kaka. On my drive in I paused and debated whether to cross a sandy wash with short but steep embankments. I activated my Jeep’s front and rear lockers in 4WD Low and crossed successfully. In the process my Jeep gained more “Arizona pinstriping” along its sides as I drove through brush. Further on I maneuvered around sections of deep road erosion. I eventually got close enough to Cimarron Peak to provide a reasonable hike. On the drive out I cleared some brush and tree limbs with a hand saw. I was not sure Eric would care to drive the route with his vehicle when we returned later.

Wildflower and hedgehog cactus patches decorate the desert floor
Wildflower and hedgehog cactus patches decorate the desert floor

Instead, Eric proposed an alternative route passing through the village of Hickiwan to gain access to the Pipeline Road from the west. In the morning we drove in on this route and we were able to park a few miles northwest of the peak while encountering much less erosion and brush. Eric’s experience studying satellite photos of primitive roads had paid off.

We approach our ascent ridge which winds up to the summit ridge visible above
We approach our ascent ridge which winds up to the summit ridge visible above

Cimarron Peak is broad and appears less significant than its prominence indicates. We hiked across the open desert floor towards the nearest ridge across patches of wildflowers and around patches of hedgehog cactus hiding in low grass.

A carpet of wildflowers on the ridge
A carpet of wildflowers on the ridge

The ridge appeared to be low angle and lead sinuously towards the summit. As we climbed we traversed around one point on loose rock. I enjoyed the wildflower carpeting the slopes. Higher the ridge was rocky and this slowed us down a bit.

The highpoint of Cimarron Peak rises above the summit ridge
The highpoint of Cimarron Peak rises above the summit ridge. Sharp yucca spines wait to spear us as we push through.
The southern summit, Cimarron Benchmark, is slightly lower
The southern summit, Cimarron Benchmark, is slightly lower. We did not visit it this time.

Eventually we reached the summit ridge and traversed over to the highpoint of Cimarron Peak. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped. We entered our names in the summit registry which had few entries going back to 1998. The last documented visitors had been Scott Surgent, Matthias Stender, and Michael Berry over a year earlier. I recognized many peaks and ranges around us and took many photographs to study later.

Stacey and Eric enjoying success on a windy and cold day
Stacey and Eric enjoying success on a windy and cold day
Adam braving the cold wind and sharp brush in shorts
Adam braving the cold wind and sharp brush in shorts

We soon started down, breaking standard practice by splitting up into different groups to sort out the best way back to our cars as we saw fit. I hoped we would all arrive back without mishap. Generally we thought an alternative ridge might provide better footing and be more direct to the desert floor. This was the case, but it did require traversing across several washes and climbing over some shallow ridges across the desert floor.

Looking down from the upper slopes of Cimarron Peak
Looking down from the upper slopes of Cimarron Peak. Our cars are in the center of this view below the cliffy butte in the distance.

We eventually regrouped at our cars and drove out to pavement. We said our goodbyes and returned to our homes. I enjoyed spending the weekend with Eric, Stacey, and Adam, and was happy to have visited Cimarron Peak. There are so many other peaks to visit.

Paul McClellan

About Paul McClellan

I had the good fortune to have spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, where I discovered the joys and addiction of hiking and climbing in the Cascades Range and other ranges in the Western United States.
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