Forest Hill, Arizona, March 2019

On Saturday, March 30, I joined the Southern Arizona Hiking Club for a climb of Forest Hill, the highpoint of the Little Rincon Mountains east of Tucson. Forest Hill has 6114 feet of elevation and 1554 feet of topographic prominence, making it the 135th most prominent peak in Arizona. In spite of its low prominence the peak was fun and scenic.

The north slopes of Forest Hill, Little Rincon Mountains
The north slopes of Forest Hill, Little Rincon Mountains

Will Whitaker, the Chief Guide for SAHC, led the outing. Five others joined us, including June Meyer and Tom Tutein. We left Tucson and drove east on I-10, then turned north into Happy Valley, just east of the Rincon Mountains. This was my first drive into Happy Valley since the spring of 2015 when I hiked Rincon Peak and Mica Mountain.

Forest Hill from the east above the saddle. We climbed just below the ridge on its left side.
Forest Hill from the east above the saddle. We climbed just below the ridge on its left side.

After several water crossings we parked along pretty Paige Creek under cottonwood trees. From there we hiked the road east for two miles, then hiked up open country to the summit of Bald Mountain. From Bald Mountain we traversed a broad ridge to a saddle just below the east ridge of Forest Hill.

Forest Hill from the east saddle
Forest Hill from the east saddle
Arizona Rainbow Cactus high on Forest Hill
Arizona Rainbow Cactus high on Forest Hill

The steep north slope of Forest Hill was thickly covered by oak trees. The rocky and steeper south slope was more open, so we choose it. We traversed upwards to the south of the ridge. From there we climbed straight up to the summit ridge just east of the summit. The summit had a few large rock blocks and some of us scrambled up the highest to stand on the highest point.

Mica Mountain, the highpoint of the Rincon Mountains, from the Forest Hill summit
Mica Mountain, the highpoint of the Rincon Mountains, from the Forest Hill summit
Rincon Peak to the west from the Forest Hill summit
Rincon Peak to the west from the Forest Hill summit

We enjoyed a rest and lunch on the summit. The views were very scenic, with Mica Mountain and Rincon Peak of the higher Rincon Mountains to our west, other local peaks below us, and Bassett Peak and snowy Mount Graham in the distance to the northeast.

North Star Peak and the Whetstone Mountains in the distance from Forest Hill summit
North Star Peak and the Whetstone Mountains in the distance from Forest Hill summit

We descended our same route to the saddle, then took a more direct line over mostly open but sometimes brushy ground back to our cars. It was a pretty drive back through Happy Valley with its oak forests, creek crossings, and views of the high Rincon Mountains to our right. I expect I will someday return to climb North Star, a craggy peak just south of Forest Hill.

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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