Hearst Mountain North P300
Hearst Mountain South P300
Signal Hill P300
Roof Butte P2K
Peak 9,566ft P500

Sep 30, 2023
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2


I was camped in the Williams area just north of Interstate 40 in Arizona. I still had a lot of driving to get to Colorado where I was due to meet up with Eric on Monday. I did a trio of easy summits in the early morning while things were still cool, before getting more hours of driving in. All of these summit are found in the Kaibab National Forest. The area I was in is mostly low, volcanic bumps, forested and heavily grazed with cattle, too. The network of roads is extensive, not all of them shown on the maps. Most of the ones I drove today were fairly rough, requiring high-clearance. I used 4WD only occasionally, not sure if it was necessary. At the end of the day I found myself on Navajo lands in Eastern Arizona, near the New Mexico Border, where I finished up with a few additional summits, including a P2K.

Hearst Mountain North

I'd camped at the end of Forest road 922 on the southeast side of this summit. The cross-country route took me through juniper and pine forest, with lots of mountain mahogany in the spaces. Not a brushy climb, but I took my time to keep from whacking my head on overhead branches - seemed the order of the day. It took me 20min to cover the half mile distance to the summit. A register of loose pages was in a glass jar in a modest cairn. I had expected one of Barbara's (she'd climbed all three of these summits), but it was much newer, from 2019, left by a local. Most visitors to this and the other summits are hunters, no real surprise.

Hearst Mountain South

After returning to the Jeep, I drove a mile and change on various roads to get me on the east side of Hearst South, with less than 1/3mi to the summit. This one is lower and easier than Hearst North, also with mostly easy cross-country. It took about 15min to get to the summit where a benchmark is located and a Barbara Lilley register from 2011 (this was after Gordon had stopped climbing with her for health reasons). Forested views stretch out in most directions. To the south, the P2K Bill Williams Mtn dominates the scene.

Signal Hill

The roughest roads I drove were getting between Hearst South and Signal Hill. There are easier ways, but it was a fun little Jeep adventure. I found my way to Forest Road 630 which traverses around the west and south sides of Signal Hill. A rough, steep spur road then ascends the southeast side, most of the way to the summit. Another vehicle was parked at the turnaround when I arrived. I did the last 400ft on a good use trail, less than five minutes to the rocky summit with views looking north and west. There is a crude wooden cross planted there, no register than I could find. A hunter was a few yards away looking through his binnoculars mounted on a tri-pod - scouting for deer and the upcoming deer season. I was back to the Jeep before 9a and ready to get some more serious driving miles in...

Roof Butte

Close to six hours would elapse before I got to Roof Butte near the AZ/NM border. Not all of that time was spent driving, as my cell service data limit was reached on the last day of the month (rendering Google Maps unusable, among other apps). So I stopped in Flagstaff to get something for dinner and grab some free wifi, and I ended up spending a few hours on various, completely unnecessary chores. In all, I drove about 260mi, most of that on backroads through the heart of the Navajo Nation. It was quite the scenic route that I enjoyed very much. Enroute, I picked up an elderly hitchhiker and drove him about 35mi. It seemed the least I could do for the free entry onto the reservation lands. Sadly, he wasn't very coherent, nor very intelligible and I lost about 90% of the words that came out. I would nod and say, "Oh!", "Uh-huh", and other hesitation words to keep up the lie that we were having a conversation. I dropped him off at the junction of SR264 and US199 and continued on my way.

Canyon de Chelly was along my route, so it seemed I should see something of it. I stopped at a few of the touristy view spots along the North Rim Drive. I was most interested in something called Massacre Cave, but there no plaques at the overlook or anything to suggest where one should look or what this is about, very un-NPS like. Oh well, I took a few pics of the impressive canyon before continuing.

A quick online search later showed that the Spanish were equals to the Americans in their treatment of Native Americans:

In 1805, Antonio de Narbona led a Spanish military expedition into Canyon de Chelly hoping to put an end to disputes over Spanish settlements expanding into Navajo country. Narbona reported that his forces killed as many as 115 Navajo people taking refuge in the canyon and 33 were taken captive.

It was 4:15p by the time I reached the turnoff for Roof Butte, then another 20min of driving on decent dirt roads that go right to the top. Though it looks pretty good from below, it has little going for it at the summit. Lots of telecom towers up here, hence the road. I did have a hazy view to the east into New Mexico, and got a crappy zoom of Ship Rock. I thought about visiting it the next morning for sunrise, but decided against in the end.

Peak 9,566ft

I spied this one on the drive up to Roof Butte. It looks impressive, dare I say "difficult" near its summit. It has over 600ft of prominence, making for a pretty steep ascent over the 0.4mi distance from the road/saddle to the top. I think I wanted it to be difficult so I had a good excuse to turn around, my heart not really in it. I'm glad I went up, though the only difficulties were moderate brush and lots of downfall. The summit rocks all proved class 2. I spent 30min making my way to the top, with open views in all directions as the forest ends just below the top. Lots of neat views, though hazy today with the high winds that have buffetted the state all day. I found an Andy Martin register from 2014, no other entries. Most folks simply drive up to Roof Butte and drive back down. There are at least a half dozen other summits one could do in the area, but I decided to take a shower when I got back to the Jeep, then drive back down to the pavement. I was a little too tired to do much driving this evening, so I drove only few miles back down the west side of the range before looking for a campsite at altitude (next to a summit, of course). Peak 9,269ft, about 1.5mi off the north side of the pavement fit the bill nicely. My campsite had cell coverage and was only about 1/3mi from the summit. Time for dinner...


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This page last updated: Tue Oct 17 08:47:06 2023
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