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Let's take a tour of Picacho Peak State Park.  This place is famous with history buffs for being the western most skirmish in the Civil War and the only one in the "Arizona territory."  I've included a couple of links to larger pictures, the first one below, which is a scan of the guide they give you for paying $6 to get in, the other one is the plaque showing the way the battle evolved, and the ultimate conclusion. 

My main reason for visiting this place was for the hike to the top.

Picacho Peak is located in southern Arizona, about half way between Tucson and Phoenix.  It's close to an hour from Tucson by I-10, or 45 miles from downtown.  Besides being a battle site, there are other things you might want to know about the park.  The next couple of paragraphs are from signs around the park.

Picacho Peak has been a navigational landmark throughout history.  It helped direct early explorers such as Father Kino and Juan Bautista De Anza.  In 1932, a 40 ft light beacon was installed at the top of the peak for air traffic navigation.  Hunter trail on the south side of the Peak was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps to facilitate servicing the beacon, which was dismantled in 1965. 

When Picacho Peak was dedicated as a State Park in 1968, the second phase of Hunter trail was built, beginning on the north side, crossing the saddle and connecting to the first phase. 

The elevation of the Peak is 3,374 ft.  Picacho peak rises 1500 ft from the desert floor.

Additional information reveals Picacho Peak to be about 22 million years old, and, is an eroded resistant lava flow in a series of lava flows interlaid with thin strata of gravelly sedimentary rock.  The entire series was tilted steeply towards the northeast, then faulted and eroded leaving what remains today.  Geologists, to this day have not located the volcano responsible for the lava flows.

I hope that covers enough information for you.

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Click for larger image


This is the information sheet they give you when you pay $6 to enter the joint.   Click for larger image.

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This is the main entrance to the park.  The highest peak is off to the left out of view.

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Colorful Mexican gold poppies near the information center.

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This is the beginning of Barrett loop rd.  The end of this road is where most people take the flower pictures against the peak.  Hunter trail to the peak is also at the end.

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This is the end of the main drag, and the western end of the park.  Before you is the Sunset Vista Trail-head, which will take you to the peak on a 3.1 mile trek, about half of which is fairly level, skirting the southern side of the mountain.  Trail goes off to the far left.

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Poppies and Lupines along Barrett loop road.

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Looks like it's a long walk to that parking.  This is at the Sunset Vista Trail-head.

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Desert Marigolds are abundant here also, especially as you climb the peak.

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Click to read plaque


This is the gereral battle overview.  Click for larger image and to read the plaque.  Photo taken at the historical markers location near the information center.

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Plenty of nature trails for people wanting to check the desert out.  They also have a multitude of plant species signs scattered about so you know what you're looking at.

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This is a minor peak, but I don't think there's a trail to it.  There are more than 8 people in the picture though you can't see 'em in this small image.

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Now we're on Barrett loop road again ready for our short Hunter trail hike.  This is a quick 2.0 mile hike to the peak, for an elevation gain of 1500 ft.  It basically shaves off a mile over the Sunset Vista trail, though you're still climbing the same amount.  Our destination is the peak to the left.  Notice the ghosting in the image, I had a lot of problems at 18mm on my Sony 18-250mm lens.  I didn't carry a lens hood because I was using a case, and the camera and hood wouldn't fit, so I thought I'd just use my hand, obviously it didn't help all that much.  I was surprised at how many pictures were ruined when I got home and downloaded them.  Bottom line: use a hood when shooting close to the sun at wide-angle with this lens.

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At this point we're about half way to the saddle.  More Picacho moutains in the distance, Newman peak the highest.  It looks like ther're some antennas etc. up there.  At the base of those mountains is what looks like a dirt road, but it's actually the Central Arizona Project, which is a canal that carries diverted Colorado river water all the way to Tucson.  In the middle is I-10, off to the left and 50 or 60 miles is Phoenix.  The highway goes north here, of course it's labeled for east-west.

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This view is looking back as we get close to the saddle.  You hug the rock wall at this point-see the trail?

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Here we're beyond the saddle and meeting up with the Sunset Vista trail.  The saddle has a bench and a couple of signs, other than that, nothing special.  It does make a good stopping point for people who don't want to get too serious, and you'll find out why quickly.

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People coming from the Sunset Vista trail climb up this rock face, with the help of cables.  This is the original part of the trail that was used to service the Beacon on top.

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Another shot, this time at the bottom looking up.  It's pretty steep here and you might not make it without the help of the cables.

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This image looks back towards the southwest.  More steep climbing ahead.

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As you can see, it really is steep.  Luckily, the rocks are rough and have a lot of foot holds so you feel pretty safe, at least I do. 

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Some hikers coming up the cables seen in the last image.

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Yet another tough spot to maneuver through.

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This shot is the same place as above only a little higher.  They use cables and hog wire fencing to keep you from falling through, but it looks like you could easily slip through the gap below if you weren't careful.

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You go through quite a few of these tricky areas, if you're afraid of heights, you probably should stay at the saddle.  The mustard colored smudges in the background are large stands of poppies.

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We've finally made it to the top.  You can see some metal anchors where the old Beacon used to be, but not in this picture.  Barrett loop road is at the bottom center, the trail-head is on the right side of the loop.

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The metal anchors are located just behind me in this shot.  We look now towards the south and Tucson.  The Catalinas are in the very back, with Mt. Lemmon centered.  If you look at the third peak to the right of Mt Lemmon, you'll see Mt Kimball, which is my favorite hiking destination.   I took the two photos below from that peak with a cheap camera a couple of years ago.  Also, make sure you visit the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch, located in the lower left center of the image.

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Here's Picacho Peak from Mt. Kimball with a telephoto lens.  It kind of sticks right out from the valley floor.

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Another shot showing more foreground.  The towns of Oro Valley (lower) and Marana (middle) then the Tortolita mountains (upper) with Picacho Peak way in the back, top center.  The peak is over 40 miles away.

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This image from the top looks towards Phoenix, far right and not quite in sight yet.  There's a trail running down to the minor peak off to the left center, where there's an abundance of very red fishhook barrel cacti, mostly small ones.  I've never seen any quite so colorful around Tucson.  

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The view from that minor peak looking back at the real peak.  Notice the dude standing at the top.

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Here's one of many little red fishhook cacti I told you about a minute ago.

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Check out the nice Desert Marigold bundle growing out of a crevice on the side of the mountain.

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As you might expect, this is a landscape photographers dreamland.  It looked like the guy on the right was shooting medium format and the guy on the left had his camera disassembled for some reason.  During this time of year, the north facing side of the mountain is mostly in shadow, but it makes it more interesting I think.

That concludes the tour, hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!