SALOME CANYON IN GILA COUNTY, ARIZONA

The name Four Peaks is a reference to the four distinct peaks of a north–south ridge forming the massif's summit. The northernmost peak is named Brown's Peak and is the tallest of the four at 7,659 feet. 

The view from Brown’s summit is certainly one to remember. One can see about 1/4th of the state of Arizona from the top; in fact, Mt. Humphrey’s in the crevasse of Flagstaff can be seen on a clear day.


A magnitude of diverse wildlife live among the Four Peaks wilderness. It’s particularly well-known for its dense black bear population. Additionally, there have been recorded sightings of ring-tailed cats, skunks, coyotes, deer, javelinas, and mountain lions.

Keep your eyes open for rattlesnakes and scorpions. If you climb the mountain be prepared for temperatures noticeably cooler than down below. Lightning storms occur regularly during "desert monsoon season" (July and August) and flash floods are common. Snow accumulates here in winter.

videoplaybutton_brown.png

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Access Points

To get there, take State Route 87 (The Beeline Highway) north to just shy of mile marker 204, about 15 miles north of Shea Boulevard. The turnoff, on the right, is Forest Road 143; it’s marked with a sign reading “Four Peaks.” (You can also take the Bush Highway/Power Road north to the Beeline; F.R. 143 is shortly after you turn northeast/right onto S.R. 87 toward Payson.)

The 28-mile route up and over the peaks is a graded dirt road, but it’s rough and rutted enough in places to rattle your teeth in your jowls. A high-clearance SUV will most likley handle the road just fine.  It is not recommended to tackle this wilderness with anything less than a OHV or 4-Wheel-Drive vehicle.  

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

History of the Four Peaks Wilderness

This Wilderness was established in 1984, and contains approximately 60,740 acres with a major mountain rising up in its center from the desert foothills. The Four Peaks themselves are visible for many miles, and are one of the most widely recognized landmarks in central Arizona. The rapid change in elevation produces interesting and unique plant and animal communities. Elevations range from 1,900 feet near Apache Lake to 7,600 feet on Brown's Peak.

The highlands are covered with Ponderosa pines and some Douglas firs. There's even a few aspen on the north side of Brown's Peak. Below that you'll find dense thickets of pinon, manzanita and Gambel oak. Below that the grasslandsblend into the ocotillo, cholla, saguaro and paloverde growth of typical Sonoran Desert countryside. Canyons that hold water flows often are shaded with sycamores and cottonwoods.

The bulk rock of the uplands in Four Peaks Wilderness is made up of Precambrian granite and schists, although the sheer rock faces of the peaks themselves are a cap of Precambrian quartzite and shale. This rock is all clearly exposed in Cottonwood and Boulder Canyons and along Buckhorn Ridge. South of the main peaks themselves (and rising above Apache Reservoir) you'll find the Painted Cliffs: a zone of layered ash flows and volcanic tuffs deposited during the Cenozoic age. That makes the time difference between deposition of the volcanic materials and the solidifying of the underlying igneous/metamorphic rock between 2 and 3 billion years...

 

As hard as it is to get around in this broken and incised countryside, back in the mining days there were several roads cut into these mountains. Some of them are still in use as hiking trails. A large fire in 1996 burned off a large portion of this property and formerly treed areas still haven't recovered. This area is pretty dense with the black bears but you'll also find skunks, ring-tailed cats, deer, javelinas, mountain lions and coyotes. You'll also want to look out for centipedes, millipedes, black widow spiders, scorpions and rattlesnakes.


Visits to some parts of this wilderness can be made throughout the year, using a rather extensive trail system. A Recreation Opportunity Guide (20 pages) is available which gives directions to trailheads and describes each trail. Copies are available from the Mesa Ranger Station.

Legend has it that Jacob Waltz (Arizona's famous "Lost Dutchman") traveled through the Four Peaks Wilderness area to shake off any would-be followers who might be seeking his legendary gold mine in the Superstition Mountains.

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Four Peaks Wilderness Trails

Most of the 40-mile trail network in Four Peaks Wilderness is "Rustic" at best, partly because only a few trails actually see any use. The busiest trails (and therefore the best maintained) are probably the Four Peaks Trail, the Brown's Peak Trail and the Pigeon Trail. Most of the signage has either been damaged, destroyed or classed as "collector's items" (and consequently been "collected").

 

Water is often impossible to find because most of the springs and streams are barely even seasonal, although the July and August monsoons can often cause flash flooding. As this is a climatic "island in the sky" zone, winter can often bring snows above 6,000'. And summer often sees temperatures 15°F cooler at the top than at the bottom of the hill. But once you get up on the hill a bit, you've got a great view down on either Roosevelt Lake or Apache Reservoir...

Group size is limited to 15 head of people and 15 head of livestock. The stay limit is 14 days in any 30-day period.

Here is a link to a map from the Forest Service outlining each of the trailheads in the wilderness | Click Here.​

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Four Peaks Wilderness Fish Species

Fishing is pretty limited in this wilderness.  Your best option is fishing at Roosevelt lake.

Photo Credit:  Cameron Davis

Four Peaks Wilderness Camping Options

Due to the remoteness of this wilderness there are not many designated camp spots.  There are however may dispersed camping areas where you can pitch a tent.  Just be careful,  the warmer the weather the more chance for snakes.  You will not find a more beautiful area to camp due to the areas rugged and untamed backdrop.

Make sure whatever you pack in you pack out.  For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.