By: Erik Siering
Newman Peak is an imposing desert massif situated north of Tucson, flanking ("Medium") Picacho Peak across Hwy I-10 to form Picacho Pass. Indeed, most people first note Newman's higher sheer ramparts from atop the summit of Picacho Peak, which itself is a nice cable-assisted scramble ala Half Dome.
Bob Michael described the common approach to Newman Peak (Sage #154, May-July 1980). Armed with additional directions of www.localhikes.com, Annie Kramer and I set out early for a hike. It was the day after our Thanksgiving in Tucson. A circuitous drive is needed to cross a canal and reach the base of the peak. We completed a satisfying, long loop to the fine summit up the southeast face and down the east-southeast ridge.
Our day became longer than planned when we faced a deep culvert of mud and water, from the recent rains, at the turnoff from Pecan Road. Easy with 4wd, but we parked our 2wd truck. This added 3+ miles each way, cross-country through open terrain and across several deep arroyos and barbed wire fences, to nominal parking at the mentioned cattle gate (N32 4 1.027 Will 22.342).
This desert basin is simply beautiful: just about every type of cactus is evident and thriving.., saguaro, chollas, ocotillo, barrel, and beavertail.
You may park at the gate, or continue another mile on DPS-good to a pulloff (N32 41.601 Will 22.839). Passing a guzzler and crossing the wash a couple of times on faint DPS-poor attains a turnaround and end of the jeep track (N32 41.733 Wl 11 22.916). The summit is within a mile and a couple thousand feet in elevation. The suggested route climbs up the main gully that ends at the saddle between Newman Peak and the minor summit to the west. Ascend the rugged drainage to a massive chockstone about 2/3 of the way up. The chute, loose in places and populated with the always-annoying catclaw, is fine with occasional class 2. Exit here to head east, picking your way through easier cliff bands, boulders and cacti to the summit.
The top of Newman Peak is dominated by a large modern radio repeater, serviced by helicopter, and powered with a solar cell array. The expansive views confirm the repeater's optimal geographic location with respect to Tucson and 1-10 corridor.
Since we parked far out on the desert floor, I opted to explore a shorter descent on our return. We followed the east-southeast ridge to the first prominent saddle. The remains of the Gold Bell Mine, indicated on the Newman Peak quadrangle, can be seen below. Here we dropped east down the shallow wash to intersect the road to the mine. Our entire descent route was pleasant. A parking turnaround at the mine presents an alternative trailhead (N32 42.375 Wi 11 23.287). The mine ruin would be a good campsite (N32 43.255 Wi 11 22.373).
We walked on a DPS-excellent/good dirt road network about four miles to the truck, passing by a large fenced ranch/farm. Our drive out was illuminated by a beautiful rising full moon. Stats for the day were 16 miles, 3000 feet gain. Cheers.
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