FOUR PEAKS MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS
Look East from the Phoenix area, you can’t help but see Four Peaks in the distance. Imagine the view from there looking back at Phoenix? Looking to the East from Four peaks you view the 18 mile long Theodore Roosevelt Lake, the largest lake in Arizona except for those on the Colorado River. Travel from the city and the low desert to see Ponderosa Pine in just a few miles. This rapid change in elevation offers an opportunity to see the wide variety of plants and animals that survive in the Sonoran Desert. This area can be inhospitable to those not properly equipped. We recommend you go with “My Arizona Guide.” The peaks themselves are visible for long distances in all directions, and are well known landmarks in central Arizona. There are three distinct topographic zones within the area: The craggy summits of the peaks, the complex series of ridges and drainages below the peaks, and the area of bluffs and short deep gorges bordering Apache and Canyon Reservoirs. Elevations vary from 1,600 feet near Mormon Flat Dam to 7,657 feet at the summit of Brown's Peak, the northern-most and highest of the four peaks.
Plant communities and their relationships with each other are particularly interesting in this area. This is due to the rapid changes in both elevation and aspect. North-facing slopes often will have entirely different vegetation than will an adjacent south-facing slope. Rapid changes in elevations produce unusual neighbors, with species of plants usually growing hundreds of miles apart found side-by-side. At the highest elevation, Ponderosa pine and some Douglas fir are found. There are one or two small stands of aspen on the north slope of Brown's Peak. At intermediate elevations (6,000 - 4,000 ft.), extensive stands of Mountain chaparral are encountered. Pinyon pine, Gambel oak, and manzanita are typical species, and often form impenetrable thickets. Below 4,000 ft., semidesert grasslands blend into the Upper Sonoran Desert. Impressive stands of the giant Saguaro cactus can be seen at the lowest elevations. Of particular interest are the narrow canyons with riparian vegetation, including pleasing groups of cottonwoods and sycamores. Also of special interest are areas that have burned at various times in the past, with various sub-climax species to be found.
Those with an interest in geology find much to study in this area. The main bulk of the peaks consists of Precambrian granites and schists, clearly exposed along Buckhorn Ridge and in Boulder and Cottonwood Canyons. A cap of deformed shale and quartzite, also of Precambrian age, forms the sheer face of the peaks themselves. Farther to the south, the Painted Cliffs are composed of volcanic tuffs and ash flows of the Cenezoic age. They were deposited during the same time period as similar formations in the nearby Superstition Wilderness. The time differential between the formation of these volcanic formations and the underlying Precambrian strata is estimated at two to three billion years.
As with vegetation, the rapid changes in elevation bring together diverse species of wildlife within a relatively small area. Studies have shown that this area contains one of the highest concentrations of black bears in the State of Arizona. Campers should take all appropriate precautions, especially with food storage. Other mammals found here include ring-tailed cats, skunks, coyotes, deer, javelina, and mountain lion. A band of desert bighorn sheep has been reintroduced near here, and a rare sighting is possible. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widows, centipedes, millipedes, etc., also call parts of this area home.
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