Baboquivari Peak Wilderness
The east face of Baboquivari Peak
At 2,065 acres, this is Arizona's smallest wilderness area. Baboquivari Peak Wilderness is located in the Baboquivari Mountains near the Mexican border. This is the only major peak in Arizona that requires technical climbing ability to reach the summit. It might be a bit easier to climb from the western side, but that side is in the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation and you'll have to buy a permit to go there. Elevations range from about 4,500' on the desert floor to 7,730' at the top of Baboquivari Peak. This is a good place to visit in the spring or fall because summer is very hot and winter is windy, snowy and icy.
The Nature Conservancy maintains a public access route from Humphrey Ranch in Thomas Canyon to the eastern edge of the wilderness. This is a strenuous hike on an often faint trail through chaparral, paloverde and saguaro. As you climb up the hill you'll come into oak, walnut and pinon country. If you want to attempt the mountain you'd better have experience, proper gear and plenty of water. But you'll probably also find no one else out here. Baboquivari has a reputation for stranding people on the summit after dark so you want to be early and move right along.
Someone who climbed Baboquivari Peak via the Forbes Route in 2008 told me there is a fair bit of hardware still in the rock. Some of it is quite usable but is deteriorating. The Forbes Route is rated at 5.4-5.6 and isn't hard to follow but there are 3 good pitches where you need to know what you're doing. The worst is the Ladder Pitch: a 70' slope where there used to be a metal ladder in place. Once you're above the Ladder Pitch you can drop the harness and rope, you won't need it again until you're coming back down.
From Tucson go west on SR 86 to the junction with SR 286. Turn south on that toward Sasabe and go about 30 miles to the entrance to Thomas Canyon. Turn west there and go to the pedestrian access parking on the Humphrey Ranch.
USGS Maps: 7.5 minute: Baboquivari Peak
Update, 2009: It seems there was a large forest fire in the area of Baboquivari Peak this last summer and access is probably severely impaired (and will be for some time).
Baboquivari Peak from Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
Baboquivari Peak Wilderness area map
Baboquivari Peak Wilderness area