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September 1999

Arizona’s Galiuro Mountains

Don't expect the red-carpet treatment in Arizona's Galiuro Mountains, just wilderness on its own terms.

When it comes to pithy adjectives and phrases that best describe the Galiuro Wilderness, “easy access” won’t be on the short list. Hikers must drive for miles along a dirt access road, then contend with intensely rugged terrain, overgrown trails, and sparse water. But, as the saying goes, every rose has its thorns, and once you get past the Galiuro’s prickly approach, you’re rewarded with immense space and utter quiet.

The trails through this 118-square-mile wilderness coil across sunbaked mesas, down into deep canyons, and along razorback ridges, presenting somewhat of a challenge to even the most seasoned backpacker. But expend the effort, then wander into a place like Rattlesnake Canyon at twilight or glimpse a golden eagle sipping from a spring, and you realize the sweet rewards.

For a weekend-size tour, start at the Deer Creek trailhead and link together the Tortilla, Power Garden, Corral Canyon, and East Divide Trails. You’ll cross savannas, drop into forested canyons, and climb pine- and oak-clad mountainsides before reaching a ridgeline graced with enchanting rock spires. Along the Power Garden Trail, you’ll find mining equipment left by gold-fevered prospectors from another age. Further up the trail, you’ll come to the Power Cabin, site of a World War I-era shootout between the draft-dodging Power brothers and a posse of lawmen.

The climb from Rattlesnake Canyon to the summit of 7,549-foot Kennedy Peak is a doozy, so take your time and savor the spectacular view of the tumultuous Galiuro topography below. While you’re sitting there, most assuredly one adjective will pop into your thoughts: “solitary.”

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