Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Summit of Miller Peak via Lutz Canyon Huachuca Mountains May 9, 2015

Location: Lutz Canyon is located 12 miles to the south of Sierra Vista, Arizona. Take Highway 92 south until you reach Ash Canyon Road and turn right. Stay on Ash until you reach a fork, take the uphill road marked Lutz Canyon. The trail head is about one mile down the Lutz Canyon Road.

Lutz Canyon offers the quickest route to the summit of Miller Peak. The trail is 4.7 miles one way with about 3700 feet of vertical elevation gain. There is minimal route finding skills and trail junctions are marked. The first mile the trail is not very steep as it follows Ash Canyon. The trail becomes much tougher as you climb Lutz Canyon. Lutz Canyon saw mining activity and there are abandoned mine tunnels and equipment at various places in the canyon. It is surprising that the Forest Service has not gated these tunnels to keep people out. Old tunnels and shafts can be dangerous because of bad air, structural instability and drop offs. It is best to stay out. In the second tunnel it is obvious illegal immigrants or vagrants have used it for shelter because of the amount of garbage a couple of feet from the entrance.

 A major fire burned on Miller Peak not too long ago and the forest is recovering. Dominant vegetation is manzanita and the sun can be intense because of the lack of shade. There is a nice place to rest at the junction of the crest trail. I would bring an extra shirt to change into once at the crest trail because the Huachucas can be cool throughout the year and a hiker might become chilled from their own sweat. The crest trail is a very beautiful trail and hikers are rewarded with vistas to the west. This section is rocky but well-built with switch backs that gain altitude but are not overly steep. A half mile from the summit the Miller Peak summit trail exits to the right. This trail has nice gradual switch backs to the top. At the top there are concrete remains of a fire tower that the Forest Service removed in the 80s. While on top I met a guy guy named Jeff who had moved back from Colorado to help take care of his parents.  He invited me to hike back to Montezuma's Pass in Coronado National Forest where he would shuttle me back to my car at Lutz Canyon. I read no danger from him so I obliged and hiked the five miles along the Crest Trail to Coronado National Memorial. Most of this trail is not shaded so drink plenty of water. Views into Mexico were extraordinary. Total mileage for the day was about 10 miles. Disclaimer: Prior to 2008 illegal immigrants and drug runners used the Huachuca Mountains extensively on their hike north. Since 2008 Border Patrol has stepped up patrols and garbage and illegal immigrant sightings have decreased. This doesn't mean there is no danger so please use vigilance and common sense when hiking.  (Information from

                  Mining equipment

                   Rusted mining equipment in the canyon

                              Looking down Lutz Canyon near the crest

                                Side of Lutz Canyon. You can see some of the mining remnants in the lower part of the photo.

                   Lutz Canyon trail and view

                  Huachuca Crest Trail looking south

                View east from top of Miller Peak

               South into Mexico from summit

                    North along the crest of the Huachuca Mountains

                          West from summit

               Me on top

                          Huachuca Crest scenery

             The rocky crest trail with view into Mexico.