The Four Peaks Wilderness Area of Arizona was established in 1984 in the Tonto National Forest. Since then, it has seen some significant developments as far as roads and trails go.
While it is a top-rated destination for UTV/ATV enthusiasts, the area has much more to offer beyond off-roading.
The Four Peaks are the quintessential image of Arizona to some. You'll see them featured on the state's license plate, and the name "Four Peaks" is featured on many area businesses in the Phoenix Metro Area and beyond.
From afar, they may look like one mountain, but as you take a closer look, you'll notice the four distinct peaks connecting.
The main wilderness area is within an hour's drive from the Phoenix area, making it an accessible getaway for many city dwellers.
While it has become a more popular destination in recent years, you have over 60,000 acres of wilderness to explore, making it easy to escape the crowds and motor vehicles near the main access road.
About Brown's Peak
~ 2 hours
Type of Trail
Out and Back
Best time to go
April, May, September, October
If you aren't an avid ATV/UTV rider, the Four Peaks will still have opportunities for you, especially when it comes to hiking. While there are many other hiking trails within the Four Peaks Wilderness Area, the most well-known is the climb up Brown's Peak.
Of the Four Peaks that form the massif's summit, Brown's Peak is both the northernmost and the tallest. It stands 7,657 feet, which may not be as impressive to some, but that makes it the highest peak in Maricopa County.
On a clear day, the view from the top of Brown's Peak gives sight to the immense desert landscape, including a glimpse of the highest peak in the state, Humphrey's Peak near Flagstaff, AZ.
How to Get to the Brown's Peak Trailhead
Most Common Driving Route from Phoenix: Lone Pine Trailhead
Carve out a good chunk of time to drive to the trailhead. Brown's Peak Trailhead will be easy to find on Google Maps (search Lone Pine Trailhead), but you will lose service as you drive further into the wilderness area. We recommend downloading the map before you leave to prevent getting lost.
Although it is only about an hour from the Phoenix Metro Area, you will have about 20 miles of rough driving on dirt roads.
A high clearance vehicle is a must, and having a 4-wheel drive won't hurt either. There are many tight and blind turns, so drive cautiously to avoid collisions.
There are two entrance points to get you to the trailhead. The way that the map takes you will be a very rough road, but quite scenic.
If you don't have a 4-wheel drive vehicle but are comfortable with steep roads, consider taking more drive time on the highway and turning off on El Oso Road from the Tonto Basin Side of the Four Peaks (closer to Roosevelt Lake).
This access road is much smoother and far less traveled by ATV/UTV and other vehicles.
How to Hike Up Brown's Peak
Depending on the time of year and your goals for the hike, the time of day you start may matter.
If you're a photographer, we recommend camping in or near the trailhead parking lot and starting your hike about an hour and a half before sunrise. At this hour, it will give you astounding views of the valley below, and you get to watch the sunrise from atop the peak.
If you are in relatively good physical condition and don't take many breaks on the hike up, plan for around 1.5 hours to get to the summit.
You will follow Brown's Trail #133 to hike Brown's Peak. Although this trail is only about two miles one way, it will be time-consuming.
The entire trail is uphill; remember, you are climbing a mountain. As you hike up the trail, Brown's Trail will become Amethyst Trail, and then you will continue onto Brown's Saddle.
At this point, you will have a somewhat false summit, which is also a good turn around point for those that don't wish to do any rock scrambling.
The next section of the trail is climbing up the rocky, unmarked chute to the summit. It may take a bit to trail finding to get to this point, but you will see signs of past hikers in some areas to give you some direction.
Be aware of your surroundings and your ability level when climbing this section of the trail. Loose rocks can make this very dangerous. If you have never done much rock scrambling before, please remember that coming down is more complicated than climbing up.
If you have any experience with rock climbing, this section will be a breeze. Still, it shouldn't be taken lightly as falling in some portions could cause serious injury.
The Four Peaks Wilderness and Brown's Peak Trail are accessible year-round, but be aware that with ice and snow in the chute leading to the summit, it becomes far more dangerous.
About The Four Peaks Traverse
~10.4 miles (varies on start point/route)
Type of Trail
Out and Back
Best time to go
April, May, September, October
Peaks 1-3 are "officially" unnamed but have aliases as Brother Peak (3), Sister Peak (2), and Amethyst Peak (1).
Peak 1: Amethyst Peak- 7524 ft
Peak 2: Sister Peak- 7572 ft
Peak 3: Brother Peak- 7642 ft
Peak 4: Brown's Peak- 7657 ft
If you are even more of an adventure seeker, you may want to try your hand at completing the Four Peaks Traverse. This connects all four of the peaks, and when starting with Brown's Peak (Peak 4), it is commonly known as the Four Peaks Motherload Traverse.
When completing the traverse from north to south, you will be going from peak 4 to peak 1.
The biggest hurdles hikers and climbers face when attempting the Four Peaks Traverse from either side will be time, route finding, and exposure. If this is your goal, you will need an early start to your day (think 4 am). It will be much easier if you've hiked Brown's Peak before as you'll know how to get up the peak without much trouble finding the trail.
After Brown's Peak, the exposure will become more significant, and route finding will be more of a challenge. To give a distinct path would be somewhat hazardous as each climber and their group will approach this climb with varying ability levels.
Overall, plan to carve out a long day (average 18 hours). The speed at which you travel will depend on your route-finding abilities and climbing skills/knowledge.
Despite the dangers, crossing the traverse is best when done solo (meaning without climbing gear). Having equipment will weigh you down and slow you down dramatically. If you choose to do this, still consider wearing your climbing helmet.
Thus you should only attempt the traverse if you are confident in your ability to cross and climb 4th and 5th class terrain for hours on end. Endurance will be your friend on this adventure.
How to Prepare for the Four Peaks Traverse
If you aren't sure how much time to carve out, or if you aren't sure if you are ready to complete the traverse, hike both Peak 1 and Peak 4 on separate occasions. Peak 4 is Brown's Peak and Peak 1 is the southernmost peak.
Planning out and hiking both of these peaks ahead of time will cut down dramatically on the amount of route finding you have to do in those areas.
There will still be plenty of adventure and route finding to do in the middle, but having done parts of the traverse before will make your day shorter, and a bit safer.
With elevation gain and change throughout the hike, expect the hike to be a bit more strenuous than your average hike.
Also, keep in mind that it is an out and back hike, so you’ll want to be mindful of your route on the way to Peak 1 so it doesn’t take as long to venture back.
When to Go & Other Tips
Although the Four Peaks Wilderness area is accessible year-round, there are better times of year to hike any one of the peaks. The best times to hike are April, May, September, and October.
These four months give you the longest, fair weather days that don't require an early start to beat the heat on the Browns Peak Trail.
Do not proceed up the scree chute on Brown's Peak if there is too much ice or snow. Traveling along the traverse is also increasingly dangerous in poor weather conditions.
No matter the time of year you visit the Four Peaks Wilderness, be respectful, and keep your distance from area wildlife. Along with various spiky plants and cacti, you can expect rattlesnakes, javelinas, black bears, ring-tailed cats, coyotes, and mountain lions within the wilderness area.
If you are hiking/camping with a dog, keep them on a leash, as javelinas are especially aggressive towards pets and typically they travel in groups.
Also, check out some of our other adventures:
- How to Hike the 100 Mile Wilderness – Appalachian Trail
- Hiking the Havasupai Trail – What You Need To Know
- Top 5 Lesser-Known Hiking Trails in Utah
- 5 Best Hikes in Zion + 5 Tips to Know Before You Go
- Humphreys Trail – Hiking The Highest Peak in Arizona
- Hiking The Seoul Trail – The Best Way to See the City
Located only an hour's drive from the Phoenix area, the Four Peaks Wilderness has become a more popular destination in recent years. However, as you have over 60,000 acres of wilderness to explore, you can escape the crowds if you know where to go.
Follow our tips and advice to make sure you are fully prepared for hiking Brown's Peak and the Four Peaks Traverse.
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