Last weekend was a good time to hike up Mt. Hopkins. The 8450′ summit can be reached either by a windy, paved road (which is closed except for guided tours) or by crossing the ridge that connects to Mt. Wrightson. We took the ridge.
The hike starts at the Madera Canyon parking lot. We took the Vault Mine trail up to Agua Caliente trail. The Vault Mine trail is fairly gentle at first, then climbs 1400′ in .6 mile. The total elevation gain is 2000′ in 2.2 miles to the AC junction. At the junction we turned right on the AC trail (away from Josephine Saddle) and walked to the second saddle, where a faint trail climbs up on the ridge.
We followed this trail through old growth Juniper and wild salvia for perhaps .6 miles to the paved road coming up from the west side of Mt. Hopkins. From there, it’s a steep 1.5 mile hike to the top. The total elevation gain from the AC trail is about 1200′. The last 500′ bit is very steep.
We ate lunch in front of the Whipple Observatory, a large square building built on a rotating base. The whole building can be turned.
The view of course is very nice. Mt. Wrightson is close by with it’s tall cliffs, and the views out over the wavy desert are lovely – especially after the summer rains have turned everything green.
We hiked back down to the AC trail and followed it all the way to Josephine Saddle. From there, we took the Super Trail back to the parking lot. Total Distance is about 13 miles and total elevation gain is about 3950′. Of course, the climb up averages just about 1000′ per mile. It’s nice taking the long way down to give the knees a break.