Miller Peak (AZ)

March 19, 2023


Sierra Vista, AZ

Miller Peak is the southernmost “ultra prominent peak” in the state of Arizona with the trail-head a mere few kilometers north of U.S./Mexico border. The ascent is no-brainer as the well-maintained trail goes all the way to the summit. The area is however, sketchy due to smuggling but the situation seems to have improved in the recent years thank to the increasing amount of border patrolling. This was the second day of the Arizona spring break peak-bagging trip. On the first day Nikita, Raphael and I scrambled Newman Peak near Phoenix and then drove all the way southwards to Lakeview Campground on the west side of Miller Peak. I was originally thinking to obtain a hotel room in Sierra Vista on the east side, but the others decided against that mostly to save money (I think)… The campground was decently full, but we were able to find a spot to pitch two tents.

We woke up at around 6:30 am in the following morning and drove the remaining way to the Coronado Memorial trail-head at Montezuma Pass. The roads were unpaved, narrow and windy but didn’t impose much of a problem to our rental vehicle. We were able to get there in just 2WD and there were also many 2WD cars parked at the trail-head. The winds were howling as forecasted so we made sure to have brought enough layers for the cold. We also opted to bring microspikes as the north-facing slopes near the summit were still covered in snow.

Miller Peak via Crest Trail. GPX DL

As mentioned above the ascent was nothing fancier than a long and boring plod on a well-maintained trail so there’s very little worth documenting. The route was mostly in the forest, but the forest was open enough to grant views. The forest seems to be denser on the higher elevation zones. The north-facing slopes near the summit were indeed covered in snow, but microspikes weren’t needed in this particular day. We all went up in just trail-runners. We also really took our time as we had the whole day ahead, but still arrived at the summit in under 2.5 hours.

Already great views from the trail-head at Montezuma Pass
Raphael found a pinnacle to stand not far from the trail-head
Me doing that same pinnacle stand…
The typical trail conditions on the lower flanks
Nikita following up with the typical southern Arizona skyline behind
Gaining elevation slowly but steadily
Raphael leading up onto the next saddle
Miller Peak is the broad summit in the far background
Looking east towards Bob Thompson Peak right of center
Nikita with our objective behind
Upwards and onward.
We were doing some switchbacks here
Raphael found a patch of snow to practice climbing…
Traversing some large patches of snow on the north slopes
Raphael leading the final push to the summit
Summit Panorama from Miller Peak. Click to view large size.
Carr Peak to the north is another substantial summit in this range
The city of Sierra Vista
Me on the summit of Miller Peak
Nikita posing on the summit
Our group shot on the summit of Miller Peak

While on the summit we learnt about a recent accident in BC associated with one of Nikita’s friends so we did take our time to absorb that. We then dashed down the trail. Nikita went ahead as usual, jogged and waited for Raphael and I at the parking lot for about half an hour. Raphael and I liked to enjoy the slow but steady descending pace to save our knees. Our round trip time was under 5 hours so we now had the whole afternoon ahead for the 3-hour drive to Mt. Graham. Nikita and Raphael each paid some $$$ for a shower in a Pilot gas station while I decided against that to save money and waited outside. We were also not very efficient in the restaurant/grocery routine so subsequently didn’t get to the lower flanks of Mt. Graham until late in the evening.

Nikita descending the snowy trail on the north slopes
Raphael taking over the lead while Nikita already plodding far ahead
This picture sums up the descent well
Box Thompson Peak in the foreground with Sierra San José behind
Back to the parking lot. It was getting very hot by now…
A zoomed-in view of Sierra San José in Mexico