Cool temps open southern summits.
Ironwood National Monument, AZ
We’re used to thinking of winter as limiting route options. Go far enough south, and the opposite becomes true. The Sonoran Desert flat-out scorches summer hikers, but by winter, daytime highs drop from 100 to 70¡F in Ironwood Forest National Monument. And resilient explorers will need every advantage to summit Ragged Top Mountain, a trailless, 3,907-foot chunk of volcanic rhyolite that juts skyward just outside Tucson. But a tough trek has its rewards: solitude in a pristine section of wilderness and the only population of desert bighorns around. To do it, navigate a prickly bushwack to the south flank. There, a loose gully climbs 1,600 feet through class 3 terrain to a saddle west of the summit with views of the piney arroyos snaking across the bajada. “It’s a continual adventure,” says Dana Davis, owner of Tucson’s Summit Hut. “When I hiked it, we saw petroglyphs near the base.”
TRAILHEAD 32.462959, -111.465390; 42 miles northwest of Tucson on W. Silverbell Rd. PERMIT None CONTACT blm.gov/visit/ironwood
Ragged Top is the centerpiece of the trailless area.