Peak Criteria

Peaks are much easier to identify than canyons, although there are still some tricky decisions to make. Peaks were found in the digital elevation model by searching for points that are higher than all of the points in the surrounding neighborhood. Our criteria for inclusion in the Challenge were as follows.

  1. To qualify as an independent peak and not a ridge, subpeak, or false summit, the summit must be the highest point in a neighborhood of 1200 feet.
  2. Any peak must be at least a mile away from any other peak on the list, as the crow flies. This is further insurance that the peak is a distinct peak.
  3. The peak must have a trail to the top. Many of Arizona's peaks have sensitive alpine tundra-like vegetation on the top. It is essential to stay on the trail, and to not hike up peaks without trails.
  4. The trail to the top should be closed to vehicular traffic.
  5. Peak hikes must have an elevation gain of at least 1,000 feet.
  6. Hikers should not need a heavy-duty, 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach the trailhead.
  7. If a permit is required, it must be low cost and easy to arrange.
  8. If there are multiple trails, we chose the one recommended by Forest Rangers or the one that is the most challenging.
We then chose the 20 highest peaks satisfying the above criteria. We had hoped to include only peaks over 9,000 feet. However, despite the fact that the USGS lists 83 named summits in Arizona over 9,000 feet, there were only 17 that satisfied the criteria. We had to dip down to 8,889 ft Blue Jay Peak to get 20 peaks.

Discussion of Special Cases and Near Misses

Even with these concrete criteria, there were still many tricky cases that could have gone either way. Here's how we decided the marginal cases.
Mt. Baldy (White Mountains). Mt. Baldy but the actual summit and last 200 feet of elevation are within the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and are closed to hiking. This is sacred ground and you should not violate it. We decided to include Baldy anyway because it is the highest mountain in Eastern Arizona and the trail reaches a subpeak with 360º views. Agassiz Peak, Fremont Peak, Aubineau Peak, Doyle Peak (Flagstaff area). These are the 2nd-5th highest peaks in Arizona, but they are all closed to hiking due to sensitive tundra, and have no trails.
Blue Peak (Blue Range). Climbing Blue Peak directly from the road is much less than 1,000 foot elevation gain. However, by doing a loop trail in which you first drop down into KP Canyon, the climb to Blue Peak from the bottom is a ____ foot elevation gain. Mt. Graham (Safford area). The highest peak in SE Arizona has a road to the top and is closed to hikers. A telescope is being constructed on the summit, and there is an environmental controversy over the construction's impact on the Mt. Graham red squirrel.
O'Leary Peak (Sunset Crater area). O'Leary Peak is the only cinder cone near Sunset Crater that is legal to climb. Although the hike is on a gravel road, there is a gate across the road and it is closed to vehicular traffic, thus providing a pleasant hiking experience. The hike from the gate is slighlty less than 1,000 feet, so we advise parking ___ miles below the gate to qualify for the 1,000 foot challenge. Greens Peak (White Mountains area). The trail has much less than 1,000 feet elevation gain. The forest road leading to the trail is open to through traffic, and even with it there is not 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Webb Peak (Mt. Graham area). There is a loop trail up Webb Peak with over 900 feet of elevation gain, but you can easily make it 1,000 feet by taking a short detour down and back up a connecting trail.  
Mt. Lemmon (Tucson area), Mt. Elden and Bill Williams Mtn. (Flagstaff area), and Clark Peak (Mt. Graham area). All of these peaks have roads to the summit lookout towers, but there are also trails to the summit.