Origins of the Arizona Mountain Range High Points List

       A casual look at most any map of Arizona will show a great many mountain ranges. One might guess there could be well over one hundred distinct ranges, but the accurate number and location of the highest point in each range was not known until Canadian-born geologist and mountaineer Doug Kasian of Tucson compiled a list in the late 1980’s. Not satisfied to know the location of the high points, Doug set out to climb every one of them and did so after a four-year odyssey that took him to all parts of the state. He found that there were 193 mountain ranges in Arizona and of these there are eleven ranges that cross the border and extend into Nevada, Utah, New Mexico or Mexico. For these eleven ranges the highest point lies outside Arizona and Doug found and climbed the highest point within the state as well as the high point of the range in the adjacent state. The extra eleven summits are shown at the bottom of the list presented here so there are a total of 204 peaks.
       The list was first published in the book “Adventuring in Arizona” by John Annerino, a Sierra Club paperback printed in 1991. There is a good description of Kasian’s adventures on pages 12-15 and the list starts on page 346. The 7.5 minute topo maps were not all completed by the USGS when Kasian did his map research so a 15 minute map is given for the location of many summits. In recent years all the 7.5 minute maps are now available for Arizona and 15 minute maps have been discontinued so the list has been updated to include the appropriate 7.5 minute maps.
       Since Doug Kasian completed hiking the 204 peaks in 1988 there have been other finishers including Bob Packard of Flagstaff and Dave Jurasevich and Mark Adrian of California. Bob Martin of Tucson has done most of the list as well as Gordon McLeod and Barbara Lilley who were climbing range high points many years before Kasian. Other peakbaggers like John Vitz and Richard Carey are actively pursuing the list and are about half way. There are others from the Phoenix and Tucson hiking communities that have climbed many of the peaks. A newcomer who is nearly finished with the list is Andy Bates of Tucson. Andy has climbed the 5.7 rated summit block of the Eagletail Mountains solo! Quite a feat.
       The list given here includes some changes since it was first published and reflects research by Dave Jurasevich, Doug Kasian, Bob Martin, Bob Packard, Richard Carey and Mark Adrian. Two ranges have been eliminated and two have been added thus the total count has remained the same. There have been many minor corrections to elevations and names and lively discussions about some high points and the true extent of a range. Inquiries have been made to the Board on Geographic Names for clarification in some cases. Here is a list of major changes made:

1. The Kaibab Mountains and the Oro Blanco Mountains were deleted since these are poorly defined and no mention of these names appears on the latest maps.

2. The Guadalupe Mountains and the Summit Mountains, although primarily New Mexico ranges, have been added after determining that they do extend into Arizona.

3. An opinion on the extent of the Hieroglyphic and Wickenburg Mountains by the BGN has resulted in a new high point for both of these ranges.

4. The high point of the Sierra Prieta has been changed to Williams Peak after an opinion by the BGN that West Spruce Mountain was not part of the range.

5. In the original list there were many unnamed summits. After another map search of all the peaks that have a benchmark at the highest point have been identified and the benchmark name has been applied to the peak. The remaining unnamed peaks were given a designation PXXXX ft. using the elevation in feet shown on the map. Unnamed peaks in Mexico have been given a PXXXX m name since the maps are metric.

       The Land Status column is important as an indication of access problems in climbing the peaks. There are a quite a few peaks on military test ranges or Indian reservations and a few on private land where hiking approval may not be readily obtained. If you want to climb in these areas I suggest contacting the Sage editor Mark Adrian for more information since he has recently completed the list.

       In inquiries to the Board on Geographic names and the USGS we have found that there is no precise definition of what constitutes a mountain range so the process of listing ranges will always be subject to some controversy. The method used for this list is to choose all named ranges shown on the 7.5 minute maps with the designations: Ranges, Mountains (plural), and Sierra. There are many features called “hills” which because of their size might be considered ranges, but these have not been included in this list. The range’s highest point can also be in question because the extent or end of a range is not obvious.

       The Board on Geographic Names sells a CD with a complete list of approved place names gathered from all of the 7.5 minute maps in the US. The CD is called the GNIS for Geographic Names Information System and it is quite handy for locating features on topo maps. The names listed in the CD are officially approved for public use. Searching the CD for mountain ranges is a good check to see if all have been found. A search in Arizona brings up the following names which are not on the maps: The Ma Ha Tuak Range, Poorman Range, Kendrick Mountains, Ute Mountains and the Blue Range. Studying the topos where these are supposed to be located shows that the ranges are either part of larger existing ranges or are not distinct and thus do not appear to be separate mountain ranges. These five have therefore not been used.

Richard L. Carey

Go to: Arizona Range Highpoints List, UTM table, township & BM table, GPS waypoint file