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FATMAP difficulty grade
Picketpost Mountain is a stunning freestanding mountain that rises 2,000 feet above the town of Superior, Arziona.
The landscape around Picketpost is dramatic, and from the top, you'll enjoy stunning views of the famed Superstition Mountains to the north, the Catalinas to the south, nearby Apache Leap Ridge, and other minor mountain ranges.
Despite being surrounded by other mountains, Picketpost itself is not part of a mountain range and rises as a striking flat-top monolith.
Thus, the ascent to the top of Picketpost is a popular Phoenix-area climb. Despite the well-developed trailhead and the popularity of the climb to the summit, navigating the trail to get there can be confusing at first.
Immediately after departing from the trailhead, forks in the trail—including junctions with the Arizona Trail—can lead hikers astray.
At the time of this writing in early 2023, newly-added trail signs appear to point the way to the various interconnected trails that you'll find here.
But actually, hikers have taken it upon themselves to modify the brand-new signs by scribbling directions showing how to reach Picketpost Mountain—which wasn't actually included on the signs.
Consequently, it appears that the trail to the top of the mountain might be an unsanctioned social route, despite being extremely popular.
It's hard to tell precisely, so be sure to download this route in FATMAP for offline navigation. The initial climb toward the mountain is steep and rough, ascending a series of narrow switchbacks and eventually, some substantial rock gardens.
As you look at the formidable cliff face ahead, you might think that the route must go around the back side to ascend...
but you'd be wrong.
If you look closer, can you see the obvious cleft in the front of the mountain? That's your route to the summit. Once you realize that the central gorge is your path to the summit, you'll also realize just how technical this climb will get.
Soon, you'll find yourself scrambling up a few moderate rock slabs with both hands and feet.
The ascent switches back and forth between scrambling and hiking as you approach the gut of the canyon leading up the mountain. As you near the valley, the route switches almost entirely to rock scrambling for the crux of the climb.
You'll have to scramble exposed lines while traversing along cliff faces before heading straight up a rock gorge with a stream flowing through it (which is especially prevalent in winter and spring).
Route finding can be difficult through this section.
When in doubt, look for paint dots to show the way but in places, these dots are difficult or impossible to spot, and sometimes they don't lead to the best route.
When scrambling next to the most extensive waterfall section, it's best to stick to climber's right for the best handholds—a route that isn't marked by dots. This rocky scramble is steep, technical, and very exposed in places.
Many hikers turn around where the scrambling starts, and others only make it a short ways further before turning around.
Even though Picketpost is renowned as a popular local climb, there's a definite emphasis on the "climbing" on this route! This rocky ascent earns a FATMAP "Extreme" difficulty rating, or a "Moderate" mountaineering difficulty, despite the lack of glaciers or alpine terrain. If you do persist, eventually, the trail will level off again as you reach the top of the mesa.
As it does, you'll realize that the mountain's high point was out of sight from below, so you'll have to climb a bit more to reach the summit on the far side of the mountain. When you reach the ultimate summit, you'll be greeted by a sticker-covered mailbox and possibly even a bench or a lawn chair.
Many climbers choose to haul up encouraging notes to leave in the mailbox for the next hiker.
Even if you didn't bring one with you, take a few minutes to read some of the notes in the mailbox and enjoy a unique social experiment found on top of a rugged, remote mountain! Once done enjoying the fantastic summit of Picketpost Mountain, retrace your steps to descend.
Remember that downclimbing technical rock faces is always more difficult than ascending.
If you have any doubts about your abilities while ascending, it's best to turn around to prevent getting cliffed out or stranded on the descent.