Distance: 5.5 miles
Type: Out and back
The Miller Peak Trail in the Huachuca Mountains climbs 3,000 feet over 5.5 miles to reach the highest peak in the range, giving hikers an unparalleled view of the surrounding deserts. The trail starts in the high desert grasslands near the Arizona/Mexico border, and ascends north into a rocky ponderosa pine forest before reaching the summit. It starts off steep in Coronado National Memorial, before crossing the boundary into the Miller Peak Wilderness where the rockiness of the higher elevations begins to make its mark. It makes for a fantastic day-hike for those visiting the area that want a taste of what a sky island can offer.
Miller Peak Hiking Trail Description
The Miller Peak Trail begins at Montezuma Pass in Coronado National Memorial in southern Arizona, using the Huachuca Mountain Crest Trail for most of the way, signed on the other side of the road from the parking area. Right away, the trail leads you up a long and unforgiving climb.
As you begin gaining elevation, the oak trees create a shallow forest, dotting the trail with shade from time to time. Climbing higher, the trail, primarily ascending up the east side of the crest, peeks out over the west side as it skirts the crest in a couple of remarkable overlooks. Each one offers a dramatic vista of the sprawling desert landscape below, fading from the United States to Mexico.
Continue your ascent as the trail wraps around a wide mountainside, rising higher above Montezuma Canyon below. As you wind around the top of the canyon, you finally reach the boundary of Coronado National Memorial and the Miller Peak Wilderness.
The landscape makes a quick and dramatic change as you pass over a ridge onto the north side of a canyon. Joining a much denser forest of oaks now are ponderosa pines, marking a noticeable gain in elevation.
Follow the trail as it consistently climbs higher, the occasional switchback giving you a sweeping view below. The peaks to the north become much rockier, enormous jagged rocks bursting out of the high desert mountainside and sky island forest. Looking back to the south, the crest of the Huachuca Mountains makes every attempt to avoid sinking back toward the desert.
Crossing over to the west side of the crest, the trail becomes much rockier as you near the junction with the Miller Peak Trail. A steep climb ensues, rewarding hikers with sweeping views both to the west, and the sporadic surprise back east. High up in the ponderosa forest, you’ll reach a fork in the trail with the Miller Peak Trail cutting away to the right from the Crest Trail. Follow this up as it switchbacks up and around the south side of Miller Peak on its way up to the rocky summit.
You soon emerge from the dense forest of pines and have a full panoramic view of the open desert below. To the south lies an unparalleled view into Mexico, the landscape appearing identical to the surroundings below, save for the unnatural black line laid across the land marking the border. To the east and west, a series of endless sky islands rise out of the ground to extraordinary heights, capped in the north by the might Rincon Mountains, visible on clear days. Enjoy the view from just shy of 9,500 feet above sea level, and when you’re ready, head back out the same way you came up, reveling in vibrant views the entire way down.
From the Coronado National Memorial Visitor Center, head west on Montezuma Canyon Road for 3.3 miles. Upon reaching the top of the pass, park in the large parking area and find the trailhead for the Huachuca Mountains Crest Trail on the north side of the street (across from the parking area).