The name doesn’t boast of great beauty: Brown Mountain.
The elevation won’t exactly give you a nosebleed: 3,098 feet.
But this unpretentious little peak west of Tucson offers one of the finest short hikes in our neck of the desert.
“This is so cool! You can see so far!” exclaimed one hiker when she paused on the high point of the 2.4-mile Brown Mountain Trail. “The views are awesome.”
Who would argue?
The panorama includes the vast Avra Valley, the cactus forests of nearby Saguaro National Park, Gates Pass and the distant summits of Mount Wrightson and Baboquivari Peak. Also within sight from points along the trail are the sprawling grounds of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the faux frontier town of Old Tucson Studios.
A big bonus: You get these views on a hike that involves only about 400 feet of elevation gain.
And you can choose either a long or a short version of the walk, depending on your energy level and the time available.
For the long version, simply drive to either of the two trailheads, park and hike the trail out and back for a round-trip distance of 4.8 miles. For a shorter excursion, arrange a vehicle shuttle and hike the route one-way.
From either starting point, you’ll climb gradually to one prominent high point, descend a bit, climb to a second high point and then work your way down to the opposite end of the trail. (Some hikers use a trail lower on the mountain to create a loop route.)
The twin summits along the trail — never mind their modest elevation — make excellent places to plop down for a light lunch or a drink of water.
Elsewhere along the trail, which follows a broad, open ridge for much of the way, you’ll feast on 360-degree views.
The vegetation is classic Sonoran Desert prickly stuff. Watch for some gargantuan saguaro cacti and lots of those octopus-like, red-bloomed plants called ocotillos.
Some hikers on the Brown Mountain Trail maintain that its colorful rocks are on a par with those in the famous Painted Desert of Northern Arizona.
Lavender, pink and red are the predominant hues along some segments of the route.
If you can arrange for an early-morning or sunset-hour hike, you’ll see this visual “rock concert” in its finest light.