Sierra Blanca

Above, a view of Sierra Blanca framed against the backdrop of the Galiuro Mountains which rise high above and behind it. Bassett Peak is the highest point at 7,650' seen roughly in the center of the upper-left quadrant of the picture. The Cascabel Road is visible at far lower right, running northwestward toward the left. Sierra Blanca, the rising series of dark peaks located at the center of the picture, displays a roughly cone-like shape in its highest point as viewed from the south, with three lower points visible along its ridgeline, which runs almost directly north-to-south. This photograph was taken near Milepost 16 in March 2005.

Sierra Blanca is the highest peak on Saguaro Juniper lands, though at 4356' altitude it is a mere 30-odd feet higher than the highest point on our rolling Northeast Corner uplands. Still, it can be seen from very considerable distances along the valley, and we consider it a prime marker of our heartlands. The images above and below show it from a variety of perspectives and in a number of seasonal conditions, from summer Monsoons to winter snow.

Below, the "Blanca" in this peak's name derives from the pale-colored Galiuro Volcanics rock that caps the peak, a rhyolite extrusion. This view is from the north, near the Trail Tank, taken in August 2006 after rains have greened up the slopes.

Note the vegetation surmounting the peak -- mainly plants characteristic of our Arizona Uplands division of the Sonoran Desert. (Compare its Vegetation in the Late Pleistocene, which would have been a mix of Glacial Woodland and Montane Forest.)

Below, the four peaks of Sierra Blanca seen from near the Red Tank in September 2001. The highest one is the northernmost, at right (the peak shown above, now seen from the south).

Below, viewed from the west, Sierra Blanca stands at middle-right, its almost light-pinkish color contrasting with the dark red of the Red Peaks that rise behind it. The Red Peaks, which rise some 900 feet higher than Sierra Blanca, form an integral part of the West Range of the Galiuro Mountains.

The Notch is visible at middle-left in this image, the Notch Ridge running in a rising arc out from it to the far left, looking from this point like a string of beads.

The rocks of Sierra Blanca and of the ridge running north from it toward the Notch (below) present similar colors -- here approximating a very pale pink from long distance. The Notch, whose rocks are partly visible at far left, and outcrops which appear along the intermediate ridge between Notch and peak, appear to be made of the same stuff as the peak itself, but according to our geologist Mick Meader, it's unclear whether the Notch Ridge is of the same age as the peak.

Here the view is from Hunters Camp in late afternoon. In low sunlight, the rocks look more reddish in color.

Below, up close at the peak, the weathered rock surface presents a color of light golden-rod, but more recently fractured vertical pieces show a light-pink to pale salmon range of colors. These rocks are rhyolitic Galiuro Volcanics, extruded up through the Willow Canyon Formation during the late-Oligocene-to-Early-Miocene Orogeny between 30 and 20 Million years ago. See our Geology pages for more details.

Below, the darker and older, flanking Willow Canyon Formation rocks are clearly visible from Sierra Blanca Canyon Wash, where in March 2006 they contrast with the lighter colors of the southernmost peak. In this image, the Willow Canyon outcrops line the slope well up toward the summit, showing a characteristically very steep tilt toward the northeast.

Sierra Blanca received a smart dusting of snow in January 2001. (It did not remain for long.) This view is from Hot Springs Canyon.

Below, sunrise behind Sierra Blanca (at lower left) from Hot Springs Canyon in June 2002. Red Peaks are to the far right.