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Picture Rocks
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
February 25, 2024

Distance: 2.7 km (1.7 mi)
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 168 m (518 ft)

While perusing, a small peak called Picture Rocks caught my attention. Specifically, I was interested in one report that mentioned javelinas. Since spotting one on Safford Peak last year, Dinah and I wanted to see another. Climbing a summit and seeing the elusive animal would make our day. As a bonus, we could check out the petroglyphs that the peak was named after.

Picture Rocks lies within Saguaro National Park, but the trailhead is outside the park. After parking in a pullout, we noticed bird songs filled the air. The area attracts various birds, and we saw several on our hike.

After walking up a path for 200 m, we came to a rock wall covered with petroglyphs. We continued up the path – a broad wash – and soon started hiking up the east ridge of Picture Rocks. At first, we had to detour around desert scrub, cacti and rocks, but as we climbed, the vegetation grew sparser and travel became easier. All the while, we searched for javelinas.

We soon gained the ridge and followed it to the summit. There we discovered a few petroglyphs, including one that looked like the sun. After taking photos and looking around, we headed down to the gully that bisects the lower slopes.

That's where we spied three javelinas – two adults and a youngster – perhaps 50 metres away. They stayed perfectly still for a time before bolting up the ridge and disappearing into the foliage. We headed in their direction hoping to catch sight of them again. We neared the gully when we spotted a fourth javelina. We got within several metres of it, but it too vanished.

After a brief, fruitless search for the animals, we gave up and started down the gully. We passed one interesting spot, however. In a tiny clearing, we came across scat both fresh and old, apparently a gathering place for javelinas. We continued down the gully down to the road and returned to our car.

We were happy to see the javelinas, but there was more to Picture Rocks than I expected. It has splendid desert scenery, fascinating petroglyphs and a variety of birds.

KML and GPX Tracks

We parked in a pullout by Picture Rocks

A few of the birds we saw. Clockwise: northern cardinal, phainopepla, mourning dove, house finch

Starting on the trail. Picture Rocks is out of sight on the right.

We stopped to look at a memorial

A short distance away, there's a rock wall covered with petroglyphs

Some of the art that can be seen

After the wall, we walked towards Picture Rocks

Parry's penstemon

Hiking up the slope. The rock wall is left, behind a saguaro.

Vegetation became less dense as we climbed higher

Tiny fishhook cactus with fruit

The little peak held beautiful desert scenery

We kept left to gain the ridge. The summit is hidden.

Near the ridgetop, we had to skirt around some boulders

View from the ridge. Wasson Peak on the right.

We found pleasant, open sections on the ridge

We passed a saguaro that appeared dead except for one arm

Heading to a false summit

Santa Catalina Mountains appear on the left

Looking back just before the summit

Petroglyph on the summit

Standing on the top of Picture Rocks

Safford Peak in the background

Heading down to the gully

Several barrel cacti bore fruit

Approaching the gully. We saw the javelinas shortly after taking this photo.

We spotted three javelinas in the gully

Looking back after exiting the gully

Avra and Jaynes (1.7 mi, 2877 ft, 518 ft)

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