We went out today with the intention of enjoying the warm weather after two weeks of unseasonably cold days. But when we arrived at the trailhead for Kings Canyon (we planned to do Kings Canyon/Esperero/Gould Mine) the lot was chock full of cars and a school bus. There was something about the school bus, and our uncertainty about where the trailhead was, that sent us over to Brown Mtn. This is just a sign that says "Brown Mtn" and a little turn off. The picnic areas lead eventually to the trail. As with any low elevation in Saguaro West Park, this was a perfect winter hike as the whole trail is exposed and very sunny.
We wanted to simply hike to the top of the mountain, having done this trip about 6 or 7 years ago, although neither of us could remember specifics of the trail. I vaguely recalled crossing several small washes during the flat part just at the beginning. After going through the washes, the trail veered left and remained flat. After only 10 minutes of walking, we met a couple and he told us to continue just a little ways, then turn right at a sign that says "cougar 1.1" so we did. At the point you climb, moderately, for perhaps 3/4 of a mile until you reach what appears to be the top, but isn't. You then hike along this ridge and the trail dips down again, only to climb up another big hill, apparently the actual Brown Mountain. The mountain gets its name from the way it stands out from surrounding hills with a definite brownish color, but up close the rocks are purple, red, orange and the color of the trail itself changes at various stages of the hike.
After reaching the second "peak" you see that trail dips down once again and seems to climb to a third peak. Off in the distance, to the right and ahead, are the buildings of the Desert Museum. The third climb in fact doesn't continue to the third peak at all, but skirts a bit to the right around its base, shady and flat. As we were traveling this section, figuring we would turn around when we reached the parking lot just south of the Desert Museum, we could see an enticing, smooth trail down below on our right. We decided to head back on that lowland trail. At the end, we came to a sign that read "Gilbert Ray Campground" and pointed back from whence we had begun. We had walked what felt like about 2 miles. We continued just 30 steps or so past the sign and there was a large cairn and an unmarked trail that seem to head to the right and in the general direction of our car.
This unnamed trail was easy, flat and eventually paralleled a large wash on the left. The desert here had what my sister describes as "that manicured look." It was a very easy hike at this point. Plenty of saguaro, nice healthy ones, were all around. The desert was very open and a little less interesting than Brown Mtn itself, but pleasant. We came back to a saguaro with it's top sheered off, and I recognized it...at its feet was a cairn, so we turned left and after a few dips back through the washes, we ran into a picnic area. This was not the same picnic area where we'd started but actually the trailhead itself, with the usual sign & mileage - it read that we'd gone a total of about 4 miles. Our car was parked at the next picnic area up.
We passed 3 groups on the way out and saw no one on the flat trail back. I'd rate this hike as "easy," mainly because there was limited elevation gain. The footing is somewhat rocky in places. Pretty views at the top but nothing to rival Hugh Norris trail. My favorite feature of this place are all the colors - the reds, purples and oranges of the rocks stand out beautifully against the green saguaro and palo verde trees.