Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak Arizona State Park

Site Of a Civil War Battle 40 Miles North of Tucson AZ

Picacho Peak State ParkPicacho Peak is 40 miles north of Tucson Arizona off I-10 on the way to Phoenix. This 1,500-foot peak is a landmark used by travelers since prehistoric times.

One of the first recordings was in the 1700’s by the Anza Expedition as it passed through the area.

In 1848, the Mormon Battalion constructed a wagon road through Picacho Pass. The forty-niners used the road on their way to California.

The Butterfield Overland Stage carried passengers through this area in the late 1850’s.

The Civil War Battle

Picacho Peak’s most noted historic event occurred on April 15, 1862.

On that day, Confederate and Union soldiers met in the Battle of Picacho Pass during the Civil War.

A group of 120 Confederate Rangers were holding Tucson, Arizona. They were part of an effort to expand the Confederacy westward.

They received word that a larger 2,350 Union “Column from California” was headed to Tucson. This force was a mix of volunteer infantry and cavalry with a U.S. Regular artillery battery.

Although smaller, the Confederate Rangers set out to intercept the larger Union force.

April 15, 1862

Civil War Battle Picacho PeakThe Confederate and Union forces met at Picacho Peak on April 15.

Although outnumbered, the smaller group of men engaged the larger force. The battle lasted a little over an hour, but it delayed the Union troupes and prevented a surprise attack on Tucson.

The engagement at Picacho Peak is considered the westernmost battle of the American Civil War. It was one of the smallest battles, but the largest Civil War clash to take place in Arizona.

One might ask why this small Civil War battle has become so prominent? Especially when it occurred in Arizona. Consider this! The West and in particular the Southwest was at the center of fighting between Northerners and Southerners. Fighting that took place before the Civil War began.

Fights took place over the territories acquired from the Mexican-American War and the Gadsden Purchase. People fought over whether or not slavery should be allowed in the Western territories. They fought over whether or not the transcontinental railroad would go through the southwest section of the country.

Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak became an Arizona State Park and was opened to the public on Memorial Day, May 30, 1968. The Civil War skirmish at Picacho Peak was commemorated at the opening day festivities by honoring the known dead and wounded from that action.

Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak and, often in the spring, overlook a sea of wildflowers.

The park and surrounding area is stunning and varied desert landscape. Its unique shape makes it hard to miss when traveling between Tucson and Phoenix.

The Park’s visitor center provides exhibits and a park store. There is also a playground, historical markers, a campground and picnic areas.

Many hiking trails traverse the desert landscape providing both scenic and challenging hikes. Hike prepared and know your limits. Bring plenty of food and water and wear proper footwear. Enjoy the beauty of the desert and the amazing views.


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