Phoenix Mountains Reviews
Piestewa Peak (Squaw Peak) Dec 18, 2009
Dropped in on my stepson for a quick weekend visit to see how he is doing and we managed to get out for a hike in the Phoenix Mountains. The rugged range of peaks carves the greater Phoenix area into northern and southern halves, so obviously it is a convenient drive from most places around the city. Our destination was Piestewa Peak, better known as Squaw Peak - Piestewa is a recent name change instituted by the state of Arizona, it remains Squaw Peak to the federal government. The summit is 2,600 feet above sea level, an additional 1,200 to 1,500 feet over the local landscape.
You pick up the trailhead at the comfortable Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area, a single road dotted with ample parking areas. There are a multitude of trails starting from the Rec Area and we would sample only the Circumference Trail and the Summit Trail. The Circumference Trail is a four mile loop around the Piestewa Summit. You wind up on the back side and climb the path less traveled to rejoin the Summit Trail for the final push up to Piestewa Peak
The Circumference Trail takes you on a beautiful stroll through the Sonoran Desert and offers practically every variety of cacti here. Saguaro and barrel cactus are the most abundant, lending a wild west air despite being nestled in a huge metropolis. I was constantly surprised to have my desert views interrupted by the Phoenix skyline or vast expanses of suburban sprawl. These interruptions, however, do not taint the natural vibe of the area and this must be a wonderful escape for the local folks.
Making the final ascent to the peak is not difficult, but steep. There were quite a few other hikers making the climb with us (indeed, the trail is not recommended during summer months when temps soar) and with the holiday spirit in the air it was utterly enjoyable. Despite it being a bit hazy, we were rewarded with terrific views towards downtown Phoenix and in every other direction. A small scrub bush had been decked out for the holidays at the summit, lending further cheer.
We descended on the Rec Area side, down the formal Summit Trail and received further awards. It started to rain lightly and out popped the most vibrant double rainbow I have ever seen. Spanning the Phoenix Mountain peaks littered with saguaro, it was a gorgeous vision (not adequately captured by my cheap-o camera). It was difficult to fathom we were wedged between Phoenix and Scottsdale during this moment of wonder.
A highly recommended visit and one I hope to explore more fully should I return.
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