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Piestewa Peak Summit Overview

Piestewa Peak (still known to long time Phoenicians as Squaw Peak) is a hiking jewel, planted in the midst of the Phoenix metropolitan area. There are a variety of elements that differentiate Piestewa Peak from nearby Camelback Mountain; chief among them is the fact that Piestewa Peak is open at night, so you can legally do night hikes! In fact, one of my favorite ways to experience Piestewa Peak is at sunset – unfettered views of sunset to the west, as the city lights slowly start to twinkle on.

The hike to the summit is fairly moderate in difficulty. If you are a beginning hiker or are accompanied by one, the lower parts of the trail are easy to navigate; it is the upper parts that are more steep and therefore more challenging. No matter when you go or what level of experience you have, you will not be alone in your journey; this hike is extremely popular for Phoenix locals and visitors alike, and attracts everyone from casual climbers to serious athletes.  In fact, the trail can sometimes be downright crowded.

Depending on your physical condition, your hiking speed, and the number of breaks you take, the hike to the summit could take you anywhere from 20 minutes (quasi-running) to one hour; most make it to the top within 45 minutes.

Logistics

From AZ-51 (appropriately nicknamed the Piestewa Highway), exit onto Glendale Ave. Travel east, and the road will become Lincoln Drive. From there, turn north at the second traffic signal onto Squaw Peak Drive, which will lead you through a neighborhood and straight to the trailhead. After passing through the gate into the park, take a left into the first parking area; this is the summit trail (Trail 300) trailhead. If this parking lot is full, you can continue on to a number of other parking areas farther to the north, though you will have to backtrack hike to the trailhead.

Although the Phoenix Mountain Preserve is technically open until 10 p.m., many of the parking lots (including the one for the Piestewa Peak trailhead) close at sunset. So, you can either come 10 minutes before sunset to get in (don’t worry: you will be able to get out when you leave), or you can park in the small parking lot just outside the gates, which will give you a little warmup hike before you reach the trailhead.

Since this is such a popular destination, all the parking lots may be full during peak periods. The best way to avoid this is to come early in the day (the park opens at 5 a.m.) or towards the very end of the day. You may be tempted to park in the adjacent neighborhood; if you do, just make sure you observe all posted parking rules so you don’t get a parking ticket! As with Camelback Mountain, I have heard of people parking at a nearby restaurant where they will do a post-hike meal and then just Uber/Lyft-ing to the trailhead and back. So don’t think the terrible parking is just something you have to put up with; you have options!

Gear & Gadgets

Little is really needed on this hike in the way of gear and gadgets beyond the basics. Wear good athletic shoes with decent grip, comfortable clothing, and sunscreen. Of course, bring plenty of water. Check out my Day Trip Gear Guide for specific recommendations and a more comprehensive list.

Further Reading

Outdoors and Wilderness First Aid Guide

Day Trip Gear Guide

Leave No Trace Principles

 

About The Author

Jeremy Meek is a native Arizonan with a passion for adventure and discovery of unique experiences. Whether exploring Arizona or setting out on an adventure abroad, Jeremy is constantly scouting truly great adventures and experiences.

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