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Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak) - Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Summary: A popular, short, steep climb to the top of Piestewa Peak. The hike also gives you the opportunity to practice your trail etiquette: descending yields to ascending, slower yields to faster, and those with dogs yield to all. Three hikes are described, or combine them all for a longer day.
Directions: While there are several ways to access the preserve, most people use one of the parking lots off of Squaw Peak Drive (which, as of this writing, hasn't been renamed yet, but don't get me started). The easiest driving route is to take State Highway 51 to Exit 5 for Glendale Ave and Lincoln Dr. Turn east on Glendale and drive 0.5 miles to Squaw Peak Drive. Turn left (north) on Squaw Peak Drive and drive through the residential area into the preserve. Most people try to park at the Summit lot (first parking lot on the left after passing through the gate) since it offers the quickest route to the top of the mountain. The last lot is usually the least crowded (and that's where I parked for this trip).
Road Conditions: Passenger Car
Navigation: Easy
Length: 2.4 miles - Hike to the summit and back (1200 ft vertical gain)
3.7 miles - Circumference Trail (in the process of being renamed to, believe it or not, the 'Freedom Trail')
4.7 miles - Quartz Ridge Loop
Date Hiked: December 2004
Weather Conditions: Cool and cloudy
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: Summit Trail (no pets allowed): From the Summit parking lot, pick up trail #300 (0 miles, 1408 ft) as it begins climbing moderately up the hill along an almost paved path. After 0.2 miles you'll pass a junction with the left branching alternate summit trail, stay straight. The path then climbs some constructed steps for 0.4 miles before reaching a junction with the Circumference Trail #302. Turn right and begin climbing steeply for 0.6 miles to the summit (1.2 miles, 2608 ft) which features 360 views of lovely downtown Phoenix. Return the way you came.
Circumference Trail: From the Squaw Peak Drive road end pick up Trail #302 which is accessed just left of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve sign. A short walk will bring you to the loop. You can go either way, but I'll describe it counterclockwise. Turn right on Trail #302 (which is also #304) and begin climbing gradually to the north, dodging the dog dropping as you go. You will pass a few interpretive signs at first since this first section trail is also part of the Nature Trail #304. The path bends left and climbs more steeply (stay left at all junctions along this route except one - the route to the summit). The trail climbs up to a saddle, then begins dropping steeply down the other side. After rounding the northern section of the peak, the path bends south and traverses a not so scenic slope with views of the smoggy city to the west, then does a short, steep climb to a saddle and junction with the left branching summit trail. Stay straight and descend a series of stone steps to just before the parking area, at which point Trail #302 bends left and follows the road north to the end and your car.
Quartz Ridge Loop: From the Squaw Peak Drive road end pick up trail #304 as it heads up a moderate slope to the north. After a couple minutes you'll reach a junction with the right branching Trail #8B, stay straight on #304. The path climbs up to a low saddle and forks, turn right on Trail #8 which is flat easy walking (making it attractive to horses and mountain bikes). Eventually Trail #8 bends left at a junction with Trail #8A, stay straight on #8A which winds through the desert to arrive at a 4 way junction (Trail #8B branches left) at the top of a low rise. Stay straight on #8A which begins dropping steadily towards basin to the south. Just prior to reaching a parking lot off of 32nd St, turn right on Trail #200A (the A is for Alt). This path winds its way along the side of the hill behind a number of houses before eventually bending right, climbing up a shallow drainage to a saddle and junction with Trail #200. Stay straight, passing a short wooden fence, and descend to Squaw Peak Drive. Turn right and follow the road to its end and your car.
Rating (1-5 stars):
I'm not a fan of these city hikes, so take the rating for what it's worth. The author and his wife completed the Circumference and Summit Trails in 2.5 hours then hiked the Quartz Ridge Loop in another 2 hours.
Maps: Beartooth Maps - Phoenix Area Mountain Parks
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

Piestewa Peak from Trail #200. Along the Circumference Trail.
Piestewa Peak summit. Along the Quartz Ridge Loop.