Overview and HistoryDifficulty: An easy class 1 climb with a short class 2/easy class 3 section at the true summit.
Distance: Round trip - 2.4 miles.
Elevation Gain: 1208 feet.
Touted as one of the most heavily used trails in the United States with up to 10,000 hikers per week making the trek to the summit, Piestewa Peak, formerly known as Squaw peak (not without controversy), stands at 2608 feet and is located northeast of downtown Phoenix. Although it sounds small from it's elevation, it climbs 1208 feet from trailhead to summit making the ratio of elevation gain per mile similar to that of Oregon's tallest - Mount Hood.
Piestewa Peak is the second highest within the Phoenix area , 2nd to neighboring Camelback Mountainand is part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve chain.
The summit trail takes you up a steep but well defined trail that is overall generally pretty safe. There is one section near the North summit that occasionally makes some people nervous and then there is the true summit as well. When you near the top of the mountain, many people will head to the left and claim victory there. If you want to tag the true summit then you will want to go right when you get over the rise that gets you to the "false" summit. There will be a small trail leading you around to the base of the "true" summit. Here it is a Class 2 vs Easy Class 3 scramble to the summit. I recommend wearing good sunglasses when summitting reaching the "true summit," or getting there earlier in the morning or closer to evening, as the sun will be directly in your eyes in the afternoon.
MORE ABOUT THE NAME CHANGE AND CONTROVERSY:
Piestewa Peak was originally called Squaw Peak. The name, Squaw peak came about in 1903 when a surveyor for the US Government recorded that name on his field notes and map. For a long time that name stayed, it wasn't until the recent past, that activists were successful in fostering negative public opinion about the then current name.
In 1998 a couple of names were researched to replace the current name, both of which were rejected due to name similarities and insufficient evidence to support renaming it those.
Fast foward 5 years to April of 2003, the Governer of Arizona proposed that the name be changed to Piestewa Peak in honor of Lori Piestewa, a fallen soldier and Hopi Indian who was killed in the Iraq War. This proposal was rejected because there is a 5-year waiting period before naming a place after a deceased person. Long story made short controversial votes were made and the name was offically changed.
(Reference: Website http://www.tomjonas.com/squawpeak/index.htm)
Getting ThereFrom Highway 51 N take the Highland Ave/Camelback Rd. exit. From the exit take a left until you reach 16th street. Take a right onto 16th and follow it until you reach Glendale road. When you reach Glendale Rd, you will take a right and follow it until you reach Squaw Peak Drive. Take a left here and keep your eye out for the summit trail parking lot. It will be a short ways up the road on the left hand side. I believe it will be the second parking lot on the left. There is plenty of parking available at this trailhead. You may just have to walk a ½ mile to reach the trailhead.
Red TapeSome sources say the park closes at sunset, although the signs at the park state that it closes at 11pm.
If you want to investigate further you may call the Phoenix Parks and Recreation @ 602-262-6861
Other restrictions include:
No bicycles on the trail
No horses on the trail
No Glass containers allowed
No alcoholic beverages without prior permission
When To ClimbThis peak can be climbed year round. Although the best climbing is going to be mid October Through April as Summer temperatures can easily reach into the 110's. Be sure to bring plenty of water when climbing. I recommend at least 1 liter when climbing in the cooler months. Probably at least 2-3 liters when climbing in the hot summer months.
CampingSince it is in a city park there is no camping. There are many hotels within a few miles of the mountain.
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