Head to a Popular Hiking Trail in Phoenix: Piestewa Peak

Formerly named Squaw Peak, one of Phoenix’ most popular hiking destinations was given a new name, in 2003, in memory of Lori Piestewa, an Arizona soldier who lost her life in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now named Piestewa Peak , visitors and residents flock to this “in town” hiking trail because it’s easily accessible and offers great views of the City of Phoenix. Piestewa Peak’s elevation is 2,608 feet.

Hikers can see a wide variety of Arizona cactus such as saguaro, barrel, jumping cholla and prickly pear. Blooming trees and flowering shrubbery include palo verde, ironwood trees, creosote ocotillo, mesquite, and desert lavender. If you get lucky, you can spot lizards, as well as jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits and kit fox. The songs of mockingbirds and cactus wrens make this hike a delight. Picnic areas, dotting the desert landscape, are great spots for a cool drink from your Thermos, or sandwich and snacks that you’ve packed for a rest stop along the way.

There are several hiking trails at Piestewa Peak, but the two major hikes are…

The Summit Trail:

Just over 1 mile, this hiking trail is usually populated during peak hiking hours (early morning and just before sunset). It’s a rocky trail and is steep at some places making it an intermediate hike. There are convenient stopping plateaus along the way to take a breather and take in the beautiful view of the city below. Hikers don’t have to ascend too far to experience a breathtaking desert view.

The Circumference Trail:

Almost 4 miles in length, The Circumference Trail offers a more gradual ascent.  This hike is better for beginners and families with younger children. If you prefer minimal crowds, this is the hiking trail for you. To access The Circumference Trail, go past Summit Trail Parking Facility and you’ll see the trailhead at the last ramada.

Be sure to wear a big-brimmed sunhat, sunblock and good hiking shoes, and bring plenty of water, for an enjoyable vacation day in the Phoenix mountains.

The Piestewa Peak Recreation Area is located at 2701 E. Squaw Peak Drive (near the corners of 24th Street and Lincoln in Phoenix). Park hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.