unbearable, The thought of hiking in the dry intolerable Phoenix heat during the summer months is unbearable, that is unless you set out before 7am, and even then it is still miserable with temps crawling towards the 90s!. Luckily, with the arrival of winter comes almost perfect hiking conditions. Winters in the Phoenix area are mostly sunny, dry, and mild. This means you can actually enjoy the hundreds of trails in the region without worrying about heat exhaustion. The beautiful Sonoran desert surrounds the metro area, providing endless opportunities for recreation. The desert’s higher than average rainfall results in a diverse range of plants and animals. In fact, the Sonoran Desert is known to be the Wettest Desert in the World.
Because of the spectacular scenery, easy access, and awesome workout, Scottsdale’s Pinnacle Peak Park is one of the region’s most popular hikes, especially during the cooler winter season. Despite the crowds, the trail is more than worthy of a visit due to the immense beauty and drastic difference from the city. Treat yourself to this peaceful trek through nature on your next visit to the Phoenix metro area. Even with fewer crowds in summer, I would still recommend a winter visit due to the more comfortable temperatures.
This trail is definitely challenging, although it should be okay for regular hikers and anyone else in good shape. The elevation gain is 1300 feet with a high point of 2889 feet.
There are numerous uphill and downhill sections throughout the 3.5 mile journey. You will definitely get your workout in for the day and more. The path is wide and smooth so you never really feel like you are slipping (I still recommend a hiking stick and good hiking shoes for extra traction). Many of the uphill sections consist of stairs, which makes climbing much easier. If you choose to complete the entire hike, be prepared for an amazing lower body workout!
The beautiful Sonoran Desert provides a stunning backdrop for your hike, with the gorgeous Saguaro Cactus everywhere you look. Numerous other desert plants add to the scenery and if you plan your visit at the right time you might even see some wildlife. A wide variety of mammals and reptiles call the desert home including bobcats, mountain lions, tortoises, and diamondback rattlesnakes. Most of the time you will not see anything as these animals are nocturnal and rarely come out during the day. Your best chance is planning your hike near dawn or dusk, although I would not recommend setting out on this hike too late due to the lengthy time involved (plan at least 2 -2.5hours).
Every turn is another gorgeous landscape of the surrounding mountains, green golf courses, and the extravagant mansions in Scottsdale. It is very quiet with no traffic noise: just simple pure nature. It’s nice to be able tonescape from the suburban congestion (even if just for a few hours) to enjoy a quiet stroll and great workout outside of the gym. It’s crazy to think that this gorgeous natural area is close to such a bustling metro area, yet feels like as if it is so far away!
Give yourself more time than you think you need on this trail due to the time consuming uphill and downhill sections. Taking breaks, snapping photos, and simply enjoying the beauty around you will quickly add in to your total time.
Whether you are a local looking for a new hiking trail or a tourist looking to experience the desert for the first time, Pinnacle Peak Park is an excellent choice. Be sure to get out there and take a natural escape from suburbs to enjoy the real beauty of the area. A fresh walk in nature surrounded by one of the only places in the world that you can take in the majestic Saguaro cactus is definitely worthy of your time!
Location and Additional Info
Pinnacle Peak park is located at: 26802 N. 102nd Way. Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Parking is free, although it tends to fill up fast on weekends. Arrive early to ensure a close spot, or you may find yourself walking a bit.
Restrooms, water, and picnic tables can be found near the entrance.
Tips for hiking in the desert during the winter months
*Bring plenty of water. Even though the temps are cooler, the air is still dry and this hike contains many climbing sections where you will sweat! Multiple bottles or a camelback is recommended.
*Bring with a few snacks. Eating salty snacks is a good idea when building up a sweat to help replenish electrolytes. When drinking water, always be sure to snack too.
*Eat a quality breakfast before setting out so you do not tire as quickly. For a great choice in the area, check out Scramble.
*Wear good hiking shoes, carry a hiking stick, and wear proper workout apparel. I can’t believe how many hikers I saw wearing jeans!
*Never approach wildlife!
*Plan your hike earlier in the morning to avoid hefty crowds.
Have you ever hiked the Pinnacle Peak Trail? What are some of your favorite trails in the Phoenix area?