Phoenix Mountains Park Preserve – Piestewa Peak Recreation Area

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Phoenix Mountains Park Preserve – Piestewa Peak Recreation Area


TrailMapPhoenixMountainsParkandRecreationAreaTrail #8A – Quartz Ridge Trail
Length: 1.7 miles
Elevation: 1,300 -1,800 ft.
Multi-use trail
Difficulty: Moderate
The trailhead is located at 32nd Street and Lincoln Drive. There are no restrooms and no drinking water at this parking area.
The Quartz Ridge Trail climbs moderately to connect with the L.V. Yates Trail and Ruth Hamilton Trails, which in turn offer access to the Nature Trail and eventually Trail 100.

Trail #200 & 200A – Mohave Trail
Length: .4 mile
Elevation: 1,788 ft. – 1,480 ft.
Multi-use trail
Difficulty: Easy to moderate

The trailhead is located at the upper parking lot of the Mohave picnic area at Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. Paved parking, drinking water and restrooms are available. Please note that there is no parking in residential areas along Squaw Peak Drive signed “No Parking.”

The trail ascends a short distance to the junction of 200A and turns west along a level pathway to the base of the high peak. Follow the directional arrows up the hill to the hitching rack. Return by the same route or on 200A which will return to Ramada #5 of the Mohave picnic area.


Trail #202 – Mohave Connector Brown

Length: .1.5 miles
Elevation: 1,300 ft. – 1,500 ft.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate


Trail #300 – Summit Trail
Length: 1.2 miles
Elevation: 2,608 ft. – 1,400 ft. (hikers gain more than 1,200 feet in elevation on this trail)
Hiking trail only
Difficulty: Extremely Strenuous and Difficult. Long rocky segments with possible drops and exsposure.


The trailhead is located in the parking lot at the first driveway on the left in Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. To reach the trail to the summit of Piestewa Peak, turn east on Squaw Peak Drive from Lincoln Drive between 22nd and 24th streets. Paved parking, drinking water and restrooms are available. Please note that there is no parking in residential areas along Squaw Peak Drive signed “No Parking.”

The trail to the summit of Piestewa Peak was first constructed by a wrangler employed at the Biltmore Hotel sometime around 1930. Now, it is one of the most heavily used trails in the nation with 4,000 to 10,000 hikers per week. The trail ascends Piestewa Peak to the highest point in the park. Dogs and bicycles are not permitted on the Summit Trail.

Trail #300 – Summit Trail
Length: 1.2 miles
Elevation: 2,608 ft. – 1,400 ft. (hikers gain more than 1,200 feet in elevation on this trail)
Hiking trail only
Difficulty: Extremely Strenuous and Difficult. Long rocky segments with possible drops and exsposure.

Piestewa Peak
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.

Elevation 2,610.0 ft (796 m) NAVD 88[1]
Prominence 1,176 ft (358 m)[2]
Location Range Phoenix Mountains
Coordinates 33°32′51″N 112°01′15″WCoordinates: 33°32′51″N 112°01′15″W

Schist rock of Precambrian origin
Easiest route Walk up
Piestewa Peak (/paɪˈɛstəwɑː/ py-ess-tə-wah;[3] O’odham Vainom Do’ag, formerly Squaw Peak), at 2608 feet (795 meters) is the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains, after Camelback Mountain, and the third highest in the city of Phoenix, Arizona. It is located in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Piestewa Peak is named in honor of Army Spc. Lori Ann Piestewa, the first Native American woman to die in combat in the US military,[4] and the first female soldier to be killed in action in the 2003 Iraq War.

Since at least 1910, the name Squaw Peak had been used in reference to the mountain. Other historic names included Squaw Tit Mountain, Phoenix Mountain and Vainom Do’ag, the Pima name for the mountain.  As the term “squaw” is considered derogatory by some, numerous efforts to change the name of the mountain were made through the years. State Representative Jack Jackson, himself a Navajo, submitted a bill to change the name annually beginning in 1992, which generated repeated and often raw debates in Arizona. In 1997, the local youth group of the American Indian Movement, which filed a petition with the State Board on Geographic and Historic Names in 1997 to change the name to Iron Mountain, the English translation of the mountain’s native Pima name. The board researched the issue for nearly a year before ruling in July 1998 that too much doubt existed as to whether the name Vainom Do’ag actually referred to the mountain in question or another nearby peak and the petition was rejected, although the board left the door open to alternative possible name-changes.

US Board on Geographic Names policy is to consider changes to features using the word “squaw” when approved by local authorities, but petitioners are strongly urged to choose new names that relate to Native American woman and/or culture.[7] In 2003, newly elected Governor Janet Napolitano petitioned the state board to rename the mountain for Lori Piestewa. The Governor’s lobbying, while ultimately successful, proved to be controversial. The controversy stemmed in part from the fact that governor’s request violated a required waiting period of five years after a person’s death prior to renaming a geographic feature; Piestewa had been killed earlier that year. Tim Norton, a Phoenix police officer who was serving as the board’s director at the time, refused to place the request on the board’s agenda, citing the five year requirement. Mario Diaz, an aide to Napolitano subsequently contacted Norton’s supervisor with the police department in an attempt to pressure Norton into changing his mind, but the supervisor refused, stating it was not a police department issue and was outside of his authority. Diaz’ actions were picked up on by the press and resulted in strong criticism from both the public sector as well as fellow politicians, with some politicians considering a formal inquiry. Napolitano herself publicly admonished Diaz, but the controversy dogged Napolitano during her reelection campaign and throughout her tenure as governor.

The state board, absent its director, approved the name change to Piestewa Peak on April 17, 2003, less than a month after Piestewa’s death. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, however, refused to accept a similar petition at the time, citing their own five year waiting rule. Five years later the board agreed to review the request as the waiting period had passed. The board also considered other potential alternatives, including Swilling Peak for area pioneer Jack Swilling. Ultimately, the national board voted 11-2 to approve the name change to Piestewa Peak, while indicating that the original name of Squaw Peak might still be used in publications as a secondary reference.

As a landform, Piestewa Peak is relatively young, formed roughly 14 million years ago. However, it is composed of much older rock, primarily schist.

Flora in this area is typical of the lower Sonoran Desert and includes almost all varieties of Arizona cactus such as saguaro, barrel, hedgehog, pincushion, jumping cholla and prickly pear. Trees and colorful shrubbery include palo verde, mesquite, ironwood trees, creosote (dominate), ocotillo, brittle bush, desert lavender and giant sage shrubs.

Wildflowers are abundant in the early spring and include Mexican gold poppies (deep yellow), brittlebush (yellow), lupine (purples), desert globemallow (orange) and scorpionweed (purple). Fiddleneck and bladderpod also are blooming in some areas. These are in addition to the many varieties of flowering cacti.

Reptiles and wildlife that thrive in the preserve are gila monster, horned lizard and chuckwalla. Hikers also can encounter rattlesnakes. The mammal population includes coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, ground squirrel and kit fox. There are more than 54 species of birds from the turkey vulture to mockingbirds, cactus wrens, gamble’s quail and several species of owls and hawks.

Along the Summit Trail

The Piestewa Peak Summit Trail (elevation gain = 1,190 feet in 1.2 miles) is climbed thousands of times per week by locals and visitors seeking a cardio-vascular workout, great views, or a family outing.  However, quite a few hikers do not actually reach the top due to the fact that this trail is more difficult than it looks, especially in the summer when temperatures are well over 100 °F. No water is available on the trail and dehydration is a common and serious problem with hikers who come unprepared. Views from the summit include, in clear weather, Pinnacle Peak, the McDowell Mountains, Four Peaks, the Superstition Mountains, Tabletop Mountain, the Sierra Estrella, Woolsey Peak, the White Tank Mountains, the Harquahala Mountains, the Papago Mountains and the Bradshaw Mountains.

The hike itself takes anywhere from 25 to 60 minutes depending on each hiker’s capabilities in fair weather (higher temperatures and sunny conditions may force the hiker to take twice as long). A beginning hiker should allow 60 minutes for a leisurely ascent and 40 for descent. The path is mostly well marked. There are 4 spots that are confusing and hikers who are not familiar with the path will be forced to look around for the best route. There are a few sections that are technically difficult as they are steep and there are no guard rails.

There are approximately fifteen miles of interconnecting trails in the Preserve, ranging from easy to difficult.

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