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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

A Walk Around Piestewa Peak

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/19/2021
Occurred: 1/1/2009
Topics/Keywords: #Arizona #Phoenix #Photography #PiestewaPeak #Zachary Page Views: 418
We take our annual New Year's Day hike on a mountain located smack in the middle of the City of Phoenix.

Hey, what better way to start off the New Year than with an easy hike? It sure beats hanging around all day nursing a hangover! This year, Michael, Mary, Zachary and I decided to challenge the Piestewa Peak Circumference Trail. We got the exercise, sunshine, and above-the-pollution-line fresh air; you get the photos.

Piestewa Peak is one of those little gems to be found right in the middle of the city of Phoenix. It's in the Piestewa Peak Recreation Area, which actually has a street address as if it were a residence: 2701 E. Squaw Peak Drive, which is right near 24th Street and Lincoln. And it is a residence; there are dozens of species of reptiles, mammals and birds that make it their home. But thousands of humans per week also visit, even in the summer. However, given Phoenix's intense summer heat, I have to say that January is more suitable. I started out in a fleece shirt which I had to remove early on, much to my grandson Zachary's horror.

Along the Piestewa Peak Circumference Trail.

The trail we took, 304, was one of many that crisscross the Phoenix Mountains area. Zach wanted to go, but he had been to a New Year's Eve sleepover party the night before, so he didn't quite have the Moxie to make his usual camera smile for any pictures.

Mary and Zachary on the Piestewa Peak trail.

That's his grandmother, Mary, right behind him. She doesn't do a lot of hiking, but this was a fairly easy trail and she handled it perfectly.

Michael on the Piestewa Peak trail.

Michael also gave it his best shot, but he overworked his knees a few months ago and they are still giving him a hard time. Still, he made it about a quarter mile before having to return. (The loop trail itself runs for a total of about a mile and a half.)

Paul on the Piestewa Peak trail.

Then there's me, above, after the traumatic removal of my shirt. (The picture was taken by Zachary, so it couldn't have been too traumatic.)

One of the nice things about this trail is that, even in the steep places, it's easy to traverse because of the natural "stair steps" that facilitate the climb (or descent).

Piestewa Peak trail

If you make this hike yourself, please don't neglect to turn around every now and then for the spectacular view of the Valley below. In the saddle between two peaks in the photo above, you can make out the apartment complexes on 7th Street. Here's a zoomed-in view from a little further up the trail.

Above the pollution at Piestewa Peak park. Zach

All around us were tempting climbing rocks that distracted Zach. I had to remind him of the importance of staying on the trail in a place like this, where wanderers can so easily damage the environment. But I couldn't blame him; I'd have liked to scramble up this one myself!

Tempting climbing rock at Piestewa Peak park

We passed through a grove of fine saguaros.

When we reached the point where one could leave the circumference trail and actually climb to the top, Mary and I both thought it was a bit steep for us. But another hiker, out with his son and his son's friends, offered to let Zach come with them. So Mary and I gratefully relaxed on a stone bench while Zach got to do his climbing.

Mary, Zach, Paul Zach and friends ascending Piestewa Peak.

It's been a wet winter, and nowhere was this more evident than on the north slope, where grasses and mosses and lichens made verdant the desert.

North slope of Piestewa Peak Zachary on Piestewa Peak trail.

Just before the trail turned again toward the south, we passed a thicket of Teddybear Cholla. Don't hug these cacti; the friendly, fuzzy-looking spines will stick you like you've never been stuck before!

Teddybear Cholla at Piestewa Peak. Zachary on Piestewa Peak trail Red barrel cactus at Piestewa Peak park Marble outcropping at Piestewa Peak.

The Piestewa Peak area is geologically young, only about 14 million years old; and most of it is composed of far older rock called schist. But here and there, especially on the west slope of the peak, I spotted a number of exquisite marble outcroppings. I've been in Athens, which is geologically very similar to Phoenix; outcroppings like this may have produced the marble used to build their fabulous temples.

Here, they simply served as handy steps along the path.


Finally, almost back to the parking lot, I got in one last shot. Imagine a place where the end of a hike is just as scenic as any other part of it!

Piestewa Peak park