Piestewa Peak

Pie-ESS-tuh-wuh.

Start elevation: 1410 feet
End elevation: 2618 feet
Trail distance: 2.4 miles round trip
Formerly known as: Squaw Peak

I climbed this peak about ten years ago and enjoyed it so much I put it on my bucket list to climb it again. I got the opportunity to do so last week. I didn’t remember it being so difficult! It was more difficult than my two previous hikes, Bishop Peak and Rocky Peak. It was a higher elevation change over a shorter distance as you can see from this simple graph.

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There were some other notable differences with this hike than the other two. The day I hiked was much warmer than before because of the location. It was also much more crowded. I think this was due to it being spring break time, but I do know this trail is very popular in the area. The crowded trail took away some of the serenity of the scenery.

The trail was much narrower than the fire road on Rocky Peak and narrower also than most of Bishop Peak. I had to keep stopping to let faster hikers past because I was one of the slowest on the trail.

This trail was similar to Bishop having rock “steps”, although there were more and most were a very high step. Unfortunately trail-makers don’t adhere to building code requirements for steps having a maximum rise of 7 3/4 inches. This is a great workout, but also hard on the knees, especially on the descent. My knees felt a lot of pain and by the end were very weak. Funny, how I think I can’t go any more. When you’re on a trail on a peak, you don’t have much choice but to keep going and, of course, I make it all the way in one piece without dying. I may have been slow and huffing and puffing, but everyone, even the athletic types were breathing very hard through the hike, it was that strenuous.

Another difference here on this trail is that a lot of the rocks were very ragged and sharp. The views were again gorgeous.

The rocky trail steps

The rocky trail steps

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Looking back down

Looking back down

I stopped frequently just off the path like this woman did. Sometimes it was just so crowded on the trail! But the reason I took the picture was to capture the beautiful Ocotillo in bloom:

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Ocotillo

Resting place early in hike

Resting place early in hike (see the sharp rocks)

Up, up, up

Up, up, up

Nice view of the saguaro cacti dotting the hillside. If you look closely, you can see the tiny parking lot where I parked (far right, middle):

Saguaros

Saguaros

Nearing the summit. The trail is getting much steeper and much rockier. We need to go up to the left peak yet:

Nearing the summit. The trail is getting much steeper and much rockier

Near the top, looking down.

Near the top, looking down.

The very top, at the summit. The top is all rocks. From this point you can see around 360 degrees. I was standing to take this picture, but I sat down for awhile in this spot. While I was sitting there I spied a squirrel scrambling in the rocks to the left of that woman sitting there. I was amazed a squirrel would be so high up in such a barren, rocky area. Maybe people leave crumbs from snacks that he was looking for?

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The summit

Bishop Peak

While on vacation, I’m not staying up on my blog reading and sadly don’t know what you all are up to. Boo. I am trying to do my best to stay active and not eat too much. My husband has a few days work this week where I am on my own. I took advantage of my free time yesterday to take an amazing hike.

Bishop Peak is about 25 miles from where we are staying, so that was my first challenge- getting there. My husband does the driving when we are on vacation and have a rental car because I’m too chicken to drive. My anxiety is made worse by his being a grouchy passenger-navigator. I was determined to get over my fear of driving in a strange place with a car I don’t own. So I did! We are in the mountains and the drive was scary. I was scared enough that I could feel the adrenalin. But I kept breathing and kept driving down that long, steep hill at 65 mph (105 km/h). It’s not like I had a choice once I found myself on that hill. There was only one way out- down.

Here’s the information the city gives on the hike:

Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 1,546 feet
Distance: 4 miles round trip
Estimated Time: 2 hours

I started the hike at an alternate trailhead (I found out later it was an alternate) so my gps told me I went 3.5 miles (5.6 km). The hike started at about 600 feet elevation. I made sure I had water and a snack and headed out. The beginning was a wooded patch with large rocks scattered about. Soon I found myself out on a hard, lumpy mud path with scattered gravel in the sun. This part was very steep and I worried about what I had gotten myself into. This part ended with me breathing hard and feeling determined to keep going unless I passed out. I entered into a wooded area again strewn with large rocks. The path was running along a vertical rock wall stretching up, up, up. This section went up and down alternating. The trail was very rocky with large and small rocks mixed with a sandy, dusty base. After awhile the trail broke out into the sunshine with gorgeous view of the town and mountains in the distance. The trail continued with the same dusty, rocky mix and zigzagged back and forth up to the top of the hill. It was very difficult maneuvering the rocks. They were all different sizes and most footsteps were done on rock of some sort. Because of the incline of the path, many steps were taken just like climbing stairs. Actually, some of the rock in some places had been either broken or placed (not sure which) so that they resembled stairs. Usually this was not more than three “stair steps” in a row. Some rocks you could squeeze a foot between. Some large rounded rocks you had to climb over with several footsteps. It definitely took a lot of focus and effort to maneuver those rocks!

All along the top portion the views were amazing. I kept stopping to take pictures (and catch my breath). The trail had lots of hikers. A lot of college students in great shape. Some runners. Lots of older people that surprised me and made me happy that I’m not too old to be hiking up a mountain. There were pets along for the hike too. I saw a white bird on one hiker’s shoulder. I guess it was something like a parrot. Lots of dogs. One was a cute labrador puppy. I saw two different dogs carrying doggy packs. One woman brought her three yorkshire terriers. So cute.

The best part was reaching the top. I felt so proud that I had accomplished my goal. And the view was breathtaking. There were two benches there and I sat on one and chatted with a couple my age from Michigan for about 45 minutes. It was so peaceful on top.

Coming down went faster, thanks to gravity. I tried to jog on the short (very short) less rocky sections. But there weren’t many of those and I couldn’t go more than ten, twenty feet before rocks got in the way of jogging. About two-thirds of the way down, my legs started to feel like jelly. And my knees really started to hurt. It really was a very strenuous hike. The whole thing took about two hours of hiking. We sure don’t have great hikes up a mountain/hill like this where I live.

The start of the hike looking up to the top

^^ The start of the hike looking up to the top ^^

Top of the steep beginning

^^ Top of the steep beginning ^^

Leaving the woods for the sunny zigzagging up the side

^^ Leaving the woods for the sunny zigzagging up the side ^^

A smoother section of the trail with less rocks

^^ A smoother section of the trail with less rocks ^^

A cool rock formation as I got higher

^^ A cool rock formation as I got higher ^^

Getting higher, things below are getting smaller

^^ Getting higher, things below are getting smaller ^^

Rocks everywhere, this point is getting close to the top

^^ Rocks everywhere, this point is getting close to the top ^^

Agile people can climb rocks from the top of the trail

^^ Agile people can climb rocks to get even higher ^^

The view from the top. A picture doesn't show how breathtaking it is.

^^ The view from the top. A picture doesn’t show how breathtaking it is ^^