Sitting at an elevation of 2,612 feet and hitting charts as Phoenix’s 2nd tallest peak, Piestewa Peak is a challenging hike with a highly rewarding view. While it isn’t one of the iconic landmarks that surround the Phoenix Valley, it is an extremely popular summit for visitors and locals due to its close proximity to both Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Catching a sunrise or sunset on top of the peak is a memory you’re sure to remember forever. You’ll likely be sharing the memory with strangers since it can get crowded, but the 360 degree views from the top provides opportunity to spread apart as you peer out at the sprawling city lights.
In this post I’ll guide you through the best time to hike Piestewa Peak, where to park, and important trail details to help you safely conquer one of Phoenix’s more difficult hikes.
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Piestewa Peak Trail Stats
- Hiking Distance | 2.1 miles
- Difficulty | Difficult
- Elevation Gain | 1,148 feet
- Total Time | 1.5 – 2 hours
- Permits/Fees | None
- Trailhead | Piestewa Peak Trailhead
- Dog Friendly | No Dogs Allowed
Below is a map of the route up to Piestewa Peak Summit.
This hike is located in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve which is about 20 minutes North East from the heart of downtown. No permits or fees are needed, and dogs are not allowed up Piestewa Peak. Parking is difficult if you’re not an early bird, but we’ll cover more on that later in this post!
How Difficult Is Piestewa Peak?
Piestewa Peak is the 2nd tallest peak in the city of Phoenix and you’ll be climbing 1,148 feet in elevation over the course of 1.05 miles, so needless to say this one is steep! There is only one way up to the jagged peak which is via the Summit Trail #300. This trail challenges hikers with a steep and rocky climb up steps made of old concrete which eventually give way to natural steps carved out of the mountain’s rock.
Expect to begin climbing elevation right away with little to zero paths that level out for a break. Be prepared for your glutes and calves to quickly tighten and your breathing to grow difficult. Hiking up Piestewa Peak can be a strenuous workout for many hikers and is not beginner hiker friendly.
While this hike is difficult, it is a fun and challenging peak to summit and you’ll find that locals frequent this trail for early morning workouts.
Piestewa Peak Parking
Parking here can be a bit of a doozy, so I highly suggest arriving for sunrise or chance it later in the afternoon for sunset. The parking lots seem small compared to the demand and you may find yourself waiting for hikers to return to their car so you can swoop into their spot.
Once you turn onto Piestewa Peak Dr. it will take you into the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. There will be a parking lot on your right but drive past that because you want to park in the first parking lot on your left. The Summit Trail #300 leads directly from here and up to the peak. If parking is full you can try the next parking lot on the left or the parking lot further down on your right. If you have to park at either of these it will add distance to your hike.
Best Season For Hiking Piestewa
Hiking in the Phoenix valley is safest and most comfortable during the months of November-April. It is not recommended to hike outside of these months (especially Piestewa Peak) due to the extreme temperatures and sun exposure.
Too many people are rescued off this mountain each year due to heat related illnesses and/or being unprepared. Usually these are hikers visiting from other states or who just moved to town. They tend to underestimate the heat and overestimate their abilites, ignoring all of the warning signs by the local parks, police, and rescue teams.
Please, listen to everyone and do not hike during high temperatures, midday in the summer, or without enough water. You should bring 2 liters of water per person on this hike!
Many locals, myself included, do hike this trail during early or late summer (not mid summer) only if the morning temperatures are cooler. Check the daily high before your hike, begin before sunrise, and make it quick!
This trail is closed once temperatures hit 100 degrees or more! It is enforced by local law enforcement because too many people were getting into trouble with the heat.
Sunrise Or Sunset Hike?
Piestewa Peak provides stunning 360 degree views from the top making it a great hike for sunrise or sunset. But a sunset hike is only a good idea during the cooler months November-April because the nighttime temperatures won’t be too hot.
During summer the temperatures don’t cool down fast enough for this peak to be safely hiked for sunset. It can still be 90-100+ degrees!
Sunrise is my favorite time to hike Piestewa, no matter the season. It is a great way to start the day and the early morning lighting makes for great photos.
Preparation saves lives. Know where you are going ahead of time and always have a way to keep yourself on trail. One way to do this is with a GPS system or app like Gaia GPS.
You can download my Piestewa Peak Summit hike and gain access to my library of all tracked hikes. Once downloaded, you can load it into your trusty device for ease of mind!
Hiking Piestewa Peak Summit
From the main parking lot Summit Trail #300 begins as a dusty, rocky trail that contains concrete steps that are not in the best shape. Overtime these have given way to the natural elements and broken apart. I’ve found it easier at times to hike along the narrow curb that lines the trail!
Right away the trail gets to business by climbing elevation. It winds and turns as it leads you further up the mountain and deeper into the preserve. Some steps are spaced properly while others are not and it messes up your stride. Not only that but some of the steps are very high and you may need to take a second to prepare yourself for the hoist up.
I like to compare Piestewa Peak to the Stairmaster machine at the gym. Honestly it seems like you’re just climbing stairs all the way to the peak! Of course the further you get the better the views become. This area is simply stunning in early morning light.
Some sections of the trail will have a metal railing along one side to help hikers keep their balance with the extra steep steps. These are nice to use unless you’re a daredevil with extreme balance (kidding). For real though, I’ve seen kids and trail runners wipe out on this trail because it is so rocky and uneven- go nice and steady!
Once you make it to the peak it is a slight scramble to the very top but nothing too crazy. Piestewa Peak is very jagged at the top with sharp pointy rocks so it isn’t extremely comfortable to sit on! There is plenty of room to find a spot and take a break before heading back down.
Gear For Short Urban Hikes
- Sturdy hiking shoes are always a must. A lot of short, urban hikes around the Phoenix valley have rocky trails so I love wearing my Adidas Terrex because they are durable and have excellent grip.
- Hiking pack with water reservoir. I love using my Camelback pack and 1.5L water reservoir (they came together) because it is lightweight but also has pockets to store my phone and a protein bar. It is nice being able to have my hands free while hiking and easier to stay hydrated while on the go.
- Hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses are a must in the desert! To help protect myself from the sun I like using Coola Sunscreen because it is organic and safe for both myself and the outdoor environment. If I wear a hat I usually wear my Under Armor cap or a bucket hat for more coverage.
Is Piestewa Peak Harder Than Camelback?
If you haven’t heard of Camelback yet, it is the other iconic hike centrally located to Phoenix and Scottsdale. It gets swarmed by visitors and locals almost every day of the week! It is also rated difficult, but which one is more difficult?
The answer to this question will be different for every hiker. I actually think Piestewa is more difficult than Camelback, whereas some of my friends swear by the opposite. I’ll break it down for you below so you can make the best educated decision for yourself if you are conflicted on which one to do.
Also note that there are two different trails you can take to hike up Camelback. Since Echo Canyon is the most popular and has easier access, I’ll be comparing this trail with Piestewa Peak.
Piestewa Peak clocks in at 2.1 miles while Camelback Echo Canyon is 2.25 miles. That is a 0.15 mile difference between the two which is almost nothing in terms of hiking. I’d say they are about equal in distance difficulty.
In terms of the amount of elevation you’ll climb during these hikes, they are relatively the same and not enough of a spread to make one more difficult than the other. Piestewa climbs 1,148 feet while Echo Canyon climbs 1,134.
This is where the two trails really differ. Piestewa’s trail is dirt, rocky, and has a lot of steps to go up. I compare it to a Stairmaster workout in the gym. My glutes are always sore after this hike and the consistent incline kills my lungs because I have asthma. Seriously, it feels like there are no sections of this trail that level out and give you a break. But there is no scrambling involved or climbs up slippery rock.
Echo Canyon has a couple tricky spots and a long scramble to the top. In fact, I feel like the majority of the hike up this trail is scrambling. There are sections where you’ll have to use a railing to help you up very steep, slippery rock. This kills your calves and maybe forearms. The scrambling requires you to use both hands at times, and again, kills your calves. But there are sections of the trail where it levels out and you get a break to catch your breath.
Recap: Hiking Piestewa Peak
All in all I often enjoy an early morning hike up Piestewa Peak before I start my work day. It is a great challenge for me no matter what kind of shape I am in. You can push yourself as fast and hard as you want to curate the type of workout you’re looking for.
If you’re not up for such a steep climb be sure to check out the other trails circling the base of the mountain. Summit Trail #300 is not the only trail in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve! You can connect multiple others for a more moderate or easy hike.
I hope you get the chance to hike Piestewa Peak and enjoy the view at the top!
More in Phoenix:
- Take a cruise with Lake Pleasant Cruises- One of the best Phoenix attractions
- 9 Amazing Superstition Mountains Hikes for your Bucket List
- The Gateway Loop Trail- A BEAUTIFUL Scottsdale Hike
- Tom’s Thumb Trail in Scottsdale, AZ- all you need to know
- Hike Pinnacle Peak Trail in Pinnacle Peak Park, Scottsdale
I’d love to hear from you!
Are you putting Piestewa Peak on your itinerary? Or have you hiked it before? Share in the comments below.