We must have passed by it a thousand times over the years going back and forth between Tucson and Phoenix. Last Saturday, we took the exit off I-10 and conquered Picacho Peak.
We paid the $7 State Park admission and parked a short distance from the visitor center near some bathrooms, strategically so they were close-by after our 6.6-mile loop hike.
After a short uphill walk along asphalt, we arrived at the Hunter Trail head.
It’s only 1.6 miles to the top, but this trail boasts a nice warning sign. I’d like to point out that it should recommend gloves. More on that soon.
The trail was steep from the start and got super steep a little over a quarter mile in. That’s when Maddie climbed on my back and about the time steel cables appeared for the first time. With gloves, the cables proved to be very useful in navigating the steep and rocky terrain.
We hiked in Picacho’s shadow for the first mile. That didn’t stop us from sweating. A mom and her young son passed while we shed our jackets. We would soon leap frog and not see them again until the top.
After 75 minutes, we made it to the saddle about a mile from the start. That’s when the trail got interesting.
We would climb down along a huge rock face before starting our climb again on the southern side of the peak. The going was steep and the passage was often narrow.
Now in the sunshine, we continued on as we passed many hikers either still going up or already coming down. It was a busy day on the hill, and we were drawing lots of attention with the kids on our backs. Heather received some fist bumps, a lady called us parents of the year, and two gentlemen (ages 76 and 82) asked to take our picture.
The last quarter mile had a series of rock climbs. It was challenging but fun! We made sure the kids were securely strapped in.
We made it to the top shortly before 11 where it was crowded with multiple teams. The closest cloud was 4 states away. The views were great, and there was a cool breeze. Perfect conditions for a snack break.
After 20 minutes, it was time to go. We headed back down the way we came for a half mile and then took the Sunset Trail at the junction.
Now on the southern side of the mountain, the trail quickly made its way down to the valley floor. We had one last section of cables to climb down. We found it easier going down backwards, similar to repelling.
Once off the hill, we were then led through the rolling foothills of a saguaro cactus forest.
After 2 miles, we made it to a developed picnic area. We would have to walk another 2 miles along the park road to get to our van. There was an adjacent foot trail so we didn’t have to suffer a long asphalt walk.
We finished at 2pm, ready for lunch and ice cream! Per tradition, we treated ourselves to Subway and DQ before heading home. We didn’t check off any AZT sections on this day, but we did finally check off this peak from our list! For good measure, we also enjoyed a backyard campfire at home before grilling some cheese burgers.
Date: January 26, 2019
Total miles: 6.6