Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Picacho Peak State Park, Picacho, Arizona

Just off Interstate 10 south of Casa Grande at exit 219 is Picacho Peak State Park. The main attraction of this state park is the horse saddle shaped Picacho Peak which stands at an elevation of 3,374'. This State Park offers several hiking trails; we chose to hike to the Picacho Peak’s summit. We took the Hunter Trail which begins on the north slope of the mountain and takes you through steep desert landscape full of saguaro cactus, barrel cactus and many other desert floras. This is a 2-mile, 1500-foot elevation change, strenuous hike that takes you through steep switchbacks, loose rocks and scrambles over rock formations. In addition, there are 8 to 9 sections where you need to utilize steel cables that have been installed to get up (or down) challenging vertical areas. In these cable sections, you will definitely utilize both your arms and legs. At times you are climbing the face of the mountain, which provides awesome views of the valley floor and gets you close to many swallows - there were numerous times that these guys would zoooooom just a couple of feet by our heads looking for food. Seeing (and hearing, as they swooshed by our heads) these birds was an unexpected bonus on this hike. Once on the summit, we enjoyed amazing 360 degree views of the surrounding desert valley.

This hike took us 4 hours to complete, including spending around 15 minutes enjoying the views from the summit. It was the one of the most difficult and most interesting hike (yet not most scenic) that we have done to date. We enjoyed the unique physical challenges as well as the many views. If you are afraid of heights, this hike is not for you. Tip - If you want to hike to the summit but want to less difficult start, you can take the Sunset Vista Trail. This trail connects to Hunter Trail on top of the mountain about 1 mile before the hike to the summit. It is 3.1 miles round trip and begins in the Sunset area of the park.

In addition to the great hiking, Picacho Peak has much historical significance to this area. It has acted as a landmark for travelers centuries and near by was the most significant civil war battle in Arizona on April 15, 1862. In fact, every March, there are reenactments at Picacho Peck of the battles and there are also living history demonstrations.

Tips:

1. Do not do the hike to the summit without thick gloves. They are a must to protect your hands while utilizing the steel cables and rock. Baseball or golf gloves are not thick enough.

2. Use small packs instead of large backpacks for food, water, etc.... - some of the cable areas are very narrow and would be very hard to negotiate with large packs. We use hip packs and on one occasion Suzanne had to remove hers to get past the narrow cables.

3. Start early and take plenty of water, for most of the most difficult climbing is in the sun.

1 comment:

Jerry and Suzy said...

WOW! Good for you! You guys have to do all that stuff for us -- we've done our share in the past, but now we'll enjoy your stories and photos!

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