When it comes to hiking in Phoenix there are a few different muscle-building trails in and around the metro area. Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak are two of the most popular, but neither is going to kick your ass like the Flatiron via Siphon Draw Trail. For that reason, I would only suggest this trail to hikers who have trained for it. You need physical and mental stamina something fierce to make it up and down this trail in one piece. It’s steep, it’s busy, and it can be dangerous. But for those who are up to the challenge, it is also a supremely beautiful climb up one of the most iconic mountains in Arizona, and there is nothing more satisfying than making a difficult push to the finish line on a very hard trail.
TL;DR The Flatiron via Siphon Draw trail is the perfect challenge for hikers who are comfortable with the likes of Camelback and Piestewa, and it will reward those who scale it’s heights with unbelievable views and a unique trail experience not found elsewhere. If you aren’t prepared, however, this is a trail better used as a training goal than a risk.
Need to Know Information
Trail Difficulty: Extreme
Trail Length: 6 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 2600+ feet
Fees: $10.00 per vehicle on holidays and the weekend (Fri-Sun), and $7.00 per vehicle on weekdays
Facilities: Yes, at the trailhead
Vehicular Access: Paved roads provide all access to this trailhead
Water Availability: None after the trailhead
Good for Dogs and Kids? No
Season: Late spring and early fall; avoid high temperatures and ice on the trail.
Fear of Heights Difficulty: High
You will access Flatiron via Siphon Draw Trail via Lost Dutchman State Park.
What’s It Like on the Flatiron via Siphon Draw Trail?
My short answer is, it’s beautiful, but I barely remember anything from the trail besides getting started and summitting at the end. The Superstition mountains are one of the best places for hiking in Phoenix, because they are sublime. Even if you don’t hike, visit these mountains to check them out from base camp. They are amazing, and this trek leads you into their stony heart!
Also, I was hugely proud of myself when I got home after this hike. It was so hard, and at times I was even scared, but I did it safely! There’s no better feeling.
But when I say I don’t remember much from the main part of that hike, that’s because the Flatiron via Siphon Draw trail is so hard, that for most of the climb, I had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other in order to get myself to the top. It is just so steep that for most hikers, you will be maintaining a very slow pace up the trail. I knew that if I kept looking up at the summit, I would want to give up. It was that steep and thus, I was moving that slow.
And going down wasn’t much better. My legs were definitely quaking at the end.
The other unique element of this experience is that my hands were freezing! Even though I brought gloves, I was needing to grip onto the cold rocks so often to move up and down the trail that the cold seeped through my gloves.
To my mind, there are four section to this trail- moving in one direction. The most difficult sections are the two in the middle, and each present unique challenges.
Section One: Trailhead to Mountain
The first section leaves from the parking area and travels along well-maintained routes to the base of the Superstitions. While there is a slight rise along the way, this is relatively flat and provides the best views of the mountain itself.
For those who might not want to complete Flatiron via Siphon Draw trail, a nice walk to the base of the mountain will be well worth the crowds. Enjoy the lowlands of the Sonoran Desert and be sure to snap some pictures of the mountains. If you do complete the trail, believe me, you won’t be taking pictures on the way out.
Section Two: The Big Climb
This is the most difficult section of the trail. You will be doing some hand-over-foot climbing, and while awesome in its beauty, this part of the trek can feel like a slog.
The manicured trail will end when you reach the roots of the Superstitions. From here on out, you will be following the natural pathway of Siphon Draw, which has been carved out of the stone of mountain by water flow. In any attempt to summit, this should be dry, but it can run when there is rain.
Generally speaking, you will be walking on stone for this section of the trail. In a few places, it is fairly smooth although good hiking shoes will generally grip. Otherwise, however, you will be making your way up gravel-covered shelves of jagged, unforgiving stone. Any time the trail levels out for a few yards, you will rejoice.
Section Three: The Cliff
Most people likely wouldn’t consider this to be a section, it’s probably less than 1% of the trail, but the fear factor here is high, so I am including it. At the very end of the steepest part of the upperwards climb on the Flatiron via Siphon Draw trail, there is a cliff. You have to climb it.
Technically speaking, it isn’t difficult. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t present challenges, particularly for those with a fear of heights. First, there may be a bit of a bottleneck here, meaning you will have to wait for people and then you may feel pressured to hurry when you are trying to navigate as well. Second, you will likely be exhausted at the point that you attempt this. Take your time and move slowly facing inwards.
Section Four: Up to Flatiron
Don’t think your hike is over when you get over the cliff. No, you will still need to hike up to your right (when facing up the trail the direction that you came) to reach Flatiron itself. Luckily, this part of the trek, while still up, isn’t nearly as steep as what you just did. In fact, it might feel like a nice stroll and the views on Flatiron are well worth the added length. When considering the many options for hiking in Phoenix, the Flatiron via Siphon Draw trail has the best overlook of the lot.
Safety on the Trail
44 People Overheat on Siphon Draw
In August 2019, a weird thing happened on the Flatiron via Siphon Draw Trail- fourty-four people had to be rescued off of it. In this case, there were no fatalities, but two people had to be airlifted to safety, and a nearly fifty people almost succumbed to the unforgiving conditions of the Arizona desert. So, what happened?
They didn’t respect the Sonoran Desert summer and they underestimated the trail.
First, whether you are a resident or visitor, you should know that August in Phoenix is HOT, and the whole dry heat thing is a dangerous dismissal of extremely dangerous conditions. On the day that this rescue occurred, it was 106 F degrees. From experience, I can tell you that hiking in these conditions, even on flat ground, is a miserable time. If I could try to describe the feeling to you, I would say- I feel like my organs are melting as the heat seeps deeper and deeper into the layers of my body. And that’s before any clinical impacts of heat like heat exhaustion or heat stroke set in.
Now, couple that with the fact that your body increases temperature when physically active, such as say… while you are climbing a mountain. Combined, you have an extremely dangerous situation, as no amount of sweat evaporating in the “dry heat” is going to cool you down. And in fact, the more you sweat, the more dehydrated you will become, making things more dire.
So dire, that more than 40 people couldn’t return to safety without a rescue effort.
While I am happy that they are all safe, every experienced hiker in Arizona shakes their head at people who do this to themselves. We can’t stop accidents from happening, but in this case, a series of bad choices was the culprit that almost led to a tragic end.
Luckily, it is possible to avoid dangerous situations like these- which aren’t an accident, but the product of ignorance. Be prepared. Know that you are responsible for your own health and safety on the trail. Here are some tips:
(1) Do not attempt this trail in the heat- avoid the summer and even fall/spring if temperatures while you are on the trail will be over 95 F degrees.
(2) Bring more than enough water. Yes, it will make your pack heavier, but it could also save your life. I would suggest at least two liters to be safe.
(3) Wear good shoes and bring gloves. This trail requires good grip and protection on both your hands and feet.
(4) Bring healthy snacks for sustained energy on the trail.
(5) Always let someone at home know where you are going and when you plan on being back. Check in with them when you get home.
Respect the Trail
Whether you are visiting or live here, respecting Flatiron via Siphon Draw trail and its community is essential to hiking in Phoenix and elsewhere. Travel destroys without respectful participants. For tips on how to do this, Leave No Trace is a great place to start but here are my additional suggestions:
(1) Go prepared. Getting into trouble because of bad decisions puts rescuers and other hikers at risk, and costs the community.
(2) Never litter on the trail. This includes human waste (aka poop); if you have to go while hiking, you must bury all of your waste and toilet paper, and if you can’t you will need to PACK IT OUT. Might sound crazy, but you do it for your doggy (I hope!) and you can safely do so for yourself as well. Just bring the supplies for it even if you aren’t sure you will need them.
(3) Being polite goes a long way. Move over for faster people on the trail or people hiking up. Wear headphones if you want to listen to music. And leave the drone at home.
More Arizona Travel
Nightborn Travel is lovingly run by two gals who grew up in Arizona, and love to explore its natural, historic, and cultural wonders. We have something for locals looking for new adventures and visitors planning a visit to our breath-taking home. Check it out at our Guide to Arizona.
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