An Arizonan’s Guide to the Pinnacle Peak Hike

Why Pinnacle Peak

pinnacle peak hike

The Pinnacle Peak hike is an insular island of mountain goodness tucked away on the northern edge of Scottsdale. The star of this hiking show is Pinnacle Peak itself, which will immediately dominate your view when you pull up and park. It isn’t particularly tall, comparatively, but this little peak is characterized by some really neat boulders and the rocky spire itself is definitely picture-worthy. Pinnacle Peak Park is a great place to take the family for a short trek to see the peak and some wonderful views of the McDowell Mountains. For regular hikers, it is also a good exercise trail and you will immediately see that it has more of a work out culture than a hiking one.

You can also go rock climbing at Pinnacle Peak, but I have never been, so I would suggest checking out the park website for more info.

Trail Statistics

pinnacle peak hike

(c) ABR 2018

Length: 3.5 miles round trip (1.75 in one direction)

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult due to the incline, particularly in the final section of the trail

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft

Cost: Free

Parking at the trailhead? Yes

Toilets at the trailhead? Yes

 How to Get There

pinnacle peak hike

Almost no matter where you are coming from in the Phoenix-area, you will need to head north to reach Pinnacle Peak Park. You can take the 101 to either the Pima or Scottsdale exit. Then follow either of those roads north. You will then take Happy Valley Rd to the east until you hit Alma School Rd which you will take north. Finally, follow signs to the parking area.

Infrastructure at Pinnacle Peak

pinnacle peak hike

(c) ABR 2018

The Pinnacle Peak hike calls Scottsdale, one of the richest parts of the city, home, and it shows. The trailhead has a very nice building where you can go to the bathroom and get information about the trail. There are maps available and staff/volunteers to talk to. Along the trail you will also note that there is very good signage for different landmarks. This is really nice for the photographers among us. There are also emergency markers along the trail. And there are volunteers that hike it every so often to keep an eye on things.

Rules for the Trail

pinnacle peak hike

(c) ABR 2018

Pinnacle Peak Park has some special rules that you will need to know before you head over there. In addition to the average rules and manners to keep in mind, they have some restrictions on hiking times and photography.

This park has strict hours and you will not be allowed to hike when the park is closed. The hours change with the season, so reference the following link to see when the park will be open on your hiking dates.

Commercial activities are not allowed in the park, and that includes photography that will be directly used for commercial purposes. As I mentioned previously, volunteers do monitor the trail, so if you are planning on setting up an Instagram shoot, make sure that you are allowed at the information station. If not, you will likely get caught.

Trail Culture

The Pinnacle Peak hike has a trail culture that is becoming more and more common in Phoenix. Specifically, it is dominated by people who are either visitors or people working out. For old-school hikers, this means that you shouldn’t expect to see Leave No Trace or hiking etiquette. There also tends to be a lot of people on the trail and most won’t greet you like in less exercised-focused trails.

Journey Across Pinnacle Peak Park

Inwards and Upwards
pinnacle peak hike

(c) ABR 2018

The Pinnacle Peak Trail starts at a beautiful trailhead with all the amenities, bathrooms, maps, helpful volunteers, and water fountains. From there, you will pass through the metal gate that is closed off-hours, and begin winding your way up towards the peak itself. After making you huff a bit, the trail will give you a bit of a break as it takes you around the mountain. The path will turn away from the trailhead and climb up to the rock spire for which the park is named. It then snakes out across the boulder-covered mountain to the west.

pinnacle peak hike

(c) ABR 2018

A bit more elevation gain and you will be up high enough to get some great pictures of the spire. There will also be views of Scottsdale and Phoenix stretching off in all directions. For some, this will be the place to turn around. But if you want to complete the trail, you will keep walking as the path dips down into the saddle between the spire and the rest of the mountains in Pinnacle Peak Park.

You will then climb upwards again, before running into some signs that warn you about the difficulty of the rest of the trail. From here, should you decide to continue on, you will follow a steep decent back into the neighborhood. The hard part is that this trail is not a loop, so everything you just went down, you will need to get back up.

Inwards and Upwards… Again
pinnacle peak hike

(c) ABR 2018

Make your way back up the steep section of the trail. You will get a bit of a rest as you trek across the flatter parts of the path that come directly after. But your trek home won’t finish climbing uphill until you pass the spire again. Overall, all the elevation gain and loss makes this an impactful workout for its relatively short length. And the spire, Pinnacle Peak, makes it a unique place for visitors.

Need More Arizona Inspiration?

For more information and inspiration on all things Arizona, be sure to check out our guide to our home state. I guarantee there will be places on there that you hadn’t thought about before.

pinnacle peak hike

pinnacle peak hike

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16 Comments

  1. This is absolutely stunning. I’ve always wanted to go to Arizona. I never realized there were so many rules of hiking/trails. Great info!

    • waitingforrain28

      Most trails don’t have so many rules, but this one has alot of support from volunteers so they can support some more rules. Always good to be safe either way! I hope you make it out here someday soon!

  2. candy

    We love to get out and still do some hiking. We can’t go as far as we use to and need extra breaks but the view is always worth the hike. Would like to try this soon.

    • waitingforrain28

      This would be a great trail for that. There are great views all along the way and about a quarter way is a great place to turn around if there’s a need for it.

  3. Seeing this post makes me want to go hiking again! We used to a few years ago, but no where quite so stunning. Thanks for all the insight about this trail!

    • waitingforrain28

      I hope that you get to go out again soon! We are spoiled here in Phoenix, because there are trails everywhere!

  4. This post has inspired me someday to play a hiking trip with my boys. It seems to be a beautiful place to hike, I really enjoyed all the great insign of all the trails that it has to offer. thanks for sharing this.

    • waitingforrain28

      You guys would have a great time, especially if you have never been to AZ before.

  5. Sheena Moncatar

    As I love hiking as much as photography, I suppose I need to know what I can and cannot shoot. It’s very important for me to know because I do not want to get into trouble. I remember some places in Asia don’t allow government buildings to be photographed. In Bali, we did not know that we cannot take photos inside the airport, we did not see signs so someone approached us and asked us politely to hand over our camera. We did and they deleted some photos. We were not even close to the immigration area yet. Best to know than be caught.

    • waitingforrain28

      Luckily, as long as you aren’t planning on using your photos commercially, there is no problem. And if you get caught, it’s by a friendly volunteer.

  6. KeshiaRichmond

    Oh wow, would love to hike the Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale. What a lovely trail!

  7. Thanks for sharing about this interesting place. I would love to be there and enjoy the hike and scenery.

  8. Elizabeth O

    I love hiking although I haven’ t been on one in 2- 3 years. This looks like a pretty good hike.

    • waitingforrain28

      I hope you get to go again soon! I’ve taken breaks for a while before too, but it’s great to come back to it.

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