If you are a hiker who has considered or is planning a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, there is a good chance that you’ve heard of Piestewa Peak. It is one of the most challenging and well-known hikes in the city. But this mile plus trek up the craggy desert peak is more than just a physical feat. Hiking Piestewa Peak is a part of Phoenix culture, and it can also be very spiritual.

This mountain, so heavily trafficked and easily accessed, still offers her visitors an escape into nature. She will test your body, your mind, and your spirit – if you let her. And while many people strive for the summit (sometimes to their own detriment), you can experience this central Phoenix hiking landmark even if you just go up part way.

There are plenty of guides to this challenging urban hike – so while I will include some trail information here, my main purpose is to remind all her visitors that Piestewa is still a mountain to be loved and respected as the heart of Phoenix.

Is Hiking Piestewa Peak Right For You?

Even though the Piestewa Summit trail is right in the middle of the city, and on paper might not look too concerning, almost every year people die on the mountain. Sometimes it is the heat, dehydration, or even a fall. And I’m sure there are times when it is totally accidental, but I also see many people approach this trail without the respect and preparation that it deserves.

I will talk more about some safety tips below, but my main question when it comes to whether hiking Piestewa Peak is right for you comes down to two questions. Are you aware of the challenge that this trail represents? And are you willing to make decisions based around that?

Questions to Consider

hiking piestewa peak

Don’t let the photos fool you – this is STEEP (c) ABR.

If so, you can ask yourself a couple of things. (1) Are you physically prepared? The Piestewa Peak summit trail may be short, but it is a steep uphill climb from start to finish. Add to that that you will likely be dodging other hikers all the way up and down. It is just that busy.

(2) Are you willing to turn around and give up on the summit if that is the safest thing to do? I’ve been hiking Piestewa Peak before during very hot days. These are days when I decided to turn around. Meanwhile, tourists from colder states kept going up, without even a water bottle to quench their thirst. They might feel ok on the way up and down, if they are lucky, but many of them will have a killer headache in the evening. It’s better to know and acknowledge your limits. If it gets too hot, or you are too tired, please turn around. The reality is, no one but us cares if we make it to the summit… including the mountain. You can get so much out of this challenging urban hike without making it to the top.

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