Much of the desert Southwest is fairly flat with large swaths of dry vegetation consisting of tumbleweeds and cacti. In Scottsdale, Arizona, these expanses of flat landscape give way to several small mountain ranges. Given that there is a highly active population living in Scottsdale, it’s no surprise that hiking is a popular pastime.
On the outskirts of Scottsdale is a well-trod trail that skirts Pinnacle Peak, an aptly named, steep mountain that serves as a destination for both rock climbers and hikers. From the trailhead, the path winds up the side of the mountain via switchbacks, crosses over a saddle, skirts along a second mountain and ends suddenly at the border of the park. Along the trail are expansive views of the houses, golf courses and desert vegetation spread throughout the Scottsdale area.
Feeling a bit antsy about sitting around after a day of traveling to Scottsdale, we decided to hike Pinnacle Peak for the fresh air and ability to stretch our legs a bit. We weren’t the only ones. The park is very popular, and there were oodles of people who clearly had the same plan we did. Families with little kids, couples and trail runners shared the path with us (though the trail runners were a bit difficult to navigate around at times), and even though it was a bit steep or challenging in places, everyone was able to walk at their own speed. Pull-outs along the trail aided in passing other hikers as needed.
I am not really sure why Pinnacle Peak Park is so popular. It has been open to the public for hiking and rock climbing since 2002, and there is a non-profit organization that keeps the park in good condition. The trail is well groomed and a good length (a little less than four miles round trip), and the views of the city are beautiful. I also definitely appreciate the ability to park and enjoy the trail for free, but I’ve got to believe that there are other hiking opportunities near the city.
In addition to the slightly crowded trail, the only other odd thing about the hike is that you walk out and then back. We were hoping to walk a loop (out via trail, back via road), but this adds four miles to the hike. The trail ends unexpectedly, and the point is not to reach a fantastic overlook or a terminus on the trail. You are meant to enjoy the hike for the hike’s sake while taking in the views along the way.
In any case, we enjoyed our afternoon at Pinnacle Peak. Comfortable, sunny weather x a need for some exercise + beautiful surroundings = the perfect equation for visiting this hiking area in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Our tips for visiting Pinnacle Peak:
- Carry plenty of water even if it’s winter and not particularly hot outside. Scottsdale is located in the desert, and you’ll need to stay well hydrated on your hike.
- Start your hike early enough so that you’ll be back at your car by dusk. The trail could be quite treacherous after dark.
- Watch out for desert critters. Snakes, scorpions and spiders are all found along the trail.
- Wear sturdy shoes. Flip flops won’t do you well on the trail.
- Though it is a good path for trail running, if you want to run, go early in the morning to avoid the afternoon crowds.