This area was recently renamed, and used to be known as Squaw Peak. The new name was given in memory of Lori Piestewa, a Tuba City soldier who gave her life in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The name is pronounced: py-ess-tuh-wah.
Having spent a few days in Phoenix and starting to feel a bit dazed and confused by all the strip malls and endless miles of housing tracts that all begin to look disturbingly similar, I decided to head out for a hike up Piestewa Peak.
Located just west of Paradise Valley in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, its a popular hike to say the least. I’ve heard that on weekends and holidays it can be difficult to find a place to park, so plan accordingly. I arrived fairly early in the day during the Christmas holiday and had no trouble with parking, but when I left in the afternoon, cars were cruising the lot looking for a space, so be forewarned.
On the trail, expect a lot of people of all shapes and sizes, in various states of fitness. I was amazed by a number of folks actually running up the trail. No, I wasn’t one of those. It”s a little over a mile to the top with an elevation gain of 1,190 ft, and is rated as moderate. The lower portion is relatively easy, but it gets steeper as you approach the summit.
The views of Phoenix are spectacular, and begin just a short way into the hike, with plenty of spots to stop and enjoy. Take plenty of water and some snacks. The top has plenty of room to hang out and have lunch, and lots of friendly people willing to chat (once I caught my breath from tackling that last steep stretch near the top. Note to self: Get in better shape!)
Round trip for this hike took me about 3 hours, including a nice rest at the summit. No, I am not a fast hiker, especially going uphill. I stop for lots of rests and photos. Slow and steady wins the day. This is a hike I can’t even imagine doing in summer, as temperatures in Phoenix during the summer rarely dip below 100 degrees, and often hover around 115degrees.
When it’s all said and done, this is a great way to escape the metropolis of Phoenix for a bit, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty of the natural environment. While in the area, you might want to consider a visit to Cosanti in Paradise Valley, the iconic residence and sculpture studio of famed architect and visionary Paolo Soleri.