Saturday, January 30, 2016

Picacho Peak Hike -Terrifyingly Awesome

I had heard that they had cables attached to the rock... and to get to the top you had to pull yourself up the rock, hand over hand while walking up the steep rock. So I thought, "I'm going to have to see this one for myself."

We always try to get in a hike somewhere along our journey back to Canada.  This time we planned to go thru Utah and Idaho to Walla Walla... and the only way to avoid the cold and snow this time was to hike in southern Arizona.

So I asked our next door neighbours if they would like to join us in hiking that unusual peak along the freeway heading north.

For many years we have driven past this iconic peak along I-10, which is between Phoenix and Tucson... about 40 miles north of Tucson... and we have often said we would like to stop sometime to hike it to the top.

Toy and Suk said "Yes, they would love to join us on this hike... they too had been cruising past it on the freeway thinking the same thing... someday... someday."

Our National Parks Seniors Pass doesn't count here in the state parks... so it cost $7.00 per car, for up to 4 people.  People on foot or bicycles pay $3.00 per person.

Right from the start the views of the mountain and the saguaros were wonderful.

Toy is scrambling up the trail.

Shirley was not sure about doing this hike all the way... and I told her even before we started, "Just hike as far you are comfortable... you don't have go any further than you want to."

As we climbed higher some of the steeper parts of the trail had heavy rebar posts with 3/4 inch cable handrails to help keep your balance and not fall.

It was a perfect day to do this hike... sunny with very little wind.

Shirley was running short on air, so decided to not try to do the summit... didn't want to slow us down. She took this shot of us before we got too far away from her.

It is always interesting to explore along the trail the first time you hike a new trail.

We watched this little peak as we climbed the Picacho Peak.  Apparently the name Picacho means "peak" in Spanish... which is a little redundant... like saying Peak Peak.

About five minutes after Shirley turned back Suk decided to keep her company. We didn't know it at the time, but we were less than ten minutes to the saddle... and I know Suk and Shirley could have made it that far.

But when we got to the saddle our hearts sank when we saw another group coming up from the other side of the saddle. From them we learned that to get to the peak we would have go down quite a lot, using cables before we could change course to head for the summit.

The saddle was in the shade... but Toy used his flash to capture this shot of me.  The view to the Tucson side was pretty impressive.

This was the first time we saw the double cables... one on each side. I was glad to have leather gloves to protect my hands and help get good grip.

There were a few sections of steps made of 8"x8" timbers... like pieces of railroad ties.

We were most happy to stop going down and then start the final ascent to the peak.

It was interesting how the builders of this trail chose to run the cables on each side of the crevice... rather than beside.

They call this kind of assistance with cables "via ferrata," which is Italian for iron road. Examples of via ferrata are more commonly found in Europe, such as the Alps.

As you can see, we found it even more difficult to come down some of these steep sections than to go up them.

This section had a cat walk in addition to a cable to hang onto.

We were both surprised as we made the final approach to the summit to see how many people were just coming down. This is a very popular hike!

I would guess there were over 60 people who hiked up here that morning.

We took each others photo on the peak.

And then I set up my iPhone on a little tripod with timed exposure to get both of us in the photo.

On top of the world... on Picacho Peak.

The view in every direction is truly spectacular... and we had the summit all to ourselves while we were there.

I kept telling myself if I ever started to fall, DON"T reach out and grab the cactus!

It took us about an hour and 45 minutes to reach the summit... and about an hour and 10 minutes to come back down. Much more work to climb up than come down.

Not as many stops to take photos on the return... plus I knew how far we had to get yet on Thursday... Fillmore, Utah was our goal.  That's about halfway to Walla Walla, Washington to our daughter's home.

Shirley watched for me as came back down... and she took at least 25 shots with her Nikon telephoto as I got closer and closer. It was easy to see me with that orange sweat shirt.

The final of the 25 shots... my victory pose.

I really enjoyed this cool video on the Picacho Peak State Park... a lot of history and interesting facts.

As I was coming down I asked a girl going up how she liked the hike.  She answered, "Terrifyingly awesome!" I thought that summed it up pretty well.

This is not a hike for everyone. In the reviews of hiking trails this one is rated "Strenuous." I think that is a notch above "Difficult." Even if you cannot make the peak, I think a reasonable goal is the saddle.

I would like to give credit to Toy, Suk and Shirley for generously sharing their photography, which I used in this blog along with my iPhone shots.


  1. great hike, would definitely like to do this one someday too..

  2. Keep on Hiking. How about trying Ecuador. I know lots of beautiful and challenging places here that you would very much enjoy. I love it here and I am sure we could find lots for you to see and enjoy as well.

    1. I would love to come to Ecuador and hike... but it won't be this year.