Hiking Piestewa Peak in Phoenix

Piestewa Peak is the prominent peak in the middle of Phoenix, second only to Camelback Mountain.  I know I hiked that mountain a long, long time ago, but that’s all I remember. I had no recollection of the hike itself or when I did it. It must have been in the late 1970s, more than 40 years ago. Back then the mountain was called Squaw Peak.

It was renamed in 2003 in honor of Lori Piestewa, a Hopi woman and a member of the U.S. Army who was killed in action during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The renaming was part of an effort to eliminate derogatory and offensive names from geographic features and recognize the contributions of Native Americans and other individuals. Lori Piestewa was the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military.

Renaming the peak in her honor was a way to pay tribute to her sacrifice and Native American heritage.

I set my alarm to 4:30am, so I would be at the trailhead by about 5:00am. I wanted to see the sunrise from the peak – and I wanted to beat the heat of the day.

It was dark in the parking lot, and I had not brought any headlight or flashlight. But there was a 3/4 moon high above and it lit up the trail just nicely. I had no trouble finding my way and watching my steps.

The hike is actually listed as strenuous. It’s about 1.2 miles up and then the same way back, with an elevation gain of 1,151 feet. That’s quite steep, and I felt it.

Here is a picture of nearby Camelback Mountain to the east, before the sunrise. The lights of the vast expanse of Phoenix in all directions at night were spectacular.

Here is a section of the trail with the peak close within reach.

I took this picture on the way down, so the sky is light, but I wanted to show you the steepness of the trail and how rough it was as I approached the summit.

And finally, here I am at the peak. The sun is not quite up yet.

Looking over to the main peak, there are about a dozen of us up there waiting for the sunrise.

At the top was a Japanese folk artist by the name of Ken Koshio. He has carried up several musical instruments, including bells, a flute, and as you can see a large drum, every day since March 28, 2020. He says he has celebrated the sunrise on the mountain every single day since then, more than 1280 times (he gave the exact number but I didn’t write it down). Here is his website.

Ken drummed up the sun for our small group huddling on she sharp rocks.

Once the sun was up it was time to make my way down. There are several prominent “windows” facing west looking down on Phoenix. This is one view with the bright sun behind me lighting up the rock to my right.

I was back down around 8:00am to start my day and my first meeting at 9:00.

What a wonderful way to start a day on the road!




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