While I love gentle hikes that are great for the whole family, there are times when I really enjoy a hike that will really get my heart pumping (and isn’t necessarily little kid friendly.) One of my favorites for those kind of days is Pinnacle Peak Trail. Nestled in Pinnacle Peak Park (found in the Troon North area of North Scottsdale) – it’s a gorgeous trail of rocky hills and desert vegetation and a 1,300 foot elevation gain.
Pinnacle Peak Park is a City of Scottsdale maintained park. The trail runs through this park. The trail is an over and back trail, NOT a loop trail with a total length of approximately 3.5 miles. There are two ways to get onto the trail – Jomax Road and 102nd Way. There is absolutely no parking on the Jomax Road side (if you attempt it, you very well might get a ticket), but a nice paved parking lot at the 102nd Way access point (33.7282232, -111.8613593). Be aware, however, that this is a heavily used trail and the parking lot is nearly always full unless you get there at park opening. Weekdays are slightly better, but weekends are very crowded. Parking is also allowed outside the park gates on 102nd Way and you’ll find that lots of hikers leave their cars on that road.
Because of the substantial elevation change, this trail is considered moderate. I’ve taken my kids there in backpacks as babies and toddlers and had my elementary aged children hike on their own two feet, but never for the whole trail. With only other adults – this trail will take you anywhere from 1 ½ to 2 hours depending on your level of fitness and how much you stop to admire the views.
There is a trailhead office, restrooms, water, and a nice atrium type area just past the paved parking lot. Park hours are seasonal (check the City of Scottsdale site for current hours.) During the winter months the trail is usually open from 6:30am to 6:45pm. You can grab a trail map at the visitor’s center or print one out ahead of time with the link above.
Unfortunately, there are no dogs or bicycles allowed on this trail. It’s so heavily utilized that it just wouldn’t be safe for bicycles to be there as well as hikers. Strangely enough, horses are allowed. I can’t imagine taking a horse on this trail. Also, if you’re an experienced rock climber, there are three designated rock climbing only areas. Each of the turn-off points are marked with signage.
For those who enjoy expert-led tours – there are guided interpretive tours held each Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 10am. I passed one group on my way down off the trail and the guide was very friendly. I’ve never actually attended one, but I hear tell that the tours are great at highlighting the desert wildlife and vegetation.
The trail surface itself is decomposed granite from Pinnacle Peak Mountain. Because the trail is so heavily used, it’s very well maintained. Here’s a shot from the very beginning of the trail.
The elevation change begins to happen pretty quickly. So if you remember to turn around, the views of the surrounding area are pretty amazing. Here’s a shot from a few hundred yards up the trail.
The trail relies heavily on switchbacks to get you up the mountain quickly without too steep of a climb. In the shot below, you can see the hikers on the trail just above the point I’m standing at. This is also the ¼ mile marker.
If you turn around at this same point – you can get a pretty good overhead view of the parking lot, office, and atrium areas.
As you hike around Pinnacle Peak itself, you’ll see the smaller hill that lies directly to the west of it (which you’ll hike around as you continue on the trail.) You can see the hill as you turn the corner on the trail.
As you continue on the trail, you’ll come across a viewpoint called Grandview. It’s a great place to stop and grab a drink and admire the gorgeous views spread out before you. And you can also see the golf course that runs around beside the mountains.
I love knowing the highest point on a trail – it gives me a sense of accomplishment. So I love that on this trail – there’s a sign.
As you continue along – there’s another little viewpoint called Owl’s Rest.
The hike until this point has been mostly uphill, with some small flat sections. Now you’re going to turn down and begin a pretty steep downhill section which will take you down the west side and out onto the hill to the west. It’s a nice change of pace. This is a shot looking up from where I just came from.
And here’s a shot looking back after I’d crossed over to the smaller mountain.
The trail on the smaller mountain seems like it wouldn’t be as challenging as the Pinnacle Peak side, but to be honest, it’s a lot tougher. It’s a steeper trail and there is no relief. There’s even a sign at one point that warns of a strenuous area coming up.
At the bottom of this trail is the trail’s end. Now you just reverse where you came from.
Here’s the trailhead sign if you were to enter off of Jomax Road.
Here’s another shot of the trail on that side. There’s lots of steps built into it because it’s so steep.
If you’re traveling with kids or anyone else who might not be able to make the whole trail, there are handy markers every ¼ mile on the trail to help you gauge when you need to turn around.
There are lots of signs pointing out different plants. I encourage you to stop and read the signs. And also, there are some beautiful saguaros all along the trail. This is one of my favorites. Isn’t it just amazing?
I did this hike in mid-February so temperatures were in the 70’s. As always, please remember that this hike is extremely hot and sunny during summer months. It is very important you pack enough water (at least 1 liter per person) and use caution to avoid heatstroke. In summer, it’s a hike best done in the early morning hours. During the rest of the year – temperatures are usually very pleasant and can sometimes even be downright cold because of the breezes you catch being so high up.
If you haven’t checked it out yet – it’s great fun! For more information, please visit the City of Scottsdale Pinnacle Peak Park site.
Other Nearby Parks and Trails:
- Boynton Canyon Vortex – Sedona, Arizona
- Maverick Trail, Brown’s Ranch – Scottsdale, Arizona
- Quartz Trail, McDowell Sonoran Preserve – Scottsdale, Arizona
- Red Rock State Park – Sedona, Arizona
- Tonto Natural Bridge State Park – Payson, Arizona
- Tuzigoot National Monument – Clarkdale, Arizona
- West Clear Creek: One of Arizona’s Finest Canyons
Guest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.