Picacho Peak and Wildflowers!
California isn't the only state experiencing a Superbloom, Arizona is also covered in beautiful wildflowers right now! All of the snow and rain this winter has caused the Sonoran Desert to be rich and lush with greens, oranges, yellows, purples, and blues. One of the best places to see these wildflowers is Picacho Peak State Park.
It seems like almost everyone has hiked to the top of Picacho Peak but I had yet to do so. I figured since so many people have hiked it that it should be relatively easy. I knew it was rated "hard" but I've done other hard hikes. I knew there were cables to get to the top and gloves were recommended but I've been to the top of Babo, this should be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong! This hike turned out to be one of the harder trails I've had to navigate. And when I say "trail" I should mention that a good portion of this is a hiking trail but another good portion is sheer vertical rock with cables to help you get up. Part of me wished I had brought my climbing shoes!
My friends Jocelyn and James joined me as we all separately have talked about getting to the top of Picacho. Both of them have been to the top before and 8am Sunday morning we were headed north on I-10 to get to the park
I knew the wildflowers were supposed to be amazing here and I couldn't wait to see fields of them. It's still early in the season but there were wildflowers everywhere! Mexican gold poppies, lupines, scorpionweed, desert marigolds, brittlebrush, chulparosa, and desertbells all around the park.
We decided to start our hike at the Sunset Vista Trailhead, hiking up the back of the mountain, climbing to the top, then coming back down to the saddle and hiking down the front. This way also includes a 2 mile walk down the paved road back to the car but we wanted to get the full Picacho Peak experience.
The first part of the trail seemed like any other desert trail, gradual elevation gain with beautiful desert views. But once we reached the first set of cables I realized my first impressions of this hike were incredibly wrong.
After we finally made it to the saddle we had 5 more sets of cables before we got to the top. It was a beautiful Sunday and the trail was packed with people. Since there is only one set of cables it took longer to get up because of the amount of people waiting in each direction. This was frustrating at times but I tried to keep my spirits light and be thankful that people were so excited to be out on this beautiful day. After hiking, climbing, and waiting patiently for our turns, we finally made it to the top!
I finally checked off Picacho Peak! As the saying goes, the top is only halfway, so we started our descent to hike down the front side of Picacho. What I wasn't anticipating hiking back down to the saddle was the fact that we'd have to climb up more cables to get back up to the front of the mountain. By this point I was so over climbing and holding onto cables. I really underestimated how exhausted I would feel after this hike! Eventually the cables ended and we hiked down the rest of the trail, thankfully in the shade of the early afternoon.
We were greeted with more wildflowers, and more people, on the north side of the trail especially as we got closer to the parking lot. Many people had come just to see the wildflowers and it was heartbreaking to see so many people going off trail to get their perfect shot. I saw trampled flowers and people disregarding signs to stay on the trail.
If you plan to come out to see the wildflowers, please follow Leave No Trace Principles and stay on the trail. Do not pick wildflowers or step on vegetation. It can take years for plants and flowers to regrow. Just because you saw someone else step over there to take a picture doesn't mean that it's okay. One person can have a huge impact. Some Superbloom sites in Southern California have had to close access due to people not being respectful and causing severe damage.
Please let's help protect our beautiful places!
Picacho Peak via Sunset Vista & Hunter Trails
Date hiked: March 17, 2019
Total miles: 3.5 miles + 2 miles on the road
Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet
Total time: 6 hours
Land Acknowledgement: Ancestral lands of the Tohono O'odham and Hohokam