Return to Picacho Peak State Park
Our next adventure came at the end of December after the site shut down for the holidays. Leaving Las Cruces for a couple weeks, our plan was to head straight to California to spend Christmas with Tom’s daughter Amy, the grandkids, and Tom’s son Nick and then return via Organ Pipe Cactus and Chiricahua National Monuments in Arizona. When the government shutdown looked to be staying in effect through the end of the year we began looking at alternatives and tentively decided to camp and hike near Prescott or maybe hike the Superstition Mountains. But then it got cold. And then the rain started – days and days of rain, and snow above 5,000 feet. We clearly needed to stay in the desert.
The uncharacteristic weather on top of the national monument closures had us a bit bummed at first but then Tom suggested a return to Picacho Peak State Park. Tom has been there more than once but we had also visited together 4 years ago and loved it. With hopes of getting at least one decent weather day we booked ourselves in for 5 days; lucky for us we got one and a half which was all we needed to hike the peak trail. In the intervening days I enjoyed the quiet and spent my time reading, blogging, and baking in addition to doing some work. I also took advantage of any short breaks in the weather to walk with Abbs outside. So despite the mostly poor weather it ended up being quite a relaxing and enjoyable time.
But, back to the peak. I’ve blogged about this hike before so I won’t go into too much detail except to say it short, steep, and fun. Once you finish the switchbacks up the east side and cross over the saddle the chained sections begin; without these cables bolted into the rock it would be almost impossible to scale this section of the mountain. A mile after that there are another series of cables that traverse the nearly-vertical rock faces en route to the peak and it’s these that require you to hoist yourself up using your arms. This is definitely the fun part.
Though Abbs can make it through the spot where the first chains are just over the saddle she cannot do the vertical faces below the peak so, like last time, Tom and I took turns climbing to the peak while the other one of us waited below with her. And like last time, she whined that one of her humans was leaving, disappearing behind the boulders overhead. There are maybe a half dozen sections of cable here, most helping vertical ascents though one section allows hikers to make their way horizontally along the side of the mountain where there is a scant few inches of ledge to place your feet. And though this sounds a bit crazy I can assure you that it’s relatively accessible to hikers of (almost) all abilities; similar to my last experience on this trail there were tons of families and people I would gauge to be not-regular-hikers. Anyway, I took some poorly-lit, half-in-shadow photos of a couple of these chain sections to give you an idea but it really isn’t an accurate representation. Unfortunately I needed both hands while climbing so I was unable to shoot video or take better pictures.
What a gorgeous state park!
It’s a lot of fun and a very beautiful section of the Sonoran desert.
This hike is so different from what I’m used to. The cable assist looks fun and your arms get a workout too.I love seeing the cacti…that last photo is especially stunning.
It’s definitely a unique experience and it’s a lot of fun to do. I’m still wondering who, and more importantly why, they spent so much effort installing these bolts and chains on an otherwise-inaccessible peak. And yes, aren’t those saguaros majestic? I enjoy seeing them too when we pass through central Arizona.
Meghan, while I love your pictures, hang on to the chain!
The views are wonderful. However, this is on place where I am satisfied to live vicariously through your descriptions of the trail:)
I definitely understand why this trail isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I do love how many people of all ages and abilities come to try it. And yes, I definitely hold on. 🙂