Breathtaking views from Picacho Peak summit are the reward for venturing outside of your comfort zone

Picacho Peak beckons adventurers to climb on

In Arizona, Picacho Peak is known among ambitious hikers as a one of the state’s more challenging adventures. This hike will test you both physically and mentally. Breathtaking 360-degree views of the Arizona desert are the reward for pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Even though Hunter Trail is only 1.5 miles from the starting point to the summit, you’ll find no flat sections of trail on this hike. In fact, several sections are so steep that you’ll need to clutch guidewire cables to “rock climb” your way to the top.

two men on hiking trail with one pointing up to a mountain peak
My friend Joe points the way to the top of Picacho Peak.

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People on top of a mountain looking around

Picacho Peak hike overview

  • 1.5 miles one way, 3 miles out and back
  • Elevation gain: 1,677 feet
  • Difficulty: Very difficult
  • Some sections require use of cable
  • Sturdy shoes with grippy treads are a must
  • Gloves are highly encouraged
  • Not a good hike for dogs

Selfie of man on top of a mountain with desert stretching out far below
Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide author Paul Fiarkoski pauses for a selfie on top of Picacho Peak.
Man carefully descending steep rock face while gripping cables.
Getting down from the top of Picacho Peak is a little quicker than going up, but in spots, it’s just as tricky.

This hike challenges your physical and mental toughness

Prior to my first hike up Picacho Peak, I had seen plenty of pictures of others’ experiences and thought I knew what to expect. I hike several times a week and am a frequent visitor to the gym, so I was pretty well prepared for the physical challenges of this hike. But in all honesty, there were times on the way to the top of Picacho Peak when my fear of falling down from the steep rocky sections almost caused me to turn around prematurely. Thankfully, I was hiking with two friends who had completed the climb before and they coaxed me to the top.

Have you ever been to the top of Picacho Peak?

What are your top memories or tips for others? Post your thoughts in the comment box below.

Video: 3-D overview of my hike to Picacho Peak Summit

View interactive route map>

Video: Panorama of the desert from Picacho Peak Summit

Tips for a successful Picacho Peak hike:

  • Avoid summer months and hottest times of day.
  • Know your physical (and mental) limits.
  • Bring gloves, plenty of water, and high-carb snacks.
  • Build in time for breaks and “traffic” jams.
  • Plan for 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours of total hike time.

Want the inside scoop on more amazing places like this? Grab a copy of Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide.

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Historical significance of Picacho Peak

  • Picacho Peak has been a navigational landmark throughout history.
  • It helped direct early explorers such as Father King and Juan Bautista de Anza.
  • In 1932, a 40-foot light beacon was installed at the top of the peak for air traffic navigation.
  • Hunter Trail on the south side of the peak was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps to facilitate servicing the beacon, which was dismantled in 1965.

Picacho Peak’s place in the Civil War: The Clash at Picacho

Where is Picacho Peak?

Picacho Peak is located between Phoenix and Tucson Arizona, just southwest of Interstate 10 at Exit 219. It’s situated within the boundaries of Picacho State Park. Map to Picacho Peak State Park.

How tall is Picacho Peak?

Picacho Peak rises to an elevation of 3,374 feet above sea level. Hunter Trail will lead you from the trailhead at 1,697 feet above sea level to the mountain’s summit, for a total elevation gain of 1,677 feet.

How long does it take to hike Picacho Peak?

Total hiking time will vary for each hiker based on fitness and experience level. Most hikers should plan on 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours for the hike out and back.

Can you camp near Picacho Peak?

Yes. Picacho Peak is located within the 3,700-acre Picacho Peak State Park. Among the many features of the park is a campground with three loops of dedicated campsites designed for both primitive (tent) and modern (RV) camping. Some campsites have full hook-ups (water and electricity), some offer electricity only and some are without hookups at all. Modern restrooms, with free showers, are available for use by all paid campers.

Note: When my wife and I camped with friends at Picacho in November 2021, there was a water shortage, which required us to fill up our travel trailer’s water tanks before arriving. Periodically, outdoor fire bans are enforced to prevent wildfires. Check the AZ State Parks website for any such restrictions before you go.

All in all, I’m glad I pushed through my fears and made it to the top. I won’t be rushing back to take on Picacho Peak again anytime soon, but I’d consider doing it again under the right circumstances. Until then, I’m thankful to have pics and memories of my experience.

Check out the rest of my photos from the Picacho Peak experience >>

If you’re looking to tackle some of Arizona’s most challenging hikes, be sure Picacho Peak is on your to-do list. Conveniently located between Phoenix and Tucson, just off Interstate 10, it’s accessible for many people to accomplish as a day hike.

Map to Picacho Peak State Park

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