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Best West Valley Hike Phoenix 2009 - Quartz Peak Trail

The Sierra Estrellas are the most maddening mountains in our midst. The southwest Valley chain is within shouting distance of civilization, and its craggy spires scream to be summited, but the formidable range gets more redoubtable the closer you get to it. So much so that there's only one legal point of access to its long crest and six striking peaks (Hayes, Montezuma, Montezuma Sleeping, Montezuma Head, Butterfly, and Quartz).

The Quartz Peak Trail — such as it is — is it.

Finding the trailhead on the far side of the Earth in Rainbow Valley is a challenge in itself, but tracking the footpath to the summit can be even more cryptic. Then there's the actual hiking of the thing, which has caused many a veteran hiker to swear like Blackbeard, thanks to the iffy footing and 2,500-foot elevation gain (about two trips up Camelback Mountain on an even nastier path).

Worth it? Absolutely. Summiting the Estrella is a badge of honor for hiking hardcores, and the views of desolate basin-and-range western Arizona and the bustling Valley to the east make it all worthwhile.

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