Best Winter Hike Phoenix 2012 - Hunter Trail, Picacho Peak
Picacho Peak re-opened to the public on September 15, having been closed for the second time in two years for what state officials call the "summer season." Besides the decent camping facilities and yearly Civil War battle re-enactment at the site, Picacho's premier attraction is the spectacular Hunter Trail, which goes up to the precipitous summit. It's a four-mile-round-trip butt-kicker, harkening to the likes of Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. Steel cables and planks help nervous hikers overcome the steepest parts, and the 360-degree view at the top of the surrounding desert and nearby mountains is well worth the effort. Problem is, only the buzzards saw that view during the closure, which ran from May 25 to September 14. Remember all that talk about state parks possibly closing due to the state's money problems? Almost all those other parks got to stay open all year. But the state is apparently hell-bent on doing these seasonal closures at Picacho Peak every year from now on, even though statistics show that thousands of people had been visiting the park during the May-September season. (Only one other park, Oracle State Park near Tucson, is also having part-time closures.) Picacho Peak is an easy, one-hour drive down Interstate 10 — better do it while you can.