There's a moment when you reach the southwest extremity of this park's Pedersen loop trail that you stare into madness. The glimpse into the vast vacuum of central/western Arizona is the sort of horizon-less view you see in the movies, where some poor sap's got himself lost in the trackless desert, and now he's shuffling along like a zombie in the middle of nowhere. The outlook from this particular point on the Pedersen is a lot like that: Nowheresville.
Don't go that way.
Instead, trek east a couple of miles and keep going straight, even after the Pedersen bends north. We guarantee you'll have one of the times of your life — if you live. Heh heh.
The route you'll find yourself on travels straight up the gut of the least-accessible mountain range in the greater Phoenix area: the Estrella, or Star, Mountains. Whatever route you choose, it'll be random; there are no sanctioned trails to guide you to the 3,650-foot pinnacle of the range, so it's all about route-finding your way through the lush, virgin terrain. How delightful, you say! Well, that depends on whether you like being slapped across the face or bonked on the head. The going's way steep and way exposed. The vegetation's so thick you can't see your legs, and the vicious flora keeps depositing small, pointy pieces of itself in you. It's prime rattler and Gila monster country, and, as noted, you can't see your legs.
So why torture yourself this way? Here's why: A hike into the Estrellas is a trip into the past. This is what Phoenix — and the upper Sonoran Desert — looked like before we brought the jackhammer down. You'll see flora and fauna that no longer exist elsewhere, you'll drink in panoramic views that few others have seen, and you'll set your feet down in places that no one else has. Ever.
Just don't kill yourself, 'kay?