Phoenix Parks to Hikers: Keep Music to Yourself

Phoenix Parks and Recreation officials are helping hikers who seek peace and quiet at Camelback Mountain with a new sign asking people to limit their amplified music.

Other new signs warn of an impending crackdown on after-dark hiking.

A city ordinance has long banned the use of amplified music in city parks without a permit, but hikers and rangers have noticed an increase in recent years of people blaring their favorite tunes from smartphones or Bluetooth-paired speakers. The problem has resulted in the sign installed earlier this week near the start of the popular Echo Canyon Trail, which asks hikers to "Please respect other hikers and limit music to headphones."

"They come here to escape all of the social everything and just have a nature hike, and they're hearing boom-boxes."

tweet this
An estimated 700,000 people a year hike in the 150-acre Camelback Mountain preserve in Central Phoenix, drawn by the spectacular pink-tinged sandstone formations and short but strenuous summit trails. 

"The sign is more of a courtesy," said Gregg Bach, Phoenix parks and recreation spokesman. "It's not due to any one incident."

Rangers at the park, though, recall that the issue caused a ruckus on the trail about three or four months ago. An incensed hiker confronted a group of teenagers playing music on the trail, then reported them to park supervisors, said ranger Sara Magdaleno. 

"They come here to escape all of the social everything and just have a nature hike, and they're hearing boom-boxes," she said on Wednesday. "Then I ran into the guy here personally — boy, was he mad."

Following that situation, city park supervisors began discussing the music problem in earnest, Magdaleno said.

If the sign seems to help, the city may put up similar signs on Piestewa Peak's summit trail, at South Mountain Park and on Camelback Mountain's east-side Cholla Trail, she said.

Rangers were asked this week to log incidences of hikers blaring music on Piestewa to try to find out the need for a sign, Magdaleno added. She said she spoke to one ranger who reported being passed on the Piestewa trail on Wednesday morning by a person pumping out music through powered speakers in a backpack. 

Part of the problem, said another ranger, is that some folk's idea of music seems to him like nothing but expletives set to a beat.

But whatever a person's favorite music, whether Mozart or Minaj, it could be annoying to another person — so remember to bring the ear buds.   

Two other new signs on Echo Canyon and Cholla are giving extra reminders that the Camelback park is open only from sunrise to sunset. Residents near both trails have long complained about people using the trails at night, and rescuers pull people off the mountain each year who get lost, scared, or injured in the dark.

The city told residents near Echo Canyon that the no-night-hiking rule would be enforced following the $4 million restoration of the Echo Canyon parking area and trailhead that shut down the trail for most of 2013. Now, rangers say they're about to start ticketing cars, and sometimes hikers themselves, that are still in the park after sunset.

The enforcement is sure to draw the ire of some hardcore hikers who begin their workout near sunset in the summer to avoid the harsh sunlight. While some are up and down before the end of twilight, other stragglers come in long after dark. Late hikers may be greeted with tickets on their cars in the coming months, rangers say.

A middle-aged Echo Canyon hiker braving the extreme heat on Wednesday said amplified music is the least of his concerns. 

"They've got bigger issues than that I wish they'd address," he said. "Parking, cutting the queue, dogs, bees. Music is really low on the priority list."

In fact, park rangers have been battling those problems for years. The parking issue only seemed to grow worse after the 2013 renovation doubled the number of parking spots to 135. No "queue" of cars waiting for spots to open up is allowed anymore, and rangers now force drivers to leave the park if caught idling in hopes of snagging a spot from a departing hiker. Besides that lot, the nearest legal places to park for Echo Canyon — set within one of the Valley's most expensive neighborhoods — are more than a mile away.

Parking for Cholla Trail is a little easier, with plenty of on-street parking on 64th Street. Those spots are also subject to the "sunrise-to-sunset" rule, though. 

Following the park's re-opening in January of 2014, the city permanently banned dogs from the Echo Canyon side. People still occasionally bring them, even though the summit trail can be brutal for some pets. Dogs are still allowed on the Cholla Trail, but must be on a leash. We've noticed several hikers on Cholla in recent weeks who let their little mutts run off-leash.

The bee problem is trickier. The city occasionally eradicates hives that gather in the rocks near the popular trails, but not the hives in off-trail areas or high up in crags used by rock climbers and more-adventurous visitors. Joshua Ruzsa, 19, fell to his death in 2012 when he and two friends scrambling on a cliff face were attacked by a large swarm. Following that attack, the city put up more warning signs.

Got a tip? Email Ray Stern
Follow Ray Stern on Twitter: @RayStern
Follow Valley Fever on Twitter: @ValleyFeverPHX

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.