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Hunter Trail, Picacho Peak
Picacho Peak State Park
March 5, 2016
by Lin Chao
  GPS Map 
by Bill Zimmermann

At 6 AM, twelve brave AZ trailblazers met at our usual meeting place, ready to conquer the most challenging trail (in my opinion): Picacho Peak. We saw a beautiful sunrise as we drove into the State Park, and I knew it was going to be a beautiful day.

A gorgeous sunrise.

After we arrived at Picacho Peak, we dropped off two cars at Sunrise Vista Trailhead, and we all met up at Hunter Trailhead. After a quick introduction, we started our first ascent, zigzagging our way up to the saddle.

At the trailhead.
Our first group picture at the Hunter Trailhead. [photo by Quy]
Michael, Billie, John R, Dave F, Scott, Lin, Chris, Quy, Dottie, Darrell, Rudy, Chuck
The hikers go marching, one by one. [photo by Quy]
Our first-time Picacho Peak hikers John, Darrell, and Dottie.
A peaceful view.
Quy taking pictures of our hikers.

There weren’t too many hikers on the trail yet, but there weren’t too many wildflowers either, a bit disappointing. After a few strenuous moments, we arrived at the saddle for our first break.

Resting at the saddle.
Resting some more at the saddle.

We continued onto our challenging descend after a quick breather. The experienced veteran Picacho Peak hikers led the way, followed by our brave first-timers, Darrell, John, and Dottie. By then, the trails were becoming more treacherous as the hordes arrived, which consisted of 70+ U of A college students sprinting past us (which provided the perfect excuse for us to take a break to let them pass), among others. Here, two of our hikers decided that they would rather not fight the crowds and decided to stay at the trail junction. The other ten hikers continued on, waiting in line to climb onto the peak.

Time to start down! [photo by Quy]
Watch out, Darrell!   It’s very slippery!
Going down and down ...
Say cheese! You’re on Lin’s camera!
U of A students wait their turn. [photo by Quy]

Rudy, thoughtfully watching over our new hikers, was waiting for us at the top of the peak. At last, all ten of us reached the summit of Picacho Peak and could enjoy the panorama view that awaited us there. While we were taking a lunch break at the top of the mountain, a (relatively) small airplane decided to check on us, flying a mere twenty feet above us and rattling hats and nerves alike. After taking a group picture at the peak, we started our (still very scary) descent back to the trail junction.

Rudy patiently leading the first-timers on the way up.
Ten of us hikers at the top of Picacho Peak. [photo by Quy]
Rudy, Chuck, and Darrell.
Dottie and John enjoying their lunch on the summit of Picacho Peak
Michael, Dave, and Billie enjoying the view

While we were continuing down the side of Picacho Peak, the two hikers that had waited back at the junction radioed in to inform us that they were starting to hike down to the Sunset Vista Trail. Hiking down to the Sunset Vista Trail proved to be extremely tough, with steep trails heading down and plenty of loose gravel to slip on.

Be careful! Hold the cable tight! [photo by Quy]
Don’t fall! (and if you do, make sure you land on the person at the bottom). [photo by Quy]
Here come our brave new Picacho Peak hikers!
[photo by Quy]
Rudy, the Veteran Picacho Peak Hiker,
shows us how it’s done
How to Get Down from Picacho Peak 101, starring Quy.

The rest of the trail was considerably easier, with switchbacks heading down the hill and beautiful scenery to behold. The weather had warmed up significantly by then, and all of us hikers were sweaty, hot, and in need of reminders to drink our water.

The hard part is over, the Sunset Vista Trail ahead.
Ocotillo flowers on the Sunset Vista Trail.
Enjoy the view, but don’t forget to drink your water.
Hands up, cacti, for all of the hikers!

After more than five hours, we safely arrived at the Sunset Vista Trailhead, ready for some ice-cold beer (or water or something). Congratulations to Darrell, John and Dottie for completing the hike! You finished it with your own hands, your own sweat, your own (maybe imaginary) tears, and I’m so proud of you!

A lonely wildflower perched on Rudy’s hat.
We did it!
The only wildflowers we found.

After this hike, we all deserved a huge lunch, so we decided to go to the Big House Café in Casa Grande. We had passed Casa Grande multiple times, but had never stopped to look at it till now. Our lunch place, situated in the center of this quiet town, was a very cozy intimate place, with good food and okay service.

The murals in Casa Grande.

Thanks to everyone who came out to spend their beautiful March morning with me, hiking in the Picacho Peak State Park, and I hope to see you guys soon on the hiking trails! Remember: Good food, good friends, good times.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated March 31, 2020