The ultimate wildflower hike
This is one of two trails in Picacho Peak State Park that takes you to the peak and it is a must do in spring due to the abundance of wildflowers. Sunset Vista Trail takes you on a pleasant and colorful 3.1 miles on the south side of Picacho to the peak. This is the easier of the two peak hikes. Hunter Trail is the other one and is 2 miles of steep switchbacks.
The trailhead is accessed at the far end of the park at the Sunset Vista Trailhead. The first 2 miles are relatively easy (the pamphlet they hand out rates this section as moderate) and there are many, many patches of wildflowers in various shades of blue, white and yellow as well as lots of places to stop and take in the views, as well as lots of pictures. What I saw most on this portion of the trail were Lupines, Globemallow, Mexican Gold Poppies, Desert Chicory, Desert Belles, and Brittlebush but I was a little disappointed because I was expecting lush carpets of wildflowers after all the heavy rain this past winter. After these first 2 miles, the trail takes on a different tone altogether as it switchbacks up the south side of Picacho Peak and it is steep in some sections. I'm guesstimating that the trail gains 900+ feet in a short .5 miles. No GPS or topo so this is just my guess from the way my legs felt as I was climbing and climbing and climbing some more. Any discrepancies just let me know. Nothing too taxing but it is a climb... a good leg and cardio workout. Did I mention that this section of trail is a climb???? This is where you encounter the first set of cables and intersection with the Hunter Trail, which bisects from the north side of Picacho Peak. I stopped here as the rest of my party was descending and we all headed back to the trailhead together after they had a successful summit! I think the summit was less than a mile from the first set of cables and I'll get there next time. We all headed down together and it was a nice trek under blue skies.
The day started off as overcast and cool but quickly changed as the sun and blue skies appeared. The flowers popped in their approval and there was color everywhere! While there weren't too many people there at 9:00 AM, the trail back at 12:00 noon was flooded with people, many photographers and tripods.
We finished our day with a picnic in the park. This is a GREAT hike and well worth the drive.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.