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Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak, AZ

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Guide 185 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson W
3.9 of 5 by 36
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5.67 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,850 feet
Elevation Gain 1,500 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,838 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 14.86
Interest Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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4  2019-05-25 JuanJaimeiii
4  2019-05-11 JuanJaimeiii
7  2019-03-30 JuanJaimeiii
8  2019-02-24 JuanJaimeiii
5  2019-01-20
Picacho Peak Loop
6  2019-01-20
Picacho Peak Loop
3  2019-01-20 JuanJaimeiii
5  2018-10-28 JuanJaimeiii
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Author Trishness
author avatar Guides 14
Routes 0
Photos 720
Trips 187 map ( 1,244 miles )
Age 60 Female Gender
Location Apache Junction, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Apr, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The ultimate wildflower hike
by Trishness

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.

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2005-03-20 Trishness
  • sub-region related
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.

Most recent of 28 deeper Triplog Reviews
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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I got an early start before sunrise to beat the heat and only saw one other person all day, a 20 year old from Tucson who had never been up Picacho before and told me he wanted to hike the PCT. I encouraged him to try some AZT segments first to get a feel for through hiking.

Opted for the return on Sunset though I hate that stretch along the road to get back. Tagged on a trip to the Calloway overlook where the gnats were viciously annoying.

Considered a cherry dipp’d and a turd but decided against both and headed instead for the big CG.
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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Picacho popped up on my radar a few days ago when I saw a photoset for the Hunter Trail. I decided on this once I learned there was a trail on the south side of the mountain, in the sun, and away from the I-10 traffic noise. Scott joined me last minute. It was a perfect end of the year hike. Really nice. The air was relatively clean down here, too. I'd do this again, and I want to try the steeper hike when it warms a bit more and the sun is higher in the sky.

Scott kept his shirt on the entire hike. Turns out, he only goes shirtless when it is cold, and windy. Me, I was team skins, and it was awesome. I never made it to the Algodones Dunes this year, or last, or the one before that, but today felt like a day out on them, hiking around in the pit of the year, with full sun and warm conditions making everything feel better.
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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i very much needed to get north again and see a dear friend. i also needed to sneak in another hike with the Good Count Tacula before he goes jet setting. we started a touch after 7 and it was hot but bearable. actually been a while since i have done sunset.

watermelon limeade slushies are better than you'd think
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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Got in one of my favorites on the way home fro the Old Pueblo today. Got up to the trailhead for a 4 p.m. start, there was only one other car in the lot. Made my way up Hunter and then up to the peak, it was hot but figured this was my last chance to get this one in before the real summer hits. Took a good break up too, and then made the chug back down. I also made a side trip onto the Sunset trail to get in the cable section just because it is there. Finished up my hike and made the drive home to Phoenix, with all the rush hour traffic done as I had hoped. The low desert is starting to look pretty brown and tired, we could sure use some rain...Love this hike!
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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Picacho Loop
My first time up Picacho Peak. I expected a challenge, and it was. I had read the trail description so I knew that the Hunter Trail would drop on the back side of the saddle. But I was still surprised at how steeply it dropped and how far. I was glad for the wire rope cables to hold on to, but after a while my hands were pretty tender. Next time definitely bring gloves!

The views from the trail and at the top were awesome! Well worth the very exhausting climb. On the way down I took the Sunset Vista Trail. From the trail junction the Sunset Vista trail starts out quite steep with a couple more cable climbs, and eventually descends into a very pretty saguaro forest around the base of the peak. From the Sunset Vista trail head it's a walk along the road. There is a walking path next to the road.

It was interesting seeing Picacho from nearly all sides. All in all a great hike that I would do again.
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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Beautiful day for a hike. We weren't the only ones who thought so. Passed 30 people before we got to the first set of cables. A little waiting in line on the way up. Just before the summit 65 U of A students went by on their descent. Well behaved in my estimation. On the way down we had a ten minute wait at the first set of cables, but after that I pulled out my AARP card and we cut through most of the hoards of people. Fun hike. Dipped cones after at DQ. Thanks for the invite and driving John! :)
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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Woke early from PP campground to see the entire mountain covered in clouds.
Packed up camp, then drove to the Hunter Trail-head to give it a go up to the top.
Clouds broke a bit on our way up and we made it to the saddle with no problems.
We then descended down the first cable stretch as light rain started falling.
Around the back end of the peak the clouds moved in bringing thunder and more rain.
We sat for a bit before the final push up to the top waiting for the storm to pass, but it just grew bigger with more lightning and we agreed to head back down and save the peak for a safer day.
Took the Sunset Vista trail back and walked the park road back to the start, it rained on us the entire hike back.
We came up short, but had a great time laughing & playing in the rain !!!
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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Picacho Loop
JJ3 figured out what's wrong with me. First of all, I've never hiked Picacho Peak. But more importantly, I've never eaten at a Del Taco. :o

That these are the root of all my problems is good news. I had always chalked it up to the bottle of whiskey I drank last night. Thankfully I was able to remedy the Picacho thing today, and Del Taco doesn't seem like it will be too difficult either. And then I'll be normal! :y:

I had no idea how much fun this mountain is. Multiple sections of cables and supports make the rocky climbs much more interesting. We took Sunset down and opted for the previously posted old-man route back, even though JJ wanted to go back up and over. That might've been more fun as the little path next to the road takes a while and it began to get warm out.

Saw an angry and very fat black-tail on Hunter. I didn't get a good photo. JJ might have.

I opted for a blizzard at DQ in lieu of the cherry dip'd. Nice morning. Thanks to JJ for driving and identifying the root of all my flaws. It'll save me thousands in therapy! :)
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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First Picacho of the year, woo hoo! Pulled in to the park a bit before 4. I had never done the Sunset Vista in its entirety, so I thought I would mix it up today. The hike did not disappoint, this is a great alternative! Very nice, calm, easy to follow trail across the basin. You can't even see the peak until you have hiked a mile or so. Good Creosote bloom, and the foothills Palo Verdes were all budded up and just getting started. This hike of course becomes ridiculously steep once you get closer to the mountain. Love that climbing section just before the junction with the Hunter trail! Took a short break up top for the views, there were a bunch of gnats swarming about so I retreated to a shady hollow to sit down for a few before heading back down. Saw two other hikers on my way down, otherwise had the place to myself. It was damn hot today, and I was definitely going slower than usual, I will have to build up my heat tolerance for another summer hiking season. I thought I would have another month before I had to say that...
Sunset Vista Trail - Picacho Peak
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After working the "Civil War in the Southwest" event at the park, we hit a trail before our drive back to Safford. We both worked later than expected and decided against our planned hike up the Hunter Trail and instead chose the Sunset Vista trail as the sun was heading down. We made it up 2 miles and watched the sun go down before returning back in the dark. Pretty good flower show on this side of the mountain and the hike back by keychain flashlight was a lot o' fun!
Great event, Great partner, Great weekend!

Permit $$
AZ State Parks more info
2018 Day Use Fees range from $2–$30

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
I-10 to exit 219.....60 miles south of Phoenix. Follow signs to Picacho Peak State Park. Trailhead is at the far end of the park.
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