Squaw Peak Double Dose
Quartz Peak Trail is your only legal non-permit ticket to a view on the Estrella ridge. It's a hardy continuous push to the white capped peak. Judging by the trail log entries, "bites" describes it best. The trail starts out as an old jeep route to a mine. In a short quarter mile the double tracks go away and the ascent begins. You'll be ascending a spur ridge (whatever that's called) up to the real ridge. The views are distant. Although I was only thirty miles from home, I couldn't name a mountain without a map.
I live on the opposite side of the Estrellas and never imagined it was so flat. The real surprise was driving to the trailhead. There's some huge neighborhoods on the west side of the Estrellas. No wonder Phoenix has grown three fold since I moved here in the mid '80s. Closer to the trailhead, you pass huge wells pumping tons of water for the crops blanketing this valley. It reminded me of being on the farm in Nebraska more than the Arizona desert. Rest assured, when you get within 4 miles of the trailhead the desert comes back in grand fashion.
I figured this trail to be a double dose of Squaw Peak. The terrain is very similar, excluding the crowds. The trail just keeps going up and up. Personally, I really liked this trail. I can see why most would hate it though. My buddy, cursed the whole way. We both agreed the closer you get to that damn white peak the further away it looks. It's like you push and push, come around a turn to a view, look up, and you swear it looks further.
The BLM says the final quarter mile is a scramble to the peak. I'd say it's more like the final half mile. It's nothing difficult to figure out, but it does slow your pace. The trail was well cairned on this outing. I enjoyed the upper sections where views can be seen going down both sides of the ridge. That's what I call hiking! The final ascent to the peak is steep. The white quartz boulders feel cool and are nice to relax on. Like I said, I like this trail. I like it for the workout and peacefulness. The views from the top... well, they kind of bite. You won't get a good look at Phoenix cause it's too far away. I could barely make out Awatukee aside South Mountain. The real shocker was how tiny South Mountain looked. Looking to the southwest you do pick up a great view of Seven Mile Mountain.
Hey, look on the bright side. If you can do this hike twice in a row, you can probably tackle the Grand Canyon to the river. Ew, there's encouragement. I probably won't be back because it's a long drive from home. On the other hand, it's worthy if you haven't done it in my opinion.
BLM Division Reports GENERAL INFORMATION: Quartz Peak Trail, in the 14,400-acre Sierra Estrella Wilderness, leads visitors from the floor of Rainbow Valley (elevation 1,550 feet) to the summit ridge of the Sierra Estrella at Quartz Peak (elevation 4,052 feet) in just 3 miles. Along the way, visitors are treated to a variety of Sonoran Desert plants and wildlife, scenic vistas, and evidence of the area's volcanic history. The views from the summit are spectacular--to the west is a dramatic panorama of rugged mountain ranges and desert plains, and to the east metropolitan Phoenix unfolds over the valley of the lower Salt River.
Quartz Peak Trail is extremely steep and difficult to follow in places. This is a hike for experienced and well-conditioned hikers only! The trail begins at Quartz Peak Trailhead by following a closed four-wheel-drive track approximately 1/4 mile. Look to the left as you walk up the old road and see a narrow trail ascending the ridge to the north (see map below). The trail is poorly marked in places and does not extend to the summit--the final 1/4 mile to Quartz Peak is a scramble over boulder and talus slopes that requires careful footing. Quartz Peak is a point on the spine of the Sierra Estrella capped with an outcrop of white quartz.
ACCESS: Quartz Peak is accessed from Rainbow Valley and Riggs Roads in Rainbow Valley, approximately 25 miles southwest of Phoenix. See the map below for mileages and directions.
FACILITIES: There are no facilities at Quartz Peak Trailhead.
MAPS: Quartz Peak Trail is not mapped, but the route is covered by USGS 7.5-minute topographic map "Montezuma Peak, Ariz." The Sierra Estrella Wilderness is covered by the USGS 7.5-minute topographic maps "Mobile, NE Ariz." and Montezuma Peak, Ariz."