This Intense Arizona Hike Is Every Thrill-Seeking Tourist's Dream

Northern Arizona boasts the majestic trails of the Grand Canyon, the raved-about but dangerous trek to The Wave at Vermilion Cliffs, and the hiker's paradise of Sedona. However, the area between Phoenix and Tucson is less known for hiking. In fact, many people say the section of the I-10 between Arizona's most populous cities is downright boring. 

However, hold on just one second. There are quite a few stops on the road, and one happens to be a real thrill-seeking tourist's dream. Picacho Peak State Park sits just off I-10 and is home to one of Arizona's most intense hikes. You'll likely notice the jagged rock rising proudly above the scrubby desert as you drive down the highway. The 1,500-foot peak may not look that high or challenging from a distance but don't make the mistake of underestimating this trek. The Hunter Trail leads pretty much straight up the north side of the rock face for 2 miles, taking those who dare to tackle it to the breathtaking summit.

Tackling the Hunter Trail

The Hunter Trail is the most popular way to reach Picacho Peak, but you need to be agile and comfortable with heights to tackle it. First, climb to the peak's saddle, which gives you wonderful views of the surrounding landscape. After a fairly intense climb, take a moment to catch your breath because the truly adventurous (and exhausting) portion of the hike is about to begin.

Clinging onto steel cables, hikers edge along the steep rock face, dropping 700 feet before heading upward to the summit. From the top, travelerblogrs are compensated with sweeping views across the Mesilla Valley and the Organ Mountains. The consensus on AllTrails is that the hike is challenging but hugely rewarding, with many enjoying the scrambling element. However, the trail can get busy, and you may have to wait a few minutes to pass people in places.

If you plan on attempting this hike, it is strongly recommended that you wear gloves to grip the cables, and good hiking shoes are a must. Take 2 to 4 liters of water per person, and several hikers on AllTrails recommend wearing a hydration pack to keep your hands free. For a glimpse of what you're getting into, you can further research the trail on Google Earth.

Exploring the park

The Hunter Trail isn't the only way to reach the top of Picacho Peak. The Sunset Vista Trail is a longer, 3-mile hike up the south side. It may start more gently, but for the final mile, you join the Hunter Trail for the cable scramble. Many hikers on AllTrails loved the beautiful spring flowers along this route, writing of the poppies and cactus flowers covering the peak. As with the Hunter Trail, wear gloves and solid footwear, and take plenty of water.

If you don't fancy the challenge of getting to Picacho Peak, there is a somewhat more gentle trail in the park. The Calloway Trail is a 0.7-mile trek to an overlook that provides picturesque views. However, don't underestimate the park's shortest hike, as the trail leads up steep rocky stairs and can be slippery. The park runs several programs and events, including ranger-led guided hikes and stargazing evenings, so plan to stay a while and discover more around Picacho Peak.