Six Pack of Peaks – Arizona

Oh, hey internet.

So, as I’ve mentioned I’m an ambassador for the Six Pack of Peaks, a hiking challenge created by Jeff from Social Hiker. The challenge started with six progressively higher peaks in Southern California and has grown to include multiple regions throughout the US because apparently, Jeff doesn’t want me doing anything but hiking as I try to complete each challenge.

This year Jeff added a “winter series” based out of Arizona. This series, created by Richard Oppelaar a.k.a. FoxTrax on Instagram, is a series of  hikes make you want to die in a different way than the Socal Six Pack in that they are short but so steep you feel like you’re perpetually on a stair master.

I had a few days off around the holidays and I asked Richard if he thought this was possible to do in three days. He suggested a plan (he was probably laughing manically while doing so) and I suckered… I mean invited my friend Sheri (a.k.a. Wheelzabub, the talented artist behind the ye olde Hike Inland Empire logo) to join me in my quest to complete the series. She texted back, and I quote “it looks like fun.”

LOL, what fools we were.

Below is the the itinerary of the trip we took. Richard did an excellent job on the trail guides for the main Six Pack of Peaks site and I’m super lazy, so rather than writing my own versions, I’ve linked his posts below. I have added a few tips and commentary to let you know the real deal about what to expect.

 

General Advice:

Three day plan: So the first piece of advice I will give you if you’re looking at doing this in three days is: DON’T.

Do it in four days, guys. Seriously. You should do it in four days. Don’t drive 5.5 hours back after doing Flat iron. Stay another night. Have some beers at Four Peaks. Get a good night’s sleep so you’re not dozing off while driving home and you have to pry your eyes open Clockwork Orange style.

Really.

Truly.

Do it in four days.

Timing: Now that I still haven’t talked you out of doing it in three days, my next word of advice is that it’s going to take you longer than you think it is. You’re going to be looking at a 6 mile hike and think “Yeah so that’ll be three hours.” But it’s not going to be. It’s going to be 4.5-5 hours. Because these trails are difficult.

Lodging: Don’t ask me about where to camp. Because we, my friends, stayed in hotels. Hotels with marginally comfy beds and showers. Did it cost more? Yes. But for $90 each for two nights WE LIVED LIKE KINGS!

Temperature: Newsflash: the desert is cold in the winter. It never got over 50 degrees, and most mornings it was in the 20’s. IT WAS COLD, Y’ALL. Bring layers.

Okay,  now that those items are covered, onto the schedule. This is based out of my condo in Riverside, so don’t be mad at me if you live in San Diego and it takes you longer to get there because contrary to what you might think, I don’t know where every single one of you lives.

 

Day 1
Leave Riverside 6:00 a.m.
4 hrs 49 min 

 

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Piestewa:
Distance: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,126 ft.

2701 East Squaw Peak Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85016

This was one of my least favorite of the peaks. It was super crowded and I felt like I was a Hollywood wannabe startlet looking to get discovered while hiking (that’s a Runyon Canyon joke, people).

The parking for this one is fairly challenging if you get there later in the day. As we made our way down the road we began to see a long line of cars parked on the side, which is never a good sign. Luckily we sharked the small parking area for awhile and we snagged a spot.

Fun tip: the trail head is on the left, just after the gate next to the parking lot. It was also under mega construction so a lot of it was fenced off.

(14 min drive to)


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Camelback:
Distance: 3.1 miles
Elevation: 1,246 ft.
6131 E Cholla Ln, Paradise Valley, AZ 85253


Soooo you can’t park at the trail head–you have to park on 64th street and walk up. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a spot near East Cholla Lane and you’ll have a 0.3 walk to the trail. If you’re Sheri and me, you’ll be .7 miles a way and you’ll have a mile walk to and from the trail head. On the plus side, there were quite a few Lime and Bird scooters laying around so you can use one if you’d like to take a scooter to your hike. Sheri kept suggesting Lyft, but ride sharing less than a mile to a 3 mile hike was beyond my capacity of acceptance. 

Of the two urban hikes, this was my favorite. It was, what I thought at the time, a challenging hike. But I was young and naive then, and had no idea what challenging was.

 

Stay night in Tucson (2 hr drive)

 


Day 2
Leave 6:00 a.m.
(26 min drive to)
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Wasson Peak:
Distance: 7.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,886 ft.
King Canyon Trailhead, Arizona 85745

 

Wasson Peak was a nice reprieve from the crowds and steepness of the day before. The peak is located in Saguaro National Park. When we went it was during the #TrumpShutDown and when we went to turn off to the trail head the road was closed.

Determined not to let Trump ruin our hiking, Sheri and I basically became Galileo and navigated ourselves to the Sendero Esperanza trail head. While it added on about another mile (rt), we were able to take this easy going, meandering trail to the peak which lulled us into a false sense of security that “maybe this challenge won’t be so bad after all!’

LOL, dummies.

Pro tip: the drive to the next peak has… not a whole lot of eating options. Unless you want to stop at the one McDonalds on the way or have gas station Subway, you should probably bring your lunch.


(1 hr 21 min drive to)

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Picacho Peak:
Distance: 2.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,986 ft. 

Hunter Trailhead, Picacho Peak, Arizona 85141 

Imma be straight up with you when I say I’m not sure how this is a hike sanctioned by a state park. This is the most cuckoo bananas hike I’ve ever been on and I hiked Cactus to Clouds which is supreme cuckoo bananas. Sheri accompanied me about half way up before she tapped out due to height-a-phobia, so I completed it by myself.

She was the smart one here.

This hike involves vertical climbs where you cling to cables and regret every decision that you made that led to that moment in time. I felt like I was at the climbing gym but I didn’t have a harness or mats to save me from my inevitable plummet down the side of a cliff. This video does not really do it justice.

This was just one of the very many obstacles I had to climb solo. The only people nearby was the weird family that was ahead of me that gave me the creeps, and I was gonna be super bummed if they were the ones that found my body.

Once I made it up, I sat for a good 20 minutes knowing that the way down was going to be 1,000 times more terrifying than the way up. After a few deep breaths, I stood on my wobbly legs to make my way down. As I left the sanctity of the only flat part of that trail, was confronted by a family that had three women in BONNETS AND DRESSES huffing and puffing on their way up who looked at me as if to say “Suck it up, pant lady.”

I somehow made it down the trail without dying.

Pro tip: While I’d brought gloves, they were the thin kind you’d wear hiking in marginally cold weather. I highly recommend wearing work gloves as mine kept slipping down the cables I was desperately gripping to avoid my death.

(1 hr. 15 min drive to)

Stay night in Tempe

 

Day 3
Leave 6:00 a.m.
(1 hr. drive to)
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Fremont Saddle:
Distance: 4.8 miles
Elevation: 1,496 ft.

Peralta Trailhead, Peralta Rd, Gold Canyon, AZ 85118 
*Get there early to get parking

The day before we were to finish the challenge, my friends Tom and Kristal messaged me and told me they were planning on completing it, too. Tom offered to drive to the trail head, which I was stoked about because I was garsh darn tired of driving. I was less stoked that I ended up forgetting my hat in my car and had to buy a black sequined hat from a gas station. Why did I choose that hat? Because it was the best option.

Despite that, this hike ruled. It was nice, and gentle, and had a cave, and cool stories about the Lost Dutchman‘s treasure buried in them thar hills and it didn’t demand I stair step at all!

Unfortunately, Sheri’s knee became injured and this was the last hike she was able to complete. Although now that I think about it, maybe she knew what was coming…

 

(42 minute drive to)

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Flatiron:
Distance: 6.6 miles
Elevation gain: 3,147 ft.

Siphon Draw Trailhead 6109 E Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119 

Oh, Flat Iron. Flat Iron, Flat Iron, Flat Iron.

Flat Iron goes like this: an almost flat trail for a mile that then leads to a super steep slip and slide section and then class 2 scrambling for an hour and a half. The route up is both physically and mentally exhausting as it’s not so much a trail as you trying to figure out which rocks you might actually be able to climb if you can angle yourself a certain way and hold on for dear life. I recommend you use gloves for this hike as you will use your hands almost as often as your feet as you scowl at some brightly dressed trail runner hopping boulders and passing you with ease.

The “scary” part is known as the wall, a 10 ft vertical climb that is scarier going down than coming up. There is an alternative route off to the left that is marginally better and you can use it if you’re stuck behind a never ending stream of 10 year olds wearing Keds, or whatever version it is that kids wear these days that are inappropriate for such an excursion.

While Tom, Kristal and I were crab walking up and down rock slide city, Sheri lounged around ghost town that was a little bit down the road, drank a beer, watched a fake gun fight, and pursued the mineral shop for overpriced gems. We kind of hated her. We took solace in the fact that our view was probably better than hers.

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We finished with the hike around 4:45 for a total of about 5 hours for the climb. Sheri and I left Tom and Kristal who would continue the challenge with Wasson and Picacho the next day. I definitely think that getting Flat Iron out of the way on day one and finishing with the two urban hikes before heading home was the smart decision, and it’s one I would recommend if you can stay three nights instead of two.

So there you have it. The AZ Six Pack of Peaks. I was happy to crawl into my bed after 5 hr. 32 min. drive home and the next day I didn’t get out of bed until 4:30 p.m. 

One might say I was tired.

Total climb for 3 days: 27 miles/11k ft. vertical gain.

If you’d like to sign up for the Arizona Six Pack of Peaks you can do so here. The challenge runs until April. 

 

 

 

 

 

Socal Six Pack of Peaks 2018

 

Hola IEers

Are you ready to CHANGE YOUR LIFE?!?

::runs off of stage, high-fives audience members::

Recently I was anointed (that’s right, anointed… there was a ceremony and everything!*) as an ambassador for the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge which means it’s my job to get you all signed up for this awesomeness.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself and take your hiking to the next level, the Socal Six Pack of Peaks is the way to do it. Through the challenge you will climb progressively higher peaks, starting with the one everyone loves to hate (despite what Jeff says), Mt. Wilson, and ending with the highest peak in So Cal, San Gorgonio. Here are the peaks in order:

Mt. Wilson 5710 ft. (15 miles; 4200 elevation gain)
Cucamonga Peak 8859 ft. (12 miles; 4300 elevation gain)
Mt. Baldy 10064 f t. (11.3 miles; 3900 elevation gain)
San Bernardino Peak 10649 ft. (17 miles; 4700 elevation gain)
San Jacinto 10834 ft. (11.5 miles 2500 elevation if you take the tram)
San Gorgonio 11, 503 (17.3 miles 5840 elevation gain)

All together a total of 87 miles and over 27,000 feet of elevation gain.

As you can see, I have only written up the cheater’s way for San J. (and yes, I’ve done it via Marion AND Cactus to Clouds, thankyouverymuch) because I’m very busy with my job that pays the bills, but I hope to have the Marion guide written soon. Probably not the Cactus to Clouds route, though, because I was so delusional by the end of it I have no idea how I got there.

Anyway, the Six Pack is a great challenge, and a pretty awesome training plan if you’re wanting to do something like Mt. Whitney or anything in the Sierras. Plus, if you participate in the actual challenge, you get a bunch of cool stuff, are invited to the finisher’s party, and help to raise money for Big City Mountaineers, an organization that takes city kids to the mountains.

If you’re interested in participating, go ahead and use this link to sign up today.

 

*there 100% was not a ceremony of any sort

 

 

 

San Bernardino Peak

TrailheadSan Bernardino Peak Divide Trail, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305
Length: 17 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 4700 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 9 hrs
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Dirt lot at the trailhead that fills up quickly on weekends. I was able to navigate it in my Hyundai Elantra but I also scraped up the side of my car trying to avoid a large hole which is definitely going to help the resale value.

NOTE: Effective 9/1/17 permits are no longer subjected to a quota. You don’t need to acquire a permit in advance; however, they do ask you to fill out a self permit from the Mill Creek Ranger Station in Mentone. Be sure to bring a pen with you or you have to use your snake bite sharpie like I did which doesn’t work well on carbon copy paper. You can also fill out the permit via PDF, email it in, and print a copy for yourself.

 

San B is probably my favorite trail of the Socal Six Pack for no other reason than the elevation gain is pretty gentle. The bummer part is that it’s 17 miles.

This was the last of the Six Pack that I needed to do this year for my three-peat and I decided to summit solo. Even though I’ve done gazillions of solo summits, this one gave me a bit of the heebies to do alone due to the length of the trek and the fact that I was beginning in the early morning which, as we all know, is prime time for murderin’.

The first mile of the hike are arguably the hardest. You gain a lot of elevation quickly as you climb switchback after switchback. These are the switchbacks you’ll hate on your way back because they seem never ending.

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After the switchbacks, you’ll curve around the west side of the mountain and then begin heading east again. Soon you will come to one of my favorite parts of the trail, the manzanita forest:

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This part of the trail is relatively flat and enjoyable. Keep heading along the trail and you’ll end up at a three way fork in the road with a sign and a random rusty wheelbarrow. Follow the middle trail towards Limber Pine:

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After this sign, you’re going to hike and hike and hike through a little valley area and then up switchbacks to Limber Pine Campground which is apparently one of the best places to camp and see a sunset IN THE WORLD. Or at least in the San Bernardino Mountains. You do still need a permit for overnight stays.

You’ll then get to the next benchmark, which is, haha, a bench. Get it? I’m very clever.

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Limber Pine Bench offers the best view on the hike, and is where I would stop and eat lunch if I’d bothered to eat lunch on my hike.

After the bench you’ll encounter a few more switchbacks until you get to a fairly flat area where you’ll come to the Washington Monument.

It took the third time on this trail for me to actually see the Washington Monument. I always thought it was the pile of rocks with a plaque on the trail. Not so! It’s actually a bigger pile of rocks that used to be a cabin about 300 feet off the trail! I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did get a picture of this view, so there’s that:

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After the Washington Monument you’re on the last leg of the trip. The trail once again begins to climb and the very last .1 miles is very steep because apparently you haven’t done enough already.

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The peak itself is much less impressive than you’ll see at Limber Pine bench, but it’s got an ammo box, so you know, cool. And there’s a sign which was donated by @sdhiker which, if you’re solo hiking like I was, makes it super fun to try to take a picture with.

 

After you’ve rested, go ahead and head back from whence you came.

I’m going to be honest with you in saying that this is a long trek back. Like, WAY long. The last mile especially. It’s switchback after switchback. And if you hike it solo, you’ll be looking for ways to entertain yourself. Like I did when I composed this little ditty:

This is the trail that doesn’t end
Yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started hiking it not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue hiking it forever just because
This is the trail that doesn’t end…

I ended up getting back to my car at about 1:30, p.m., making my summit just over 7 hours. However when I hike solo I take breaks for no more than 30 seconds and spent just over 10 minutes at the peak trying to take a selfie with the sign.  I’m not joking. It took me 10 minutes to take a selfie with the sign. So if you do plan to hike this one, I suggest you plan for 9 hours or more.

Additionally, with the end of the permit quota, this trail is going to be very busy on weekends. When I spoke with the ranger, he said that both San B and San G parking lots are full by 7:00 a.m., so either get there early, or even better, go on a weekday. I only saw three people on the trail the entire time I was there.

‘Cause when you’re hiking, the last thing you want is to see people, amiright? How dare others be out there hiking in nature? That’s MY thing!

 

San Jacinto Via Tram

Trailhead: Palm Springs Tram
Length: 11.5 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 2500 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate (due to length)
Total time: 6 hrs
Dogs: Nope
Parking: Free, but $25 for the tram

Want to try your first peak but still need to work up to true peak bagging? Then San Jacinto is a great first trek for you.

The first tram ascends at 8:00 a.m. but you can arrive at 7:30 to purchase tickets. I’ve heard that the line is crazy, so you may want to get there even earlier to avoid the crowds. Please also note that this tram rotates your view as you go up, so if you’re afraid of heights this might not be your favorite thing ever.

Once you get to the top, you’ll head down a never ending, windy, paved road that is super fun to come back up when you’re tired. Head toward the right to the ranger station where you’ll fill out a permit to enter the San Jacinto wilderness. Keep the permit with you and you’ll return it in a mailbox on your way back.

The trail to the peak will be on your right. It’s fairly well marked except when you come to round valley and you come to a juncture with no sights that say “Peak this way, bro.” Stick to the right, and you’ll get there.

The trail meanders along with a relatively easy elevation gain. There are some spots where it does climb fairly quickly, but take heart, traveler, as it will calm back down again.

About 3 miles in you will reach Wellman Divide which has a preview of the sights you’ll have at the top.

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After Wellman Divide, you will enter the switchback section of the trail, which, again gains elevation fairly gently and offers great views of the valley below.

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The switchbacks on this section are quite long, but there are only two of them. It was at this time we also heard a search and rescue helicopter overhead that was blasting its siren above us. I later found out it was one of our friends from Instagram, who didn’t even offer us a ride. THANKS A LOT, ERIC.

Once you finish the switchback section, you’ll go to the right and meet up with Marion Trail, and you’ll only be .3 miles from the top. When you reach the end of this trail you’ll see a big rock heap that you get to climb for the rest of your summit. Once at the top, head to the left and you’ll see the San Jacinto sign, where if it’s like when Boo and I went, people decide to sit right by or walk through because they like to ruin your pictures.

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One of the best places to take in views is at the far side of the rock mound, which is a bit harder to get to which means you’ll have fewer people.

There are a lot of haters out there for people who do San J via the tram, including one at the top who got all judgy with me and Boo for not climbing Marion. I informed him that I’ve actually done the Marion trail four times, and climbed San J via Cactus to Clouds (one of the hardest day hikes in the US), so I’ve suffered quite enough on that mountain, and he can just mind his own business.

Also, it’s a 11 mile trek so it’s still a workout and a great option for people who are new to peaks as a first try.

Also, who asked you for your opinion, Mr. High and Mighty?

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And for more aggression, on the way back down, Boo and I ended up running into THE Marion for whom the trail was named. I mean, we assume it was her because when we passed her she passive aggressively threw up her arms and sighed in annoyance for reasons we didn’t quite understand. We figured that she must own the trail and our presence there must have annoyed her so I apologized, letting her know we didn’t realize she owned the trail.

Hopefully you won’t run into so many haughty people on your climb.