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Friday, November 5, 2010

FREEDOM TRAIL

FREEDOM TRAIL Piestewa Peak/Dreamy Draw Area, Phoenix Fed up with elbow-to-elbow hiker hoards on the Piestewa Peak Summit Trail? Yeah, me too. Thankfully, there’s an adjacent trail that provides a similar experience and "FREEDOM" from the traffic. Actually, this trail was not named for its obvious benefit but instead was dubbed in conjunction with the renaming of Squaw Peak in honor of fallen Arizona soldier, Lori Piestewa. Making a wobbly, scenic loop around the second highest summit in Phoenix, Freedom Trail #302 (formerly known as the Circumference Trail) gives a descent workout, showcases beautiful Sonoran desert terrain and gets high enough to frame some nice views of Metro Phoenix. The trail begins at the north end of the parking area. Most hikers prefer to hike counterclockwise because the ascent is more gradual that way. To take this option, go north (straight ahead) at the trailhead sign. Lots of cactuses, desert shrubs, strategically-placed lookout points (with benches!), bizarre geology and the occasional rattlesnake combine for an interesting mix of sights along the way. At roughly 2.75 miles, the trail tops out and joins the Summit Trail, which you’ll follow downhill for half-a-mile to reconnect with trail 302 for the final leg of the loop. LENGTH: 3.8-mile loop RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 1,500 – 2,150 feet BEST SEASONS: October - April GETTING THERE: In Phoenix, exit SR 51 (Piestewa Freeway) at Lincoln Drive (exit 5) and continue east 0.5 mile to Squaw Peak Drive. Turn left and go 0.5 mile to the entrance for Phoenix Mountains Park and follow the main road all the way to the end and park at the Apache picnic area. FACILITIES: restrooms, water FEES: none now, but that may change in late 2010 DOGS: leashed dogs are allowed on trail 302 but NOT on the Summit Trail. INFO & MAP: http://phoenix.gov/PARKS/hikephx.html