Surrounding the base of 2,608-foot Piestewa Peak, the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area and Dreamy Draw Recreation Area are gateways into diverse desert landscapes that offer everything from fantastic views to secluded valleys. You don't have to fight crowds on the Piestewa Peak Summit Trail to enjoy the area -- the area boasts dozens of miles of trails to enjoy the glory of the Sonoran Desert in relative solitude. An assortment of picnic area nestled in the hills offer a picturesque spot for a gathering.
Piestewa Peak, elevation 2,608 feet. Total elevation gain for the summit trail is 1,190 feet.
Long used for mining and grazing, it did not become a city of Phoenix possession until 1959, when the area was annexed and a long-term lease agreement was signed with the state of Arizona. It later became one of the major rallying points for mountain preservation efforts.
Geology, flora and fauna
While the actual rocks of the Phoenix Mountains (including the areas around Piestewa Peak and North Mountain) are very old, the mountain shapes are, geologically speaking, quite young. They were formed about 14 million years ago as the crust of the earth was gradually stretched from northeast to southwest, elevating mountain ranges and downdropping the basins between them. Much of the area’s rock is a metamorphic type of granite known as schist. Mercury mines were worked in the area of today’s Dreamy Draw Recreation Area.
Flora in this area is typical of the lower Sonoran Desert and includes almost all varieties of Arizona cactus such as saguaro, barrel, hedgehog, pincushion, jumping cholla and prickly pear. Trees and colorful shrubbery include palo verde, mesquite, ironwood trees, creosote (dominate), ocotillo, brittle bush, desert lavender and giant sage shrubs.
Reptiles and wildlife that thrive in the preserve are gila monster, horned lizard and chuckwalla. Hikers also can encounter rattlesnakes. The mammal population includes coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, ground squirrel and kit fox. There are more than 54 species of birds from the turkey vulture to mockingbirds, cactus wrens, Gambel’s quail and several species of owls and hawks.