The Hunter Trail, located in Picacho Peak State Park, AZ, is a 4-mile out-and-back hike that leads up to Picacho Peak, an elevation of 3,374 ft. Picacho Peak is an historic landmark for travelers, located halfway between Casa Grande and Tucson. The 360-degree view at the top of the Peak, including the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains of Tucson, 45 miles away, is stunning.
The Hunter Trail is considered moderate to strenuous and climbs steadily up to a saddle between Picacho Peak and a smaller peak to the north. Dogs and children are not allowed beyond the saddle point. This trail can be challenging and requires a bit of arm strength and steadiness to maneuver through areas where cables have been installed to aid in the continued ascent. Gloves are recommended but not everyone finds them necessary.
Hours for trail hiking are from sunrise to sunset. Parking fee is $7 per vehicle. Take snacks and plenty of water and a camera if hiking the Hunter Trail in the springtime, when you will be greeted with blooming ocotillos, Mexican poppies, lupines, creosote bushes and palo verde trees as well as the occasional bald-headed eagle.
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The unique shape of the 1,500-foot Picacho Peak has been used as a navigational landmark by travelers since the 1700s. Explorers such as Father Eusebio Kino and Juan Bautista de Anza relied on this Peak on their way through the area.
The south side of the Hunter Trail leading up to Picacho Peak was built in 1932 by the Civilian Conservation Corps using cables and metal posts driven into rock. It was developed as a way to serve the 40-foot light beacon that was installed at the top of the peak for air traffic control. The beacon no longer exists but the old trail supports do and hikers use them to help ascend and descend the very steep Hunter Trail. The north side was built in 1965, when Picacho Peak and its surroundings became a state park.
Picacho Peak’s most noted historic event occurred on April 15, 1862, when Confederate and Union scouting parties met in the Battle of Picacho Pass during the Civil War. This was the largest Civil War clash to take place in Arizona. The Hunter Trail, as well as all of the trails within Picacho Peak State Park, is celebrated for its stunning and vibrant display of springtime Mexican poppies.