If you’ve ever wondered whether there’s anything worth hiking in the Sierra Estrella Wilderness, the answer is unequivocally, YES. The aptly named Quartz Peak is unique among the surrounding peaks because it is composed almost entirely of the most beautiful, sparkly quartz that creates a striking contrast against the blue sky. The trail is an unrelenting uphill climb, and the road is sandy and requires a 4×4 vehicle, but the reward is looking down on the sprawling metropolis of Phoenix while feeling like you’re a million miles away.
Did the description of the road freak you out? Were you imagining bringing a shovel and a sleeping bag because you thought for sure you wouldn’t make it?
Good news. It’s not that bad. I mean, it does have some deep sand where it crosses washes, and 4-wheel-drive is definitely advised, but the terrain was basically flat, and the road was not nearly as narrow as some reviews had us believe.
So go. And not just because of that, but because it’s so much more amazing in person than can be captured in photos or described here. But I’ll try.
Quartz Peak Trailhead
The trailhead has a nice dirt parking area with a pit toilet and informational signs. The signs will tell you that the trail doesn’t go to the summit, and while it may technically be true, there’s enough of a trail to get you all the way there. Promise.
Quartz Peak Trail
The start of the trail is flat, but don’t be getting too comfortable. Soon enough, you’ll be going up, and you won’t stop going up until you get to the peak.
You’ll roughly follow a ridgeline all the way up to the peak, making for a surprisingly interesting trail and great views the whole way.
No, that’s not broken glass glittering on the trail. It’s mica, and it makes everything feel a little bit magical. What is this place so close to South Mountain, yet so far away?
After around two miles, the trail does get a little harder to follow in spots, but if you look around a bit, you’ll find it again because it’s fairly well-worn and there are a lot of cairns.
The peak comes into view early, but it doesn’t look that remarkable. Sure, it’s noticeably white, but who’s to say it’s not a bird’s roost covered in poop?
Just you wait. As you get closer, the quartz becomes more frequent, the mica more abundant, and the scrambling begins. It’s a beautiful journey, and it’ll be worth it.
I’m telling you, except I can’t really tell you because words aren’t enough. It’s going to blow you away.
And if it doesn’t, you need a new hobby.
Take time with the details. Get yourself multiple perspectives. Notice the contrasting colors. You’re in a special place. Take it all in, and let yourself be blown away.
Map & Directions
Location Sierra Estrella Wilderness, Phoenix, Arizona
The trailhead can be reached from Goodyear or Maricopa. Your best bet is to Google Quartz Peak Trailhead. That’ll get you almost there. Google has a waypoint for the turnoff, but it apparently doesn’t know about the road. When you get to the turnoff, there’s a small sign pointing to the trailhead.
Trailhead Facilities Pit toilets
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