The Mountains of Arizona •
Pioneer Peak • Peak 2165 • City of Phoenix
• Maricopa County

Pioneer Peak, Arizona
Peak 2165, Pioneer Peak
Pioneer Peak, Arizona
Summit ahead
Pioneer Peak, Arizona
FCI Phoenix
Pioneer Peak, Arizona
Northeast view of Gavilan Peak, Daisy Mountain and part of the Pioneer Living History Museum down below
Pioneer Peak, Arizona
View south toward Phoenix and many balloons
Pioneer Peak, Arizona
Pioneer Peak, Arizona
The Maricopa Lapidary Society put this in for our seating pleasure
Pioneer Peak, Arizona
I found this, too

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The Arizona
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Date: October 14, 2022 • Elevation: 2,165 feet • Prominence: 445 feet • Distance: 2 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 435 feet • Conditions: Clear and pleasant


Peak 2165, or "Pioneer Peak", lies west of Interstate-17 in north Phoenix, south of Anthem and north of the Carefree Highway. It has a long low profile, covered over in black volcanic boulders and in brush and cactus. On its south side is the Ben Avery shooting range, and farther south, the massive Taiwan Semiconductor Complex still in its building phase. To the north is the Federal Correctional Institution, Phoenix, and on its north east flank, the Pioneer Living History Museum.

The Pioneer Living History Museum covers a few acres and features old houses and other buildings from about the 1890-1910 era. Some of the buildings are authentic, some are reconstructions. I doubt there was an actual town here back in that era, I suspect the buildings, even the original ones, were carted in and laid out like an old town would be. I toured the grounds a couple years ago. It wasn't expensive and worth the couple hours. It does have a lot of neat artifacts from that era and is definitely a good place to take the kids.

I had a morning open and did not want to travel far, and set my sights on this peak, figuring it shouldn't be complicated or take very long. My concern was its access status. Online maps show that the peak lies on Arizona State Trust land, and the highest ridge and summit on Arizona Game and Fish property (which in this case coincides with the shooting range). I had my state lands permit with me, figuring that should be good enough. I wasn't concerned much with "trespassing". It did not appear to be closed in any manner.

I was on the road while still dark. I got gas and drinks, then timed my arrival so that the sun was barely up. The temperatures now were in the low 70s, but it would be a hot day, near 100 degrees, so I figured I should leverage all the early-morning hours that I can. I exited at Pioneer Road, then on the west side, eased onto a rocky track that paralleled the interstate, parking in a cleared area. It was about 6:20 when I rolled in.

The peak rose about a mile southwest of me. The satellite images show a warren of tracks and trails in the area, but the navigation would not be difficult, so rather than try to stick to any one path, I beelined it toward the peak and walked any paths as I found them. The whole area between the peak and the freeway, and outside the museum boundaries, looked unkempt. I wonder if anyone ever comes here at all.

In about ten minutes I came upon a good path, lined with rocks, obviously kept up at some point. I saw no evidence of past visitor footprints, or at least not in the past few days. As long as the path went in the direction I wanted, I stayed on it, even if it meandered a little. I came upon an odd instalment, a concrete slab in the shape of Arizona, with rocks placed in it (and covered by the concrete) to replicate mountains, and trenches to replicate canyons and rivers. Beside it were four more rectangular slabs with rocks set in, and stainless steel signs mentioning who put this all in and what the rocks are called. It was put in by the Mineralogical Society of Arizona. Naturally, I wondered why the heck it was even here in the first place and how long it's been here.

So I continued up the trail and a few minutes later, come to an open area with benches formed from rocks and mortar, and a concrete slab saying it was put in by the Maricopa Lapidary Society. It too looked old and uncared for. Clearly, these two items must be related, but why here? Perhaps some people hike to it from the Pioneer Museum. And, admittedly, I thought "Lapidary" meant the butterfly people at first.

What other archaeological finds would I find going higher? The trails essentially ended and I was obliged to continue uphill over the rocks. It was steep in spots but not difficult. The volcanic boulder were large and abundant, and I could walk atop them for feet at a time. The brush wasn't so thck I couldn't see my feet. I moved carefully, to avoid moving rocks and scaring snakes. The sun was now high enough to light everything up. I could hear "woosh" sounds and looked up to see hot-air balloons, over a dozen of them. This is a big thing for tourists.

The rest of the hike went well. Once I was on the high ridge, I had to shimmy under a fence, placing me on the Fish and Game property, then I just walked to its summit bumps, about 4 or 5 bumps of which the western one is the presumptive highpoint, although my opinion is that the two nearby are too close to call. Tagging each one as easy since I had to walk over them anyway. I was at the west summit about 40 minutes after starting.

The day was pleasant, about 75 degrees, with clear skies and low humidity. Looking north I observed FCI Phoenix. Northwest was Gavilan peak and Daisy Mountain and the higher plateaus way in the back. Looking south I could see some of the shooting range (and hear the pops) and also see the semiconductor plant going up. It's a huge piece of property. Looking up, there were the balloons. It was really cool to see them, just floating there in the sky, moving slowly. I took a few images. It's tricky to photograph hot air balloons from a distance. My camera doesn't know what to focus on so most of my images came out blurry. But one came out well, the one you see here.

I hiked down the same way, moving deliberately over the rocks and brush. There is no way to move quickly over this terrain, so it took me about the same time to egress as it did on the way up. i stopped and revisited the Lapidary seating area and then the funky half-assed concrete Arizona. The concrete was just the cheap stuff and the mountains appeared to be made by sticking rocks in it and covering it in the concrete. The rivers and canyons were probably made by someone's finger. Naturally, I needed to investigate this.

I was back to my car at 7:50 a.m., a 90-minute hike. It had gone well with no mishaps, and no one from the state lands office or the game and fish office stopped me for my papers. I needed to be back in Tempe somewhat soon, but I took the time to scout a couple areas for future hikes, then took the scenic route home via the Carefree Highway and Scottsdale Road.

I looked up the Mineralogical Society and the Lapidary Society people and yes, there do exist groups within Arizona, and they seem quite active. I also learned that lapidary means one who dabbles in minerals, and that lepidopterology is the study of butterflies. The two words sound alike and I was confused at first. I am sure I am not the only one to confuse lapidary with lepidoptery. At least it made more sense that the two groups were in common.

The two sites looked like no one takes care of them, or rarely. But how would anyone ever know there was anything out here to begin with and why create these two sites at all? I found a reference on one of the websites that said that one of the first big mineral meetings was held in Flagstaff in 1970, then the following year, at the Pioneer Living History Museum. Thus, based on that one data point, it is reasonable to assume these two things were placed here about 1971 (and it looks it).

In 1971, this area would have been off in the boonies and probably not a bad place to go visit and explore. Now it's right beside the highway and not attractive. Also, I found out the area nearest the highway and some power lines had a foul sewage smell. There are some manhole covers here, perhaps a sewer line runs through here. Bring the kids!

If my assumptions are correct, then these little oddball sites are probably lost to history and I wonder if the Lapidary people and the Mineralogical people even know the sites exist. They do appear on the satellite images but you have to zoom in and be aware they're there to begin with.

(c) 2022 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience. WHA