The Mountains of Arizona •
Pyrite Summit • Skyline Regional Park
• White Tank Mountains
• City of Buckeye, Maricopa County

Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
Pyrite Summit is on the far end of the ridge, as I start the hike
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
Getting closer but still about a mile away
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
Now coming up the Pyrite Trail from the south, with switchbacks etched into the slopes
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
A pretty section of trail. No, that's not the summit up ahead
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
Summit ridge, the highest point is to the left
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
I had to carefully walk through a dangerous patch of cholla cactus
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
A colorful desert garden of saguaro, barrel and cholla cactus, with a big ocotillo and smaller brittlebush and (probably) scorpionweed
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
The start of the spur to the top
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
Hiking the trail near the top
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
The top

Close-up of the signpost and four balanced rocks

Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
Looking south at the White Benchmark hill
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
View to the northeast: Barry Goldwater Peak has the tower (left) and in the gunsight is Cat Hill, which I hiked about three weeks ago
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
Northwest view of the top, plus Black Butte in the far left distance, and Vulture Peak in the far right
Pyrite Summit Skyline, Arizona
View of the Pyrite Summit Ridge from the washes below to the east

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Date: March 4, 2019 • Elevation: 2,310 feet (says the map, possibly closer to 2,290 feet) • Prominence: About 390 feet (see discussion below) • Distance: 7.1 miles • Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes • Gain: 830 feet • Conditions: High clouds, blue skies, cool at first but warming later


Pyrite Summit is a peak contained within the Skyline Regional Park in Buckeye, south of the White Tank Mountains and north of Interstate-10. I hike Javelina Summit here about six weeks ago and was encouraged to come back, discovering all the new trails put in to this relatively new park. I commend Buckeye for developing this area, with amenities for hikers, mountain-biking, horse-riding and camping.

Today, I wanted to hike Pyrite Summit, which is in the northwest corner of the park, about as far west as one can get within the park if staying on trails. The peak's name is new and given to it by the Skyline Park people. The trail must be new because it does not show up on the satellite images. It was probably opened in late 2018.

I left home and had to deal with traffic in Phoenix, but once past the "stack" where Interstates 10 and 17 merge, I could generally go about 50 miles per hour, then faster once out in the western suburbs. I exited at Watson Road, went north a couple miles and rolled into the parking lot about 8:15 a.m.. There were a lot of cars here, and I had to park in the overflow equestrian lot. I was hiking a few minutes later

I walked past the ramadas and signs, then across a footbridge, immediately going left and catching the Mountain Wash Trail. I went left (west) for 0.2 miles, then left onto the Turnbuckle Trail for 0.4 miles, then left again onto the Granite Falls Trail for another 0.8 mile (all mileages referenced from the park map). This route generally crosses a broad wash and a number of arroyos, aiming west for the long ridge that contains Pyrite Summit.

Granite Falls Trail comes to a four-way junction, so I went south onto the Pyrite Trail. By now, I had left all the other hikers behind, no one evidently willing to hike this far out. I followed the excellent trail south, then west, as it gained into the low hills of this ridge. Soon, the trail switchbacks steeply uphill. For the next half-mile, it achieves a couple small passes, drops a little bit and generally keeps to the main ridge. The summit ridge itself was often hidden from view until the very end.

I met a couple hikers up here, and enjoyed the solitude otherwise. In spots, the trail passed through cactus patches with dense ground-cover of flowering plants, with yellows, purples, red and shades of green all around me. The seventh photo on the left sidebar is one of my favorites. Anyone who thinks Arizona is flat, barren, sandy desert obviously has no clue what's really out here.

I soon found the spur to the top. Going by the mileages, I had covered 3.5 miles to get here (adding in 0.1 mile from my car to the trailhead). I arrived on the summit at 9:50 a.m., a 90-minute hike, and I had it all to myself. I spent about ten minutes shooting images and having a snack and drink. Some rocks about 20 feet south might be the highest points so I tagged them. According to the map, I was at 2,310 feet elevation.

Looking south was the pointed summit of White Benchmark and "Beacon", both listed at 2,288 feet elevation, but dang, it looked higher by about 20 feet. No matter how I looked at it, even taking into account the "false horizon" optical illusion, I just could not be convinced I was higher here. For now, I'll go with what the maps say. I'll come back a later date to hike that pair of summits.

Other peaks in view were the main spine of the White Tank including Barry Goldwater Peak and Cat Hill, which I hiked about three weeks ago, plus Javelina Summit. Looking south were peaks down by Gila Bend, such as Woolsey Peak. The day was a little hazy with dust in the deserts. The weather had been lovely, temperatures in the 60s, but with an intense sun. Looking west I could see Black Butte and its sloped profile, and the spires on top of Vulture Peak.

I descended back down the spur trail, then continued north on the Pyrite Trail, intending to hike a big loop back to my car. The Pyrite Trail drops steeply downslope, the trail carved as a series of switchbacks with abundant flowers today. I met a couple more hikers this way. I then caught the Chuckwalla Trail for 1.2 miles, then the Granite Falls Trail for 0.3 mile to where it connected with the Turnbuckle Trail. I followed that south and back out to my car, arriving at 11:30 a.m.. Going by the mileages, I hiked 3.6 miles back out, and extra 0.1 mile than going in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and the fantastic trails and am impressed by the quality of the trails here. The wildflowers were everywhere and the weather was perfect for this sort of thing. I'll certainly return, but likely will wait until Fall as the heat will be kicking up soon here.

On the drive home, I drove by a few smaller bumps in the area as possible short hikes for the future. I was not interested in off-route hiking given that it was warm and the snakes would be out today. I did not hike any more but noted some ideas for the future. I drove back home, arriving a little before 1 p.m..

The park has not yet put in a trail to the White Benchmark & "Beacon" summit yet. One shows on the satellite images but it is an old road. I saw where the old road jutted off the trail and judging by the footprints, people hike it often. I am willing to wait and see if they eventually develop it.

Update (October 2019): I hiked White Benchmark and the nearby "Beacon" peak, the one that appeared higher looking to the south from Pyrite's summit.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Beacon summit is higher that both Pyrite and White Benchmark. The map says White Benchmark is at 2,288 feet elevation, with the same elevation for the Beacon summit. I believe that the Beacon summit is higher than White Benchmark by at least 15 feet, and that White Benchmark and Pyrite are very close in elevation, within 5 feet of one another.

I have no idea what number(s) to believe. For example, if White Benchmark is 2,288 feet elevation, then Pyrite Summit is about the same, certainly not 2,310 feet.

It has occured to me that the elevation markers on the map for Pyrite and Beacon were swapped. This would make sense since White and Pyrite appear to be close in elevation, and Beacon about 15 feet higher, possibly 20 feet. However, this would not explain the little 2,300-foot contour drawn in at the Pyrite Summit.

Assuming Beacon summit to be the highest point of this ridge, it then should get all of the prominence, roughly 510 feet. Now also assuming Pyrite's elevation to be about 2,290 feet instead of 2,310 feet, its prominence is lowered to about 390 feet, since it is now subsidiary to Beacon summit.

All of this is speculation as I have no idea what number is correct. But I am certain that Beacon summit is highest of the three.

(c) 2019 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.