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WHAT TO KNOW: How closure of Phoenix hiking trails will work

Posted at 4:40 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-14 21:55:40-04

PHOENIX — The gates to several popular mountain trails will close during Excessive Heat Watch days following a Tuesday vote to launch a test program aimed at protecting both hikers and first responders.

The pilot program will begin this Friday and will go until September 30, 2021, according to a news release from the Phoenix Parks and Recreation office.

WHAT WILL CLOSE

  • Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon Trail
  • Camelback Mountain’s Cholla Trail
  • All trails associated with Piestewa Peak Trailhead

According to the Parks and Recreation office, "the locations were chosen for the pilot program based on the number of mountain rescues that occur there annually, as well as the difficulty rating of those trails and how that impacts the complexity of the rescues."

WHEN

The gates to the mountain trails listed above will close from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. on days when an Excessive Heat Watch is in effect.

There is not a specific temperature that the National Weather Service uses to issue an Excessive Heat Watch, according to its website. Instead, NWS looks at the temperatures forecast and the level of heat risk and which populations will be most affected, similar to the Air Quality Index for those with respiratory concerns.

"When 'High' or 'Very High' HeatRisk conditions are forecast, an Excessive Heat Watch or Excessive Heat Warning will be issued," reads the National Weather Service's website. A "watch" means there is 50% confidence excessive heat will be issued and a "warning" means there is 80% confidence.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

So what will visitors see when a trail has been closed?

Officials say during times when the trails are restricted, parking lot gates will be closed and signage will be put up to alert hikers trying to access the areas.

Information on the closures will also be posted on the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department's website and social media accounts, as well as sent directly to local resorts and hotels to help keep visitors to the Valley aware of the measure.

Phoenix Park Rangers will be visible at the locations "to remind and educate trail users about the restrictions,” but further enforcement was not clarified in the department's Tuesday release.

ADVICE FOR HIKERS

Phoenix Fire, and the Phoenix Parks and Recreation have worked since 2015 on the "Take a Hike. Do it Right" campaign offering tips for hikers.

  • Watch the Weather: Yes, "it's a dry heat" – but Arizona's temperature can be deceiving and deadly. Hike when it's cool outside, try early mornings and evenings when there's more shade.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wear proper shoes, clothing, hat and sunscreen.
  • Bring Water: Hydrate before you go. Have plenty of water, more than you think you need. Turn around and head back to the trailhead before you drink half of your water.
  • Keep in Contact: Carry a mobile phone.
  • Team Up: Hike with others. If hiking solo, tell someone your start and end times, and location.
  • Be Honest: Do you have a medical condition? Asthma, heart problems, diabetes, knee or back problems? Don't push yourself! (Even trained athletes have been caught off guard by getting dehydrated on Arizona trails.)
  • Don't Trailblaze: Enjoy the Sonoran Desert's beautiful and undeveloped landscape, but please stay on designated trails.
  • Take Responsibility: Don't be "that person" – the one who wasn't prepared, shouldn't have been there for health reasons or ignored safety guidelines. Be the responsible hiker, who takes a hike and does it right!