Past Meetup

Quartz Peak Trail, Rainbow Valley (Sierra Estrella Wilderness)

Location visible to members


Distance: 6 miles - Out-and-Back; Elevation Gain: 2,472 ft Hike Time: ~4 Hours Difficulty: DIFFICULT More Info, including map (
GENERAL INFORMATION: Quartz Peak Trail, in the 14,400-acre Sierra Estrella Wilderness, leads visitors from the floor of Rainbow Valley (elevation 1,550 feet) to the summit ridge of the Sierra Estrella at Quartz Peak (elevation 4,052 feet) in just 3 miles. Along the way, visitors are treated to a variety of Sonoran Desert plants and wildlife, scenic vistas, and evidence of the area's volcanic history. The views from the summit are spectacular--to the west is a dramatic panorama of rugged mountain ranges and desert plains, and to the east metropolitan Phoenix unfolds over the valley of the lower Salt River.

Quartz Peak Trail is extremely steep and difficult to follow in places. This is a hike for experienced and well-conditioned hikers only! The trail begins at Quartz Peak Trailhead reached by following an unpaved road; sandy and rutted in places so High Clearance vehicle is recommended (my Subie Forester had no trouble getting there in the dry).

The first quarter mile or so from the TH is a gentle uphill climb up an old jeep road, which then becomes quite steep: ~2500 feet climb in less than 3 miles. Compare this to the Bright Angel Trail which is a 3000ft climb in 4.5 miles from Indian Garden to the rim.

It's a steep, rocky climb to the end of the trail (which does not extend to the summit--the final 1/4 mile to Quartz Peak is a scramble over boulder and talus slopes that requires careful footing). Quartz Peak is a point on the spine of the Sierra Estrella capped with an outcrop of white quartz.

We'll take a well-earned break at the top and take in the wonderful views before heading back down.

Wear sturdy shoes, and bring plenty of water (3+ liters).

Disclaimer: I have never made it to the very top of this peak, so an adventure...

FACILITIES: A restroom and picnic table are located at the trailhead. No water.

CARPOOL: We will carpool at the Safeway at Estrella Parkway and Van Buren Street (just south of I10) to consolidate into high clearance vehicles. leaving there at 8am, and head up the Trailhead. Please let us know in the response if you have a High Clearance vehicle we can use to get fellow hikers to the Trailhead, and how many seat belts (including the driver's) you have so I can make sure beforehand that we have enough for transportation.

Directions to TH: West of Phoenix on I10, exit Estrella Parkway. Drive south 8.3 miles then right onto Elliot Road. After 2.6 miles go left on Rainbow Valley Road and follow south 9.3 miles to Riggs Road. Turn left and follow Riggs Rd 4 miles to intersection with Bullard Ave. Turn left, then immediately right onto dirt road under telephone poles. Follow dirt road east 5.3 miles (some parts narrow and sandy). At end of the road look for small "Trail" sign and turn right, under power lines for 1.9 miles. Turn left at another "Trail" sign and drive 1.9 miles to trailhead. Sections of this road are rough and sandy, crossing several washes. High clearance vehicles strongly advised.