Select Phoenix hiking trails to be closed during extreme temperatures
PHOENIX — Select hiking trails in Phoenix will be closed during extreme temperatures due to concerns for the safety of the public and first responders, the city announced Tuesday night.
The decision was made by the city’s parks and recreation board during a special meeting to close Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail, as well as all trails associated with Piestewa Peak Trailhead in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat watch.
Trail closures during days of extreme heat will start Friday and run through Sept. 30 as part of a pilot program, according to a press release.
Camelback Mountain’s Cholla Trail is currently closed.
Parking lot gates will be closed and signage will be posted during times of extreme heat, and the city will provide closure information on its website and social media accounts.
Park rangers will also be visible at the locations to remind and educate trail users about the closures, according to the release.
The closures were requested by the United Phoenix Firefighters Association after 12 Phoenix firefighters had to be sent home from duty on June 16 with heat-related issues after performing three consecutive mountain rescues in less than 24 hours during an excessive heat warning.
Two of those firefighters had to be hospitalized with acute renal failure.
The union wanted access to be limited on the Cholla Trail Head and Echo Canyon Trail Head during times of extreme heat because rescues in those areas require the use of the city’s helicopter, which can’t be operated safely in temperatures of 116 degrees or higher.
It is recommended by parks and recreation officials that trail users hike in the early morning or evening during the Valley’s warm months, regardless of an excessive heat watch, since it is cooler and there is more shade.
Extended summer hours are in effect to encourage people to hike during those times from June through September at North Mountain Park and Piestewa Peak Trailhead in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, and Pima Canyon Trailhead in South Mountain Park/Preserve.
Parking lot entrances are open until 9 p.m. at those locations, while the trails are open until 11 p.m. The parking lots open at 5 a.m.
The city’s parks and recreation in collaboration with fire departments since 2015 have encouraged people to hike responsibly with a “Take a Hike. Do it Right.” campaign.
Potentially life-saving hiking guidelines in the campaign include watching the weather, dressing appropriately, bringing water, keeping in contact with a mobile phone, hiking with others, be honest about medical conditions, stay on designated trails and be prepared.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.