10 Things to Know About the Phoenix Summit Challenge — Are You Ready?

First, she spilled all the details of hiking Havasu Falls, and now Kate from our Take a Hike With Kate series shares the awesome details of her next epic hiking adventure — the Phoenix Summit Challenge! Kate is a writer and PR and marketing consultant from Phoenix. She’s a runner, swimmer and tri-athlete in training.


Being fond of crazy adventures, I was one of 1,000 hikers to quickly register for the 10th-annual Phoenix Summit Challenge. The challenge, run by the City of Phoenix, is to hike 4, 5 or 7 of the Phoenix-area Summits in one day. It sold out in just minutes. Being new to the event, I chose four summits. Why? Because in my mind, hiking 17.94 miles with a 3,800-feet elevation gain in less than 8 hours sounded fun. Throw in all the driving between these summits, and it’s going to make for an interesting day.

Liz Smith, from South Mountain Park, and Joe Impecoven, Phoenix Outdoor Programs and Outreach Market Coordinator at REI Tempe, gave an awesome and extensive presentation at REI Tempe about attempting the Phoenix Summit Challenge. I’m signed up to do the “PHX 4,” … so, needless to say, I paid attention.

Here are ten takeaways from the presentation on the Phoenix Summit Challenge!

10 Thing to Know About the Phoenix Summit Challenge

1.  Buy (and train in) your shoes now. You definitely don’t want to wait to break shoes in. So buy shoes or boots now, get to training, and feel more than comfortable the day of the event. Best part: if you’re an REI member, you can return any pair of shoes purchased to the store, within a year’s time, if they don’t work out.

2.  Find a driver or carpool. This is a great tip, especially if you’re doing all seven summits. There’s lots of driving and towards the end of the day you could be quite tired. Plus, your only “downtime” is in the car. If you can carpool with a friend, it will make parking easier and the two of you can switch off on driving.

3.  Walk everyday. Joe recommended walking everyday, even if it was just walking your dog. Of course, this is on top of any hiking you’ll be doing. This helps you get used to being on your feet for long periods of time.

4.  Practice your day. Yep, make sure you practice your hydration and nutrition well before the day of the challenge. And on the day of the challenge, avoid trying anything new! If you haven’t been using it all along in training, don’t try it for the first time during the challenge. This includes avoiding mistakes, like adding in fizzy drinks to your regiment suddenly or wearing a brand new shirt. Also, test your gear, especially water holding packs or bottles. You can’t really know it until you do it … and that’s the fun part.


5.  Dress in layers. Last year the weather was cold and rainy. Bring layers! The summit may be cold or windy, and if you’re drenched in sweat, you’ll shiver all the way down. Pack a lightweight, crushable rain or wind layer.

6.  Use your car as home base. Keep a cooler, snacks, water, and changes of clothes and socks in the car. Your car is your home base and can transport all of your needed items so you don’t need a heavy pack.

7.  Travel the course. Before the challenge, try doing a few of the hikes back to back. This will familiarize you with the course and with driving routes.

8.  Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Yes, we’re desert dwellers, and we know SPF is important. But Joe made a point that some higher level SPFs (50+) contain ingredients that can actually sit over pores and trap in heat. Choose your sunscreen carefully.

9.  Try training on large, loop trails. Get in a long hike on a loop trail. Go for a 10- to 15-mile hike on a series of trails or a loop trail, so that if you get out there and decide to change mileage based on how you’re feeling or for weather, you’ll have options.

10.  Be courteous. Liz noted that there are some participants who run the race! If you are on the descent, step aside for those heading up. If you see someone running (and it’s not your team), move out of the way!

To follow my progress and training, follow me on Instagram here! Then tell me: Anyone else doing the Phoenix Summit Challenge or done something similar? —Kate

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