Piestewa Peak is Getting Trashed and Gross

The following is a guest post courtesy of Seth Landau.

I couldn’t believe it. I’m looking into the wash off the parking lot at my favorite hiking area, the uber-popular and sceney Piestewa Peak trails in central Phoenix, and it looks like a landfill. Seriously, I’ve been to landfills for stories I’ve worked on, and that’s what this looks like.

Still image from my upcoming YouTube video, Part 2 of my Piestewa Peak reports.

Being a filmmaker and storyteller, I decided to make a mini-movie about what’s happening to our nature in Arizona, and judging by comments on my YouTube video, it’s apparently happening to nature across the country. Why now? With limited entertainment and leisure options since early-2020, more people than probably ever are turning to the outdoors for “something to do.” Locally, the city told me hikes across Phoenix were up 30% from 2019.

A few reporters who interviewed me about my video “Piestewa Peak is getting trashed and gross!!!” asked, “Well what’s the city doing to take care of this problem?” But this isn’t a city or state or even federal thing. This is us as a society needing to understand why it’s not OK to pollute our planet. Municipalities can post signs and issue citations all day long, but without a greater movement by we the people, this problem will only worsen.


I’m sure environmental scientists can explain the granular details, but simply knowing that leaving garbage in nature pollutes our air, water and soil should be enough. Health and wellness is a majority of the news coverage these days, but let’s also include in the discussion about how the well-being of our planet is directly proportional to our health as humans.

Hiking is more than beautiful scenery and physical challenges to me. It’s getting in touch with Mother Earth and being grateful for its physical, emotional, and spiritual healing powers.

My immediate family moved from New York to Arizona when I was 12 and I’ve been hiking ever since. One of the most popular pastimes in the Grand Canyon State is spending time on trails. I enjoy everything from the slow, quiet meditative easy walks to the more hardcore ankle-spraining knee-scraping rock n roll-in-the-headphones trail runs to higher peaks.

And when no one’s watching, yes I’ll go off-trail but I never step on anything living (in lower-central and southern AZ it’s primarily rocks and dirt). Plus, off-trail is where you’ll find a lot of litter pollution slowly poisoning plants and wildlife. It’s great to pick up discarded trash on the trail, but most of the gnarly stuff is often thrown into washes and harder-to-reach places or the elements carry it there down from the mountain.

Seth Landau and wife by the very spiky Piestewa Peak trails Palo Verde trees.

Palo Verde trees are amazingly astute at keeping out predators. Their strong light green-hued limbs are full of stout sharp edges that clearly say “Stay away!” I’d imagine this is why you’ll often see trash accumulated near their roots: it’s not easy to remove. You have to get really low, or navigate the spiky arms with surgeon-like precision lest your skin look like you were in a catfight (as happened to me several times while making the video). Those trees have claws!

These are things I never thought about before I started seeing garbage and trash all over our hiking areas in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the larger government land area which includes the Piestewa Peak trails. But once you really get into it, getting sweaty and dirty and yeah, scratched up too, you appreciate everything more. Staying on-trail and looking straight ahead allows a ton of beauty no doubt, but it wasn’t until I started getting even closer to our nature preserves that I realized how much they need our help.

Seth Landau is a journalist and writer/director/producer/actor. His reporting has appeared in Voice Media Group, The Arizona Republic and more. His films have been released across all digital platforms. He can be reached at https://www.youtube.com/SethLandauEntertainment.

All video/images, including featured image, courtesy of Seth Landau.

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