Monday, April 20, 2015


Hualapai Mountain Park, Kingman
View from Aspen Peak 

In Arizona's northwest corner, an archipelago of "biological sky islands" juts from the desert around the town of Kingman providing cool respite for heat-weary hikers. The roads and trails that ascend into the razorback ridges and rounded granite pinnacles of the Hualapai Mountains glide up from arid foothills through vegetation life zones of chaparral, pine-oak, mixed conifer and fir-aspen. Occupying a band of high elevation cool air and shady forests, the sprawling recreational hub of Hualapai Mountain Park makes exploring this diverse sphere of outdoor wonders a cinch.
The 2,300 acre park offers camping, picnic sites and over 10 miles of hiking trails.
There's so much to see and do here that you'll want to pitch a tent, park a RV or splurge on "glamping" in one of the rustic rental cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. With your base camp established, grab a map from the ranger station and hit the trails. The beautifully illustrated map which complements the well-signed routes also corresponds with numbered points along the trails and has tidbits on the history and natural features visible at each stop. If you enjoy climbing to high summits, there's plenty to keep you busy as trails lead to Hayden Peak (8,390'), Hualapai Peak (8,417') and Aspen Peak (8,124') while numerous overlooks with comfy benches offer more casual ways to view the ring of mountain ranges flanking the park. The park's signature trek--4.3-mile Potato Patch Loop--begins at the main trail junction (#4 on the map) and forms sort of a wagon wheel around the site with spokes connecting to major roads and trails. The loop winds through thick forests, exposed edges and massive stone outcroppings with expansive views all the way around. An optional 1.26-mile roundtrip hike up the Aspen Peak Trail leads to Dean Peak Overlook (7,950') where you can relax and enjoy the vistas or scramble to the true summit---a short haul that requires route finding and some hand-over-foot climbing.
Potato Patch Loop

LENGTH: 4.3-mile loop (5.56 with Aspen Peak)
RATING: moderate-difficult
ELEVATION: 6,486' - 7,950'
FEE: $7 day use (7 a.m. - 7 p.m.) See website for camping & cabin rental rates.

6250 Hualapai Mountain Road, Kingman.
From Phoenix, travel north on I-17 to SR74 (Carefree Hwy) exit 223. Head west on SR74 to US 60, turn right and continue to the US93 junction in Wickenburg. Take 93 north to I-40, head west to the DW Ranch Road exit 59, turn left and follow the signs to the park.
INFO: Mohave County Parks, 928-681-5700

Monday, April 13, 2015


Traversing a rock wall high above Strawberry Canyon
The rock walls hug the canyon's edge 

Fitting squarely into the "who knew" category of Rim County hiking trails, Rock Wall Trail #608 is a pleasant surprise hiding in clear view of Highway 87 near the hamlet of Strawberry. The unsigned, unadvertised route follows rugged Forest Road #608 as it clings to flaking limestone ledges below the Mogollon Rim. Ascending more than 1000' through the filtered shade of Emery oaks and Ponderosa pines, the red-earth Jeep route hangs in precipitous knots above Strawberry Canyon and is shored up by artfully constructed stone retaining walls where it bends along the choppy contours of the gaping, conifer-fleeced gorge.
In the beginning, the route is not marked, but once you've navigated through the maze of paths at the trailhead, the rest of the way is simple to follow.
From the trailhead, pass the gate, veer right and follow the power line road 500 feet to a fork just before the road heads very steeply uphill. Turn left here (marked by a green metal post at N 34 24.405, W 111 28.891). From this point, ignore the side paths and veer right to stay on the wide road heading uphill. In just under a mile, the first of the eponymous rock walls stabilizes a hairpin turn. Here, additional fortifications are visible high on the cliffs across the canyon. This is your destination. As the trail climbs, views of the Mazatzal Mountains peek through the forest before it swings onto a scenic, exposed ledge where the road is hacked from wildflower-embellished vertical rock faces. The two- miles-long "walls" portion of the hike ends where the road heads inland at the trail's high point. Although this is a popular turnaround spot, you can opt to follow the "608" signs two more miles through fragrant woodlands to reconnect with Highway 87. Unless you parked a shuttle vehicle here, return the way you came.
Rock walls shore up drainage sections of Trail #608

LENGTH: 4 miles round trip for the "walls" segment or 8 miles round trip for the entire road.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 6000' - 7160'
Nice views of the Mazatzal Mountains

Strawberry Trailhead:
From the State Route 87/260 junction in Payson, go 17 miles north on SR87 to the trailhead at milepost 270 on the right.  There’s parking for about 4 cars, but additional space is at the Trail #15 lot a few yards up the road on the left.
Forest Road 608 Trailhead:
Continue on AZ87 to just past milepost 277 and park near the FR 608 gate on the right.
Overlooking Strawberry Canyon


Tuesday, April 7, 2015


McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Among the cloud bumping mountain peaks that hover above the suburbs and shopping centers of North Scottsdale sits an impressive, pyramid-shaped pinnacle with a well-defined trail leading to its summit. A hike up Sunrise Peak offers commanding views, a respectable workout and a pleasing mountain experience without having to venture beyond the din of civilization. Nice signage at the trailhead shows the route: follow the Ringtail Trail for a half-mile then, go right onto the Sunrise Trail and follow the signs to a steep, rocky spur path off the main route for a short climb up to the top. This final haul rewards with 360-degree vistas that transcend the urban landscape below to showcase the rugged ridge lines of the Sierra Estrella mountain range to the west and the high peaks of the Mazatzal Wilderness to the north.

LENGTH: 5.5 miles round trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1,786-3,069 feet

From the Loop 101 in North Scottsdale, take exit 41 for Shea Blvd., turn right and continue to 124th St. Go left (north) on 124th St. to Via Linda, turn right (east) and continue to 128th St., turn left (north) and follow 128th St. all the way to the end and park at the Ringtail (128th St.) Trailhead.
Hike directions: from the trailhead, follow the Ringtail Trail for .48 miles to the Sunrise Trail. Turn right and continue uphill to the peak.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Red Rock views on the Aerie Trail

For hikers stepping out on Sedona's rusty soils for the first time, best bet trails to try include Boynton Canyon, Bear Mountain and Fay Canyon. Until recently these crazy-popular routes were isolated from each other, but now the Aerie Trail tethers the trifecta of Upper Dry Creek Area trailheads to it's own roomy parking area. This new access point off Boynton Pass Road provides respite from the boot-clad masses and access to dozens of trails. The 5.2-mile Aerie-Cockscomb loop takes off from this portal swooping around Doe Mountain and the distinctive silhouette of the Cockscomb rock formation. As with any Red Rock Country hike, views long this gently undulating trail are picture-postcard quality and an optional slog up the connecting Doe Mountain spur path offers a panoramic spectacle of color saturated mesas and buttes for those willing to tag on another 1.2 miles to the trek.
Doe Mountain seen from Cockscomb Trail

From the Aerie trailhead, begin on Cockscomb Trail. Hike past the Rupp and Dawa junctions and turn left at the Aerie Trail sign at the 3.3 mile point. From here, hike 1.2 miles to the Doe Mountain junction. This 0.7-mile spur trail climbs 460 feet to the summit of a long mesa and is well worth a detour or you can skip the climb and continue 0.7 mile back to the trailhead. All routes are signed.
Bear Mountain view from Doe Mountain Trail

LENGTH: 5.2-mile loop (6.6 with Doe Mountain spur)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4250' – 4660' (5120' with summit spur)
FEE: None. A Red Rock Pass is NOT required at the Aerie trailhead
Cliff Fendlerbush blooms March -June on Doe Mountain
From the State Route 179/89A traffic circle in Sedona, head 3.2 miles west (left toward Cottonwood) on SR89A to Dry Creek Road. Turn right and go 2.9 miles to Boynton Pass Road (FR152C), make a left and continue 1.5 miles to a “T” junction and veer left to stay on FR152C. Continue 1.4 miles to Aerie Road, turn left and go 0.4 mile to the turn off for the trailhead on the right.
Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900

Monday, March 23, 2015


Prescott National Forest, Mayer
Grapevine Creek

From Highway 69, the high desert grasslands around Big Bug Mesa near the town of Mayer don't look like they're hiding an oasis. But, deep within these arid hills, Grapevine Canyon harbors a perennial creek and a meandering sliver of green fed by snowmelt-charged springs. This sensitive site has been designated "Grapevine Botanical Area" and is now open only for day-use by hikers and equestrians. The dirt access road to the trailhead gets rough and narrow after 2 miles, which is why many hikers prefer to park at the
Grapevine Creek flows year-round
first fork and hike the final 1.5 miles. While the road hike is pleasant, it also saves your vehicle from the "Arizona pin stripping" caused by thorny shrubs that arch over the rugged two-track. Whether driven or hiked, the road follows the terrain as it makes an amazing and rapid transition from dry scrub and cacti to pine-oak groves. Then, with the jolt and flamboyance of a firecracker display, bang---a verdant Garden of Eden spills from a moist woodland corridor at the trailhead. Here, a forest of alder trees crowd around an information kiosk and a small "Trail 4" sign marks the beginning of the 2.5 mile hike up the canyon. Although Grapevine Creek goes underground at the trailhead, it resurfaces after a few minutes of hiking. Massive stands of oak, walnut, boxelder and wild canyon grape vines sink their roots deeply into the crystalline water that tumbles over boulders and slick rock chutes. Dozens of waterfalls gush through log jams and columbine-decorated embankments providing photo opportunities galore as well as a soothing soundtrack. After about a mile of shaded, creekside hiking, the trail begins an aggressive climb along the canyon wall above the creek. This half-mile segment, which winds through exposed cliffs populated with manzanita and cacti, provides excellent views of Prescott Valley and the strikingly divergent riparian gorge below. On the top of the canyon, the route meets the creek and cool tree cover once again, passing through two gates (presumably to keep cows out) before making several creek crossings and a final ascent to the main source spring at trail's end.
View from the top of Grapevine Canyon

LENGTH: 2.5 miles one-way (4 miles one-way with road hike)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4750'-6320'
RULES: Day use only. Mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed.
Dense forests in the botanical area

From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to Cordes Junction exit 262 and head west on State Route 69 (toward Prescott). Continue 11 miles and make a left turn onto Grapevine Road (FS87A) just before milepost 274. There is no sign at the turn, but there's one on the road. Follow the dirt road 2 miles to a fork where there's a parking apron for drivers who want to avoid the rough road ahead. Those with high-clearance or 4x4 vehicles can continue down the left fork to a green gate at the 2.7 mile point. Park here if the gate is locked, otherwise, you may drive another 0.6 mile (go straight and then veer right at a fork) to the trailhead. Be prepared for some very rocky obstacles and shrubs that will scratch wide vehicles.
Hiking the road to the trailhead


Monday, March 16, 2015


Payson Area Trails System
View of the Mogollon Rim

The Payson Area Trails System (PATS) is a collection of routes weaving through the business districts and suburbs of this north-central Arizona town. The trails tie in nicely with nearby Tonto National Forest routes and most are open to hikers, equestrians, bikers and ATV users alike. Round Valley Trail begins in a quiet residential neighborhood with a climb along foot paths and 4x4 roads that leads to scenic high points with far-ranging views of the flat-topped profile of the Mogollon Rim and majestic peaks of the Mazatzal Mountains. Because many unsigned roads bisect the route, be sure to look for PATS signs to stay on track. Even though it's close-to-civilization, the trek offers a genuine outdoor escape as it runs through undulating juniper-pine forests south of town. In springtime, wildflowers like the ground hugging, purple blossoms of the Featherplume dalia and wild carrot pop up from the loose, rocky soils. One of the trail's most prolific spring bloomers is a shrub called Gregg's Ceanothus which sprouts tiny white or pink flowers that release a lilac fragrance from March through May. After topping out at 5200', the trail dips down into Round Valley and curves toward Highway 87 where the sweet wildflower breezes mingle with the aroma of burgers and fries as the path approaches its west trailhead at the Sonic restaurant lot on the Tonto Apache Reservation.
Mazatzal Mountain view

LENGTH: 4.5 miles one-way
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 4800' - 5200'
Gregg's Ceanothus buds ready to bloom

From Phoenix, travel north on State Route 87 (Beeline Highway) to Payson. Just past the Mazatzal Casino, turn right on Phoenix Street (easy to miss, near the Circle K), drive 1.6 miles to Gibson Court, turn right and continue 0.1 mile to the inconspicuous trailhead on the left. There's parking along the road and in a cul de sac a few yards up the street. Do not block private drives in the area.
Located at the south end of the Sonic restaurant at SR87 and Green Valley Pkwy. near the Mazatzal Casino.
INFO: Payson Area Trails System

Monday, March 9, 2015


Mazatzal Wilderness
Inside the grotto

Late winter snowfall followed by suddenly warm days of spring form a perfect storm for waterworks in the Mazatzal Mountains. The challenging Barnhardt Trail #43 is the ideal trek for viewing dozens of cascades drenching a canyon-bound wilderness south of Payson. The route zigzags uphill through a complicated stew of geological delights including spectacular "chevron folds"--accordion-style bends in metamorphic rock-- created by millions of years of tectonic forces. Also, look for "fossil" waves in the rose-colored quartzite that lines the trail. These stone ripple marks are either preserved ocean-bottom wave action or fingerprints of shallow rivulet currents. Throughout the hike, outcroppings of blush-colored stone and scaly shales are doused by trickling springs and roaring waterfalls plunging 2000 feet over rough cut cliffs. Several stony ledges along the edge-hugging path offer excellent views of churning water at the bottom of the canyon. A particularly grand vista can be seen at the 2.80-mile point where a natural rock shelter teeters above a vertical drop that frames the hazy purple outline of the Mogollon Rim. Although trail #43 runs for 6 miles one-way, many hikers prefer to trek to the 3.14-mile point and climb into a secluded grotto where a triple-tiered cataract plunges 100 feet into an icy drop pool. It takes a bit of scrambling through brush and wet rock to get into the waterfall grotto, but it's well worth the effort to experience the spectacular but transient display of desert water that peaks during March and April.
Entry to the grotto
LENGTH: 6.5 miles to the grotto and back.
RATING: moderate-difficult
ELEVATION: 4210' - 5580'
Entry to Barnhardt Canyon

From Shea Blvd. and AZ87 (Beeline Hwy) in Fountain Hills, travel 51 miles north on AZ87 to FR 419. This road is located just beyond the sign for Barnhardt Trailhead and roughly 0.25 mile south of the town of Gisela. Turn left and go 4.8 miles on FR 419 to the trailhead. FR419 is rutted dirt but passable by carefully driven sedans.

INFO: Payson Ranger District, Tonto National Forest

Monday, March 2, 2015


Sonoita Creek along the Railroad Trail

The 9,453' summit of Mt. Wrightson is a magnet for winter snow and summer rain. This year-round precipitation is the source of the perennial waters flowing through the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. Located south of the sky-scraping Santa Rita Mountains near the vineyards of Arizona's southeast wine region, the preserve was established in 1994 to protect the fragile watershed and riparian corridor. More than 20 miles of hiking trails wander through the 9,959-acre site that encompasses seven types of vegetative communities from
View of Patagonia Lake from the Overlook Trail
semi-desert grassland to moist deciduous forests along the creek. For an overview of the area, begin with the 0.7-mile, 500' climb up the Overlook Trail. On the summit, there are terrific views of adjacent Patagonia Lake and the peaks of the San Cayetano and Patagonia Mountains huddling around ocotillo studded savannah. To the east, the creek appears as a green satin ribbon dressing up the muted hills and gullies that bevel toward the water's twisting groove. A diverse menu of trails offer treks into the arid foothills, the lake dam and spillway, up into the Coal Mine Spring watershed and of course, walks along the creek.
Maps available at the visitor center and ample junction signage make navigation simple. One of the most popular day hikes is the easy, 4-mile Sonoita Creek-Cottonwood Loop circuit which begins with a 1.5-mile walk through high desert and ends with a spindle plunge into the creek channel and traipse through a lush forest of ash, willow, mesquite and walnut trees. For an extended, more challenging hike, continue on along the Railroad Trail which makes a stepping stone creek cross to follow the abandoned bed of the New Mexico and Arizona Railway 3 miles to the confluence with the Santa Cruz River. This section of trail is subjected to the whims of nature, so look for carins where the path gets erased by floods or downed trees. In addition to proper gear and plenty of water, a pair of binoculars will come in handy for viewing the more than 315 bird species--including the impossible to miss, brilliant red, Vermillion Flycatcher--- that inhabit the area.
Mountain views on the Sonoita Creek Trail

LENGTH: 20 miles of trails
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 3610'-4250'
FEE: $15 daily per vehicle
DAY USE HOURS: 4 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sonoita Creek State Natural Area is always open, but the Visitor Center is closed during summer. Permits for hiking, hunting and horseback riding in the Natural Area can be obtained from the park gatehouse or by calling (520) 287-6965.
FACILITIES: Primitive, hike-in camping. Major ammenities are available at adjacent 
Patagonia Lake SP
Days of wine and water at Sonoita Creek
400 Lake Patagonia Road, Patagonia.
From Tucson, go 17 miles east on Interstate 10 to the State Route 83 exit 281. Head 24 miles south on SR83 to the SR83/82 junction in Sonoita, turn right (west) on SR 82 and continue 7 miles to Lake Patagonia Road. Turn right and go four miles to the Patagonia Lake State Park gate. Pay the entry fee and proceed to the visitor center to get a free hiking permit for the natural area. Only a limited number of hikers (and horses) are allowed in the natural area at any time. So, call ahead if you're hiking with a group.
Sonoita Creek State Natural Area

Thursday, February 26, 2015



This year's theme--Illumination-- is a perfect match for hikers. Enter your best shots of moonlit lakes, sunsets, sunrises, city lights as seen from Arizona mountaintops, campfires, sun-kissed cacti, electric leaves, glowing tents or whatever light-themed image your lens captures. Winner and finalists will be featured in a PHOENIX magazine photo essay and the top photog gets a luxury weekend getaway prize. UPLOAD YOUR PHOTOS BEFORE MARCH 27, 2015.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015



Another season of Wag & Walk dog adoption hikes at Mesa's Usery Mountain Regional Park is nearly over. There are just two more opportunities left to hike with adoptable dogs from Maricopa County Animal Care & Control's Mesa shelter before we take a break until October. This is your chance to meet lovable mutts and see how well they walk on leash and behave outside of the kennel environment. The dogs are already spayed or neutered, up-to-date on their shots, licensed and ready to go home with you on the spot. Volunteer handlers will be more than happy to share tidbits about each dog's personality, activity level, care needs and goofy quirks. Even if you don't find the love of your life on the easy, one-mile loop hike, shelter volunteers will be on hand to direct you to county adoption facilities and answer questions about selecting a dog that suits your lifestyle. So, come on out and spend the day in the park while the weather is perfect.

WHEN: Saturday, March 7 and April 4, 2015
WHERE: Usery Mountain Regional Park. Meet at the Area 6 Merkle trailhead.TIME: 9 a.m.


Monday, February 23, 2015


Future site of Skyline Regional Park

After years of public meetings, environmental assessments and negotiations with land management agencies, Skyline Regional Park in Buckeye is about to become a reality. Situated in mountainous, geologically complex terrain north of Interstate 10, construction on the the 8,675-acre recreational site will begin sometime in April/May. The park will be developed in phases with long term goals that include expansion of trails, building additional facilities and working toward connectivity with Maricopa County Parks and the Valley-circumnavigating Maricopa Trail. When the park opens this year, there will be paved access roads, gatehouse, developed trailhead, parking, horse staging area, picnic ramadas, restroom and camping sites along with an environmental education programming area. A 133' long by 14' wide bridge will span a gaping desert wash to connect hikers, equestrians and bikers to 14 miles of existing trails. Another 14 miles of trails are in the planning stages. The non-motorized use routes will range in challenge level from barrier-free to difficult and each will be surrounded by breathtaking Sonoran Desert plants and wildlife. Deer, javelina, desert fox, raptors and the Sonoran Desert Tortoise live among the park's rich stands of ironwood, Palo Verde and mesquite trees that shade colorful spreads of wildflowers, native vines and blooming cacti. From the park's high points, big sky views beg to be savored, which is why a special spot perched on a yawning mountain saddle will be designated for interpretive star gazing events.
Geology buffs will find much to admire at Skyline Park

The park will be open from sunrise to sunset daily. Initially there will be no fees to enter the park, but that may change over time. Check back here for park updates, opening day announcement, location details and trail reviews. Until then, you can read up on the park's history and future plans by clicking on the links below.
Mountain views

White Tank Mountains Conservancy
Sonoran Institute:

Monday, February 16, 2015


San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
San Pedro River 

From its headwaters in Sonora Mexico to the confluence with the Gila River near Winkelman, the San Pedro River flows 140 miles north through 57,000 acres of riparian wildlife habitat surrounded by scrub and sprawling grasslands of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. Cradled between the high peaks of the Huachuca Mountains and the ore-rich hills around Bisbee, the river is one of the last free flowing waterways in the Southwest. Over its lacy course, the unbridled river unfolds in idiosyncratic oxbows, linear pools, marshes and mesquite-cluttered floodplains giving a glimpse of what the area might have looked like to ancient inhabitants.
The 27-mile San Pedro River Trail runs adjacent to the water and a web a spur paths leading to the muddy banks and pebble-strewn sandbars add myriad opportunities for viewing some of the 350 species of birds, 80 species of mammals, 68 kinds of reptiles and amphibians and 2 species of native fish that reside in a tangled forest of cottonwood, willow and ash trees. Numerous trailheads and backcountry camping areas are spread long the trail's length making for easy car shuttle, day hike or backpack outings. The well-signed route is peppered with sites that chronicle the area's human history. There's a Clovis Paleo-Indian culture locale (11,000-8,000 B.C.), petroglyph gallery, mammoth kill pit, remnants of Spanish and Mexican colonial explorations and the foundations of territorial ranching and mining outposts. Taking in the entire scope of SPRNCA is a multi-day venture, but for a quick day trip or to learn more about the conservation area, a good place to start is at the San Pedro House trailhead. Here, knowledgeable volunteers from the Friends of the San Pedro River host guided hikes and are on hand to help optimize your itinerary. This is also the stepping out point for a trek along the San Rafael del Valle section of the route that culminates 8 miles upstream at the Hereford Bridge trailhead.
Beaver dam on San Pedro River

LENGTH: 27 miles one-way
or 8 miles one-way for the San Rafael del Valle section
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3762' - 4071'
FACILITIES: Restrooms, bookstore, picnic tables at San Pedro House. Restroom at Hereford Bridge.
FEES: No trailhead fees. Backcountry camping permits are $2 per person per day.
San Pedro House trailhead
From Phoenix, take Interstate 10 east toward Tucson. Continue to the AZ90 Fort Huachuca/Sierra Vista exit #302. Follow the AZ90 signs through Sierra Vista, then:
From Sierra Vista, continue east on AZ90 to milepost 328 and turn right (south) at the sign just before the bridge.
From Sierra Vista, continue east on AZ90 to Moson Road (traffic light just past milepost 325), turn right and continue 7.6 miles to Hereford Road. Turn left, go 4.6 miles and turn right at the sign just past milepost 8 before the bridge. Roads are paved up to the 0.1-mile access roads which are good gravel.
Hereford Bridge
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, (520) 439-6400
San Pedro House Trails System: (520) 458-3559
Friends of the San Pedro River

Thursday, February 5, 2015


McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Gooseneck Trail

It's fitting that this McDowell Sonoran Preserve connector route is named Gooseneck. That's because over its 7-mile length, it twists and bends in a continuous dance through the desert that dodges among massive granite outcroppings with majestic views of Four Peaks, Superstition Wilderness and the Verde River Valley. More than just a point-to-point journey, this route--which was opened in 2014-- runs from two major trailheads--Fraesfield in the north and Tom's Thumb to the south and is also part of the Maricopa Trail that spans adjacent McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Additionally, the trail ties in with the newly created Saguaro Nest (1.9 miles) and Redbird (1.1 miles) trails. Beginning the trek from the south involves hiking 0.3 mile on Marcus Landslide Trail and 0.2 mile on Rock Knob to the Gooseneck junction. Immediately upon stepping out on this playfully snarled route, a botanical treasure trove of desert plants fills the landscape. You'll walk among gorgeous specimens of wolfberry shrubs, yucca, desert hackberry bushes and glowing clusters of jumping cholla. In spring, blooming wildflowers like red maids, filaree, lupines and poppies sprout from the loose gravel soils. With big views, interesting geology and an understory of colorful blossoms, you'll be glad the trail sweeps out in lazy arcs that revel in the secret finds and secluded niches of this North Valley preserve.
Gooseneck Trail
LENGTH: 7 miles one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2500' - 2813'
HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily
Rock Knob and Four Peaks
Parking is allowed ONLY at these Scottsdale trailheads:
FRAESFIELD: 13400 E. Rio Verde Dr.
TOM'S THUMB: 23015 N. 128th St.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Apache Junction
High Point Trail go to the summit of Silly Mountain 

Sandwiched between the US 60 freeway and the rough-cut mountains of the Superstition Wilderness, Silly Mountain Park straddles the worlds of hot pavement and rugged backcountry. A web of 9 trails meander along the the mountain's humps, slumps and points of interest including an old grave site and an abandoned mine. The park is the result of a restoration project funded by public and corporate donations and managed through a partnership between the City of Apache Junction and the Superstition Area Land Trust--a non-profit educational corporation created to protect and preserve Arizona State Trust Lands around the southern slopes of the Superstition Mountains. Up until 2008, Silly Mountain was being used as an off-road vehicle playground which took a heavy toll in the terrain. The decimation of native vegetation and deep trackway scars were becoming an eyesore and a public safety concern. Restoration of the site involved stabilizing trails for long term sustainability, re-establishing indigenous plants and restricting travel to non-motorized use. The park's most resent addition is a barrier-free, interpretive Botanical Walk that features 280 species of Sonoran Desert plants.
View from the top of Silly Mountain

LENGTH: 3.5 miles of trails plus a barrier free Botanical Walk
RATING: easy to difficult
ELEVATION: 1550' - 2139'
Superstition Ridgeline on the horizon

From Phoenix, travel east on US60 and turn left onto Mountain View Road just past milepost 199. Go 0.3 miles on Mountain View, turn right onto 32nd Ave and continue 0.2 mile to Silly Mountain Road. Turn right and go 0.4 mile to the trailhead on the left.
Superstition Area Land Trust (SALT)

Friday, January 30, 2015


Cliffrose Trailhead in Cottonwood

In what might be described as the "tip of the iceberg", the Cliffrose trailhead in Cottonwood represents the ongoing efforts of the Verde Valley Regional Trails Concept Plan. This grassroots effort to enhance and maintain the area's multi-use trail systems draws upon the expertise of residents from towns of Jerome and Camp Verde, and staff from the Prescott National Forest, Coconino National Forest, State Parks, City of Sedona, City of Cottonwood, Town of Clarkdale, and Yavapai County.
Together these groups are working to foster a long-range vision for Verde Valley trails and open spaces for the development of interconnected recreational travel systems.
The compact, no-frills Cliffrose trailhead sits near the Verde Valley Botanical Area and provides access to the Lime KilnTrail which in turn provides an established 15-mile travel corridor between Cottonwood and Sedona. At this writing (Jan. 2015), the trails here are unsigned but well defined. A dirt road heading east from the trailhead curves north to meet Lime Kiln in roughly 2 miles while a web of loop trails heading west trace a starkly beautiful landscape of ravines and cave riddled, jagged-edged limestone outcroppings. Beyond the chalk white sediments and high-desert scrub, sweeping vistas of Sedona's angular, vivid, rusty hued sandstone mesas and spires contrast with the hushed tones and rounded slopes of the Bradshaw Mountains. Finding your way around the roughly 3 miles of nicely maintained trails is easy. Just use the lay of the land as a natural compass. The red rocks of Sedona are in the northeast, Cottonwood and Jerome on the western frontier and the hum of Cornville Road to the south provide all the navigation tools you'll need.
Bradshaw mountain views

LENGTH: variable, our GPS track of the loops read 3 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3,089' – 3,353'
Limestone geology takes center stage

From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to the McGuireville exit 293 and go 12.4 miles west on Cornville Road (a.k.a. CR30, Mingus Ave.) to State Route 89A. From here, cross 89A ,continue less than a mile and turn right at the Cliffrose Trail sign.