Thursday, February 26, 2015

PHOENIX MAGAZINE 5th ANNUAL PHOTO CONTEST

PHOENIX MAGAZINE 5th ANNUAL PHOTO CONTEST, 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.
ENTER HERE:
http://woobox.com/uc5kmd

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

WAG & WALK DOG HIKE

WAG & WALK DOG HIKE



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.


INFO:


Monday, February 23, 2015

SKYLINE REGIONAL PARK

SKYLINE REGIONAL PARK to BREAK GROUND THIS SPRING
Buckeye
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
http://www.wtmconservancy.org/
Sonoran Institute:

Monday, February 16, 2015

SAN PEDRO RIVER TRAIL

SAN PEDRO RIVER TRAIL
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.
GETTING THERE:
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:
SAN PEDRO HOUSE TRAILHEAD:
From Sierra Vista, continue east on AZ90 to milepost 328 and turn right (south) at the sign just before the bridge.
HEREFORD BRIDGE TRAILHEAD:
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
INFO & MAPS:
San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, (520) 439-6400
San Pedro House Trails System: (520) 458-3559
Friends of the San Pedro River
MORE PHOTOS:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

GOOSENECK TRAIL

GOOSENECK TRAIL
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
GETTING THERE:
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

SILLY MOUNTAIN

SILLY MOUNTAIN PARK
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

GETTING THERE:
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.
INFO & MAP:
Superstition Area Land Trust (SALT)
MORE PHOTOS:

Friday, January 30, 2015

CLIFFROSE TRAILHEAD

CLIFFROSE TRAILHEAD
Cottonwood
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

GETTING THERE:
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.

INFO:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

JAIL TRAIL RIVER WALK

JAIL TRAIL RIVER WALK
Cottonwood
Verde River

A trip to Old Town Cottonwood just isn't complete without a stroll under the "Gateway to the Verde River" archway that leads to a hike along the Jail Trail. Debarking from the site of a rustic old jail building, which is now home to a quaint tea house, the mile long, easy trail follows the banks of the river through River Front Park and on to Dead Horse Ranch State Park. The trail is shaded by thick tangles of willows and enormous cottonwood trees towering over the running water, cattail ringed coves and rock strewn flood plains. With reliable water and ample nesting spots, this riparian corridor is a productive birding location with hundreds of resident, seasonal and migratory species gracing the property. The hike can be enjoyed year-round as it cycles through the seasons. During the leafless winter months, the riparian corridor is as enchanting as ever with the benefit of bare branches giving clear views of roosting raptors and flocks of red-winged blackbirds. Springtime brings a flurry of chartreuse leaf shoots and fluffy catkins that mature into emerald canopies of cooling shade that last through summer. The balmy days and cool nights of late October turn the leaves into a spectacle of gold and russet. So whether you're visiting Cottonwood for a day of wine tasting, antique shopping or a scenic drive, a walk along the Verde River is de rigueur and the Jail Trail is the easiest path to the water.
Gigantic cottonwood trees

LENGTH: 1 mile one-way
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3300' - 3290'
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, travel north on Interstate 17 to the Camp Verde exit 287. Head 10 miles east on State Route 260 toward Cottonwood and Jerome. When SR260 intersects with Main St./State Rt. 89A/Historic 89A, take a left. When State Rt. 89A separates at the light, stay on Main St./Historic 89A to get to Old Town. Continue through Old Town to where the road makes a sharp left turn just past Yavapai Street. Look for the “Gateway to the Verde River” archway and park in the lot on the right at 1101 N. Main Street.
Verde River

INFO: Sedona Verde Valley Tourism Council
Birding info:

Monday, January 26, 2015

LIME KILN-BILL ENSIGN TRAILS

LIME KILN-BILL ENSIGN TRAILS
Cottonwood
Bill Ensign Trail

The Lime Kiln Trail is a reclaimed wagon road that was originally used from the 1890s thru the early 1900s to transport building materials and market goods between Cottonwood and Sedona. Today, the 15-mile-long route serves as a recreational trail for hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers anchored by Dead Horse Ranch State park in the west and and Red Rock State Park in the east. Named for a kiln built in the 1880s to produce mortar for the construction of several homes in Cottonwood area, the trail wanders through a landscape of limestone-layered rock formations dotted with Crucifixion thorn, juniper and beavertail cacti with impressive views of the mining town of Jerome, Mingus and Woodchute Mountains and Sedona's House Mountain volcano. Multiple access points and connecting trails provide dozens of day hike and backpack options. One to try is an out-and-back circuit using the Lime Kiln and Bill Ensign trails. Beginning from the Lagoon trailhead at DHRSP, this trip passes by the kiln site where interested hikers can take a short spur trail to the crumbling remains. At the 1.7-mile point, turn right at the Bill Ensign junction and hike 1.5 miles through high desert terrain skirting the boundary of the Verde Valley Botanical Area--a preserve established to protect the endangered Arizona Cliffrose. The trail culminates at a high point overlooking a riparian corridor of willows and cottonwoods along the Verde River.
Lime Kiln Trail near the Verde River

LENGTH: 7.5 miles (as described here)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 3,300' – 3,590'
FEE: $7 daily fee per vehicle
FACILITIES: restrooms, camp sites, cabins, picnic ramadas, fishing
Lime Kiln Trail

GETTING THERE:
Dead Horse Ranch State Park
From Interstate 17 go north to State Route 260 exit 287 and head west toward Cottonwood. Continue 11 miles to Main Street in Cottonwood (Hwy 89A) and turn left. Continue through Cottonwood on Main Street, turn right on 10th Street and follow the signs to the park.
Bill Ensign Trail

INFO:
MAPS:
Lime Kiln-Bill Ensign:
Lime Kiln:



Monday, January 19, 2015

ORACLE STATE PARK TRAILS


ORACLE STATE PARK TRAILS

Windmill Loop connects with the Arizona Trail

Because Oracle State Park is open only on weekends, there's a narrow window of opportunity for hiking the site's 15 miles of trails during the cooler months. Located in a prime wildlife corridor of high desert scrub and savannah grasslands, the park is bolstered by the far northern reaches of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains and the sprawling rampart of the Galiuro range looming over the meandering gorge of the San Pedro River to the west. Although there's little shade on the 8 routes that amble among stands of Soaptree yucca, agaves, isolated patches of scrub oak and fruit-bearing cholla, the upside is that the sun drenched foothills display unobstructed, "see-forever" vistas. The best time to hike here is November through April when crisp mountain breezes whipping through hip-high forbs add hair-rustling fun to the trek.  Despite being within a park setting with all the expected amenities, the trails have a nice wilderness feel to them.  Sightings of mammals like whitetail deer, fox, javelina as well as native birds and reptiles are common. Passage 13 of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, which skirts the park's edge, connects with several of the routes.  Excellent signage and soft footing make for easy, pain-free travel on most of the trails. The one exception is the Windmill Loop that begins at the bottom of Kannally Wash with a trudge through calf-cramping sand with few directional signs.  Post hike, visit the park’s Kannally Ranch House.  The 1930s-era, adobe structure with its, multiple levels, twisting staircases, unusual art-embellished spaces and a kitchen with a wall of original iceboxes adds a note of history to top off your day.
Soaptree yuccas frame views of the Galiuro Mountains

LENGTH: 15 miles plus 4 miles of AZT
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 3700' - 4600'
HOURS: Saturdays & Sundays 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic areas, museum, gift shop
FEES: $7 daily fee per vehicle

Arizona's own brand of savannah

GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix, take Highway 79 south. At the junction with Highway 77 turn left (east). Turn right off Highway 77 at the Oracle turnoff. Follow the road through Oracle (America Avenue) 2.3 miles to Mt. Lemmon Road. Turn right on Mt. Lemmon Road. Follow it 1.1 miles to the park entrance. The park is located on the left (north) side of Mt. Lemmon Road.

 Whitetail deer are plentiful in this wildlife haven

INFO:
Oracle State Park
3820 Wildlife Drive, Oracle, AZ
520-896-2425
MORE PHOTOS:

Monday, January 12, 2015

KING CANYON TRAIL


KING CANYON TRAIL
Saguaro National Park West
Wasson Peak Summit

If you hike along the trails of Saguaro National Park West in any depth, sooner or later, you'll end up on the 4687' summit of Wasson Peak.  Two clusters of trails located at the southwest and northeast ends of the park tie in with arterial routes that funnel to the highest point of the Tucson Mountain Range. King Canyon Trail is the shortest, most direct route to the top.  Although brief, the trek is no walk in the park (ok, well, technically it's in a park).  Over its 3.5-mile one-way course, hikers ascend 1987' along a dirt path that goes aggressively vertical  
Wasson Peak hovers over Tucson
on the last mile. Right out of the gate, a tempting, cloud-caressing massif looms ahead.  This is the infamous "false summit" of Wasson Peak. The actual highpoint resides behind it and you won't see it until you've hiked halfway up its deceptive sibling. Advance knowledge prevents the emotional torture of discovering this cruel fluke with exhausted legs. From the parking area located just outside the Saguaro National Park boundary, follow the dirt road at the end of the lot and hike a few dozen yards to the official trailhead.
King Canyon Trail proper ends 0.3-mile from the summit prize. Here, the drool-worthy destination appears as a lone stub at the end of a spur trail hugging a knife-edge ridge hovering over Tucson valley and the Santa Catalina Mountains.  At this point, with just one more uphill haul left to tackle, the physical climbing challenge is mostly complete. Regroup your resolve, take a deep breath and trudge on because mentally---you're already there.
The "false summit" --left of road in the distance

LENGTH: 7 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2700’- 4687'
FACILITIES: none
RULES: Dogs, bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited. Livestock is not allowed on the summit switchbacks.

GETTING THERE:
From Interstate 10 in Tucson, take Speedway Blvd. exit 257 and head 12 miles west (Speedway turns into Gates Pass Road) to Kinney Road. Turn right and continue 2.5 miles to the trailhead located 0.1 mile past the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum at parking area K24 on the right.
Edgy switchbacks on the last mile

INFO:
MAP:
MORE PHOTOS:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

ROBBINS BUTTE WILDLIFE AREA


ROBBINS BUTTE WILDLIFE AREA
Near Buckeye
Robbins Butte 

Occasionally, some of the best hiking can be discovered where there are no trails. This is true of the Robbins Butte Wildlife Area located south of Buckeye.  The Arizona Game and Fish Commission manage this 1,681-acre swath of riparian-desert upland ecosystem for the preservation of native animal habitats and enhancement of wildlife-oriented recreation.  Except for a short accessible trail built by the Boy Scouts in 2008, there’s not a traditional hiking trail to be found in the astonishingly varied terrain.  Instead, hikers can explore along dirt roads and hunter paths that lead to cattail-lined wetlands along the Gila River, mesquite forests and sandy washes running through expansive rangelands of creosote and cholla. The property is designated an Audubon Important Birding Area and is one site in their annual Christmas bird count. At any given time, thousands of white-wing and mourning doves can be seen feeding on the crops that are planted here to attract and sustain them. Besides the familiar trill of doves taking flight, there are chirping quail, squawking water birds and, in winter, a bevy of raptors like bald eagles and red-tailed hawks inhabit the affluent land. Determined bird watchers may also spot rare species like the Western yellow-billed cuckoo and Lark Buntings.  I was fortunate enough to view a pair of Cooper’s hawks sparing above a rogue cottonwood tree.  This free-form hiking excursion can be experienced from any of the 6 designated parking areas along the 2-mile main access road. Just step out and wander at will. I hiked along the roads and footpaths for 7 miles and barely scratched the surface of sights to be seen in this extraordinary public land preserve.

Crops planted to attract and sustain wildlife

LENGTH: variable on roads and hunter paths
RATING: easy, exploratory
ELEVATION: 578’ – 820’
FACILITIES: none. No fees.

Free-form hiking along roads and hunter paths

GETTING THERE:
From downtown Phoenix (I17 and 7th Ave.), go 30 miles west on Interstate 10 to State Route 85 exit 112. Head 8 miles south on AZ85 to the signed turn off on the right for Robbins Butte and follow the dirt road 0.3 mile to the parking area on the right just before the road fork.  The main road (right at fork) leads to 5 additional parking areas and is sedan-friendly dirt, while the road to the Butte (left at fork) is washboard rough, sandy and better suited for high-clearance vehicles.

Wandering through a wash

INFO & MAPS:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

MARICOPA TRAIL


MARICOPA TRAIL
Anthem-Lake Pleasant

With the New Year comes the anticipated completion of the Valley-circumnavigating Maricopa Trail. Its 240-mile circuit connects county parks, open spaces and suburban communities.  Most of the trail is already cut, signed and ready to explore with the gaps to be bridged in 2015. One interesting, close-to-town section runs for 16.2-miles from Lake Pleasant to Anthem. Beginning at the Agua Fria trailhead that was dedicated in 2011, the route roughly parallels Highway 74, turns north to connect with the Black Canyon Trail then heads east under Interstate 17.  Near the lake, the path scoots around and above the Beardsley and Waddell canals, Camp Dryer Diversion Dam and the massive wall of Carl Pleasant Dam.
The route can be a bit confusing at the beginning.  To stay on track, go east (right) on the dirt path for 0.1 mile to where it comes out on the access road.  From here, continue hiking on the road, cross the canal bridge and look for a Maricopa Trail sign on the right where the road curves to the north at 0.2 mile from the trailhead. From this point on, the route is marked with signs and cairns where it gets sketchy in washes.  In addition to the reservoir features, the trail also passes through an ironwood-lined gully, and crosses a flat plain of creosote and cholla before encountering a RV park near 87th Avenue.  As the trail moves east, the sound of gunfire from Ben Avery Shooting Range heralds the approach to Interstate 17 and a traipse into the Anthem community.
Gate at 87th Ave Crossing

LENGTH: 16.2 miles one way to Anthem
Option: 2.7 miles to 87th Ave
Option: 3.7 to New River Road
Option: 9.3 miles to Black Canyon Trail
Option: 11.5 to I-17
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 1100' - 1737'
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix travel north on Interstate 17 to Carefree Highway/State Route 74 exit 223. Drive 9 miles west (toward Wickenburg) to Beardsley CSR, turn right, go 0.1 mile and make a U-turn to the trailhead parking area.
Canals and dams decorate the trail's west end

INFO:
MAP:
Rock cairns mark the way in washes

MORE PHOTOS:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

TORTUGA-SPUR CROSS LOOP


TORTUGA-SPUR CROSS LOOP
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area

Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area is a pristine swath of preserve snuggling up to Cave Creek. It's got everything you'd expect of a Sonoran Desert hiking destination with some unexpected extras to boot. Complementing a community of gigantic saguaros, skulking coyotes, mesquite bosques and  fragrant creosote are a smattering of Native American archeological sites and ruins of mining operations that are best explored via regularly scheduled guided hikes.  With so much to see and do within the Ranch, it can be difficult to decide where to start.  That's where the popular Tortuga-Spur Cross Loop hike comes in handy. Along its 3.6-mile circuit, the trail samples both the rough terrain round the base of Elephant Mountain and the slinky, fresh-cut tread of Spur Cross Trail. A moderate uphill slog on an old 4x4 road leads to a crest overlooking water-scoured gorges, cacti-cluttered cliffs and the riparian wonders of the Jewel of the Creek Preserve. From here, a barely discernable maze of trails braided through surrounding hills and valleys belie a bevy of connecting routes that link the park with adjacent suburbs and the wilds of Tonto National Forest. 

LENGTH:  3.6 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  2,200' - 2,800'
FEE: $3 daily fee per person.  Exact change is required for the self-pay station

GETTING THERE:
From Loop 101 in Phoenix, take Cave Creek Road north to Spur Cross Road (on the left just as you enter the downtown area) and go 4.5 miles to the parking area.

INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation

MAP:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

YAVAPAI POINT TRAIL


YAVAPAI POINT TRAIL
Lake Pleasant Regional Park

Yavapai Point Trail

One of three new hiking paths that debuted in November 2014 at Lake Pleasant Regional Park, Yavapai Point Trail adds a moderate climb and sweeping vistas to the park’s 6-trail, 8.3-mile system.  The hike begins at the Cottonwood Day-Use Area with a 0.2-mile walk on Pipeline Canyon Trail to the Yavapai Point junction.  Here the trail swerves toward the water, following the cliffs above the lake.  A scenic viewpoint at roughly the half-mile point serves as an appetizer for what awaits hikers at trail’s end. From here, the hike becomes an edgy, switchback-moderated ridgeline climb with views of Cottonwood Creek, Fireman’s Cove and Pipeline Canyon. The hike’s big payoff is a panorama of the lake and surrounding desert mountains on the breezy summit.  From here, you can return the way you came and pick up the new Cottonwood Trail or connect with Pipeline Canyon, hike 1.9 miles south and step out on the third new route, Wild Burro Trail.


LENGTH:  3.4 miles roundtrip (Yavapai Point out-and-back)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  1,782’ - 2,178’
FEE: $6 daily fee per vehicle
FACILITIES: restrooms, water, picnic ramadas, camping, nature center
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix go north on Interstate 17 to Carefree Highway/State Route 74 exit 223.  Head west (toward Wickenburg) to Castle Hot Springs Road turn right and drive 5.4 miles to the Lake Pleasant North Access road. Turn right (pay fee at gate) and go 0.4 mile to the turn off for Cottonwood Picnic area, turn right and go 0.4 mile to the Pipeline Canyon trailhead.



INFO: Lake Pleasant Regional Park
MAP:

MORE PHOTOS: