Tuesday, January 27, 2015


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'
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


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

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

Lime Kiln-Bill Ensign:
Lime Kiln:

Monday, January 19, 2015



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

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

Oracle State Park
3820 Wildlife Drive, Oracle, AZ

Monday, January 12, 2015


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'
RULES: Dogs, bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited. Livestock is not allowed on the summit switchbacks.

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


Saturday, January 3, 2015


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

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


Tuesday, December 30, 2014


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'
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

Rock cairns mark the way in washes


Sunday, December 28, 2014


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

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


Sunday, December 21, 2014


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
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


Sunday, December 14, 2014


Peoria Sonoran Mountain Ranch Preserve

If you’re new to hiking or looking for a way to build stamina, this cluster of West Valley trails offers three options ranging from easy to difficult. Although none of the trails stray very far from suburban backyards, the difficult-rated summit loop gains enough elevation to provide a good workout backed by excellent scenic views.  The trail is very well constructed with hairpin switchbacks and staircase-like rock slabs that make climbing the steep chutes manageable for even novice hikers.  The trek is a surprisingly quiet journey, and save for the occasional yapping of the local Yorkshire terriers guarding their patios, the soundtrack is one of breezes through Palo Verde trees and the hum of wind-rustled saguaro needles.

LENGTH: 2.4 miles 
RATING: moderate-difficult
ELEVATION: 1,476’ – 1916’
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic tables, playground, drinking fountains

Sonoran Mountain Ranch Park, 7098 W. Miner Trail, Peoria.
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to Happy Valley Road exit 218. Go 5 miles west on Happy Valley Road to 67th Avenue, turn right and drive 2.8 miles (road becomes Pyramid Peak Pkwy.) to Sonoran Mountain Ranch Road.  Veer left and go 0.5 mile to Chalfen Blvd., turn left, continue 0.1 mile to Miner Trail and follow the signs to Sonoran Mountain Ranch Park. From the post near the restrooms, hike 0.15 mile south on Chalfen to the official trailhead. Do not park along residential streets.

A patriotic summit display

INFO: City of Peoria


Monday, December 8, 2014


Superstition Wilderness
Weaver's Needle viewed from Lone Pine lookout

A hike up Peralta Canyon Trail #102 in the Superstition Wilderness just might be the longest 2 miles you'll ever trek.  This is because the hike is an unrelenting uphill slog through desert scrub and slick rock chutes that begins immediately after departing the trailhead and does not quit until the trail tops out at the 2-mile point on the Fremont Saddle. Here, up-close views of Weaver's Needle-- the area's most recognizable pillar of rock---deliver a generous ROI for the sweaty haul. The saddle is a popular place to take a break and decide whether to continue hiking downhill another 2.6 miles to the end of trail #102 or back track for a 4-miler.  Another option involves hiking on well-worn social trails to the lone pine tree visible on a ridge to the right (east) of the Needle. This side trip adds 1-mile round trip.  Anyway you hike it, Peralta Trail is an ideal way to burn off those extra holiday calories and a terrific place to introduce out-of-town visitors to the beautiful Supes.

Near the top of Peralta Canyon

LENGTH TO FREMONT SADDLE: 4 miles round-trip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2,400 – 3,800 feet
Big exposure, bigger views.

GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take US 60 east to about 8 miles past Apache Junction and look for the “Peralta Trailhead” sign on the side of the road. Turn left onto Peralta Road (Forest Road 77) and drive 8 miles to the trailhead. NOTE: FR 77 is good dirt and passable by sedan. There are nice restrooms but no water at the trailhead. The parking lot fills up quickly on weekends, so plan to arrive early or park in the overflow lot. NO FEES.
One of two needle rocks on the trail

Monday, December 1, 2014


Tonto National Forest

Roosevelt Lake 

At the north end of Roosevelt Lake, an elegant suspension bridge that straddles the gap between the Superstition Mountains and Four Peaks Wilderness serves as the gateway to Passage 20 of the Arizona Trail. This 19.5-mile   stretch of rugged roads and narrow footpaths shimmies through of some of the state's most spectacular country. The old 4.5-mile Vineyard Trail #131 that was once used to service a reflector on a pinnacle above the lake has been harnessed into this section of the AZT's state-traversing course.  For a relatively short hike, this one really packs a scenic punch and a grueling climb at the start adds satisfaction to the vistas that unfold on the way up. The heart-pumping initial ascent along Inspiration Point tops out at 1.5-miles with 360-degree views of the lake, Sierra Ancha Mountains and green floodplains of Tonto Basin. From here, the hike is tempered by rolling grasslands as it moves west  toward Four Peaks. Next, get your camera ready because the trail curves around a low slung, saguaro-populated ridge where the Salt River gorge and snaking form of Apache Lake shimmer a thousand feet below. This is one of the prettiest places in central Arizona. Beyond the river-and-lake eye candy, the trail dips down though rock fall and cacti to meet Forest Road 429 and the end of trail #131 at the Mills Ridge Trailhead where you can backtrack for a 9-mile day hike or continue 469 miles north to Utah on the Arizona Trail.
Salt River and Apache Lake

LENGTH: 4.5 miles one way
RATING: difficult
ELEVATION: 2,200' - 3,700'
The trailhead is located on the northeast side of the Roosevelt Dam Bridge and can be accessed via State Routes 188 and 88. There are several ways to get there from Phoenix including the shortest route that's a precipitous drive on the rough dirt mountain grades of SR88.  But the faint of heart should instead take State Route 87 north to the SR188 junction and head 30 miles south to the trailhead parking turnout at the big Arizona Trail sign on the left just before the bridge. The hike begins across the road at the AZ88 junction sign.

Four Peaks on horizon

INFO: Arizona Trail Association:
Tonto National Forest: Tonto Basin Ranger District, 928-467-3200

Roosevelt Dam Bridge


Sunday, November 23, 2014


Tonto National Forest, Mesa Ranger District

Salt River viewed from Saguaro (aka Mine) Trail

Originally constructed by mountain bike enthusiasts, this intertwining system of trails overlooking Granite Reef Dam on the Salt River in Mesa is just too interesting for hikers to ignore.  In 2005, 10.3 miles of the 20-mile web of social trails were adopted into the Tonto National Forest System. As would be expected of bike trails, these routes offer an entertaining mash up of twists and swooping turns tracing the site’s hills and valleys. The 5-trail maze is also known as the "Hawes System" after the longest route in the mix. As bikers heavily use these trails, hikers should stay alert and share the dirt accordingly. Trail courtesy dictates that bikers yield to hikers and everybody yields to horses---especially the wild mustangs that roam this riverside terrain. However, a bike careening through a hairpin turn at break neck speed won't necessarily be able to avoid you without drawing blood. So, although riders on these trails are generally courteous and careful, be prepared to relinquish the right of way whenever possible---after all, they were here first.

Views of Red Mountain dominate the hike

LENGTH: 10.3 miles (maintained trails only)
Hawes Trail #52: 3.4 miles
Ridge Trail #59: 1.7 miles
Granite Trail #54: 0.7 mile
Saguaro Trail #50: 3.1 miles
Saddle Trail #51: 1.4 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1150’ – 1760’
From Phoenix go east on Loop 202 to exit 23 for Power Road in Mesa.  Travel 2.1 miles north on Power Road to the Hawes Trailhead on the left. Trail begins across the road.
INFO & MAPS: Global Bikes
Tonto National Forest

Hawes Trail


Thursday, November 20, 2014


8th Annual Race, Raffle & Fundraiser

Hikers take your marks---the 8th Annual Kahtoola Agassiz Uphill Race (KAU), Raffle and Fundraiser event is slated for Saturday, February 7, 2015.  Join 300 climbers on this insanely challenging hike/climb surrounded by a party atmosphere.  With Gore-tex as the title sponsor, racers have the option of wearing Kahtoola (a Flagstaff-based company) MICROspikes, snowshoes, crampons, skis with skins, or a split board for added traction on the steep course.  The catch? There’s no telling who will make it to the finish line first, because whichever product helps (or hinders) your way up the mountain is the product you have (or get!) to wear on the way back down. 
 A racer’s choice of footwear — MICROspikes or ski gear — livens up the competition, given that, in the race’s history, there has never been a consistent winner. Some years, the MICROspikes win; others, the ski gear.  The wide range of experience levels, from competitive racers to recreational athletes to just plain winter enthusiasts, also contributes to the fun. 
 While the competition is fierce and the fun is even fiercer, the event also dishes out a fierce dose of philanthropy. 100 percent of proceeds from the Agassiz Uphill are donated to Camp Colton, an environmental and natural sciences camp for children that informs and encourages children’s interaction with the outdoors.

WHEN: Saturday, February 7, 2015
WHERE: Arizona Snowbowl, Flagstaff
WHY: benefit for Camp Colton



I have NOT received product or payment for this endorsement. It's just a cool event worth a pitch. Mare

Monday, November 17, 2014


On newsstands Nov. 20, 2014
The December 2014 issue of PHOENIX magazine features 41 great hikes in and around the Valley.
Here’s where you can find PHOENIX magazine: Safeway, Fry’s Marketplace, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Sunflower Markets, Sprouts, Borders, Barnes & Noble, CVS, Walgreens, Sky Harbor Airport, Albertson’s, Fresh & Easy, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Target, Whole Foods, Basha’s, A.J.’s, La Grande Orange, The Kitchen, Area hospital gift shops WEB SITE: http://www.phoenixmag.com/ ORDER BY PHONE: 480-664-3960

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Saguaro Lake

Trail near Camper Cove

Of the sting of reservoirs tethered by the Salt River 30 miles northeast of the Valley, amenity-rich Saguaro Lake is the closest and easiest to find. This is one of the reasons why it's so wildly popular for boating, fishing or simply bonding with a cooler and juicy novel under a lakeside mesquite tree. Hikers can hit the dirt here by way of the Butcher Jones Trail that wraps around a water-piercing peninsula with secluded coves. Most of the route hugs the cliffs high above the lake, but fisherman paths to the shore make nice scenic detours for photography, wildlife spotting or a cozy lunch break. The trail's high points reveal fantastic views of the gaping Salt River Canyon, 1930s-era Stewart Dam and surrounding mountain ranges. Arrive early to get a good parking spot and be prepared to share the trail with pole-toting anglers and gaggles of kids running off their hot dogs and Kool-Aid. If noise and crowds cramp your style, hang in there---the commotion dissipates where the trail makes a hairpin turn around Peregrine Point.
Heading toward Burro Cove

LENGTH: 5 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1529' - 1600'
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic tables
FEE: Tonto Pass is required. $6 daily fee
The Flatiron in Superstition Wilderness on horizon

From Mesa, go 27 miles north on SR87 (Beeline Highway) to exit 199, Bush Highway (FR204), turn right and continue 2 miles to the signed turnoff for Butcher Jones Recreation Area.  Follow the access road (FR116) 2 miles to the site.  Trail begins at far east end of the beach.
Burro Cove

INFO: Tonto National Forest