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Saturday, August 1, 2009


PIMA CANYON WASH TRAIL South Mountain Park Finding the road-less-traveled in South Mountain Park is easy; just follow the chuckwallas. Quieter than the multi-use trail above it, the soft sand of Pima Wash feels good under boots and local wildlife finds solitude in its scrub and rocky embankments. Middens spilling from petroglyph-encrusted crevasses in the canyon walls betray favorite hangouts of desert critters. In places, the pungent, camphor-pine aroma of rare, elephant trees perfumes the breeze. At the National Trail junction, return the way you came or, continue to the head of the canyon where, a dry waterfall, caves and native bird songs enhance a lizard’s-eye view of downtown Phoenix. LENGTH: 3.5-miles round-trip RATING: Easy ELEVATION GAIN: 300 feet FEE: beginning in "early fall" 2010 there's a $2 daily parking fee. For more info, visit: GETTING THERE: Exit I-10 at Elliott Road. Turn towards Phoenix onto Elliott and go to 48th Street. Go right on 48th Street and take the 3rd left turn after the Piedmont light, which is the continuation of 48th Street. The Pima Canyon entrance is the first drive on the left. Beyond the parking lot, hike the dirt road for .2 mile, then, veer left down the ravine into the wash. Follow the sand and trail signs. TRAILHEAD ADDRESS: 9904 S. 48th St. (48th St. & Guadalupe Rd.): From Phoenix, take I-10 to the Elliot Road exit. Turn west and go less than a mile to 48th Street, turn right (north) on 48th and continue to Guadalupe Rd., veer left through a very confusing intersection and then turn left again onto Pima Canyon Rd. and follow the signs to the park. Expect to get lost your first time here. The roads are weird. Here’s the best map I’ve found:


PASS MOUNTAIN TRAIL Usery Mountain Regional Park Situated on over 3,000 acres of unspoiled desert terrain just south of Mesa, Usery Mountain Regional Park has more than 29 miles of hiking trails. Pass Mountain trail is the most difficult and longest of the twenty designated routes within the park. Open to horseback riders and hikers, the path makes a wide loop around the multiple 3,000-foot-high peaks of Pass Mountain for continual panoramic views of cholla-dotted arid plains and the jagged volcanic ridgelines of both the Superstition and Goldfield mountains. When hiked in a counter-clockwise direction, most of the strenuous uphill hiking happens in the first couple of miles as the trail climbs 600 feet before it levels off on the slopes beneath the peaks. After that, the route rambles over minor humps and shallow ravines until at near the 4-mile-point, it encounters a wide pass with spectacular views of a sprawling valley. Beyond the pass, the trail winds downhill through a maze of boulders cactuses, and palo verde trees that frame distant urban landscapes. LENGTH: 7.1-mile loop RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 2,000-2,600 feet FEES: $6 daily fee per vehicle GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, take Highway 60 east to exit 191, (Ellsworth Road) and go north (right). Continue on Ellsworth (which will turn into Usery Pass Road) for 6.7 miles and then turn right onto Usery Park Road. Follow the signs to the Horse Staging Area. The trail begins at the east side of the lot where there are porta potties and shaded picnic tables but no water. INFORMATION: 480-984-0032

Monday, July 27, 2009


HUNTER CREEK Tonto National Forest Those in search of solitude will appreciate this off-the-beaten-path stroll along a trickling waterway embellished with sun-dappled meadows. To find Hunter Creek, hike uphill from the parking area, pass a gate and drop into the streambed. To make your return trip easier, mark your entry point, as it’s easy to miss it on the way out. Once at the creek, head right (south west) and follow the babbling brook, taking time to explore terraced waterfalls, a spring, and a crumbling stone foundation. This is also a good place to test your animal track identification skills on the dozens of footprints that clutter the stream’s muddy margins. HIGHLIGHTS: seldom-visited, creek side ramble LENGTH: 2- 5 miles roundtrip RATING: easy ELEVATION: 6,100-6,160 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 125 miles GETTING THERE: From Payson, go east on Highway 260 for 25 miles to Colcord Road (Forest Road 291). Go right and continue .3 mile and park on an unmarked dirt road on the right where there’s a barbed wire gate visible roughly 40 yard farther up the road. INFORMATION: 602-225-5200 or