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Monday, February 22, 2010


WIND CAVE Usery Mountain Regional Park Seriously—this hike feels longer than its advertised 1.5-mile length. That’s because the long, lazy route takes its time climbing in sweeping, serpentine style from the desert floor up the cliffs of Pass Mountain to the famous cave for which it is named. Then again, the reason why this hike feels so long might be because there are so many things of beauty to behold along the way. Contorted rock formations, hefty clumps of ocotillo cactuses, blooming wildflowers and countless scenic overlooks make this trail one to savor. Given its many attributes, it’s not surprising that this trail is the park’s most popular attraction---so, you should expect a lot of company when hiking this one. As advertised, the trail ends at the “wind cave” a shallow depression in the cliff walls. Worn slick by the feet of countless visitors, the rock walls of the cave are home to dozens of chipmunks who aren’t shy about begging for the “people food” snacks that could make them sick. Please help protect the health of these amusing critters by NOT feeding them. LENGTH: 3 miles roundtrip. RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 2,020 – 2,840 feet GETTING THERE; From Phoenix, go east on US 60 to exit 191, Ellsworth Road. Go north on Ellsworth for 7 miles to Usery Park Road, turn right and continue 1.7 miles to the horse staging trailhead. FEE: $6 daily fee per vehicle INFORMATION: LINK TO FACEBOOK PHOTOS:


LOOKOUT TRAIL McDowell Sonoran Preserve Here’s a sweet little side trip to consider when hiking one of the longer trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The turn off for this spur trail is located at emergency marker TL1 on the Tom’s Thumb Trail—you can’t miss it. From here, it’s an easy uphill jaunt along a desert ridgeline featuring magnificent views and interesting geology. Topping out at 3,858 feet, the trail dead-ends at the abrupt edge of the ridgeline where unobstructed vistas roll out in all directions showcasing the steep slopes of Thompson Peak, Fountain Hill’s famous water spout and the ring of mountain ranges surrounding the Valley of the Sun. LENGTH: 1 mile roundtrip (5.8 miles total from North Access Area or 11.6 miles from Gateway Access Area) RATING: easy-difficult depending on your route ELEVATION: 3,500-3,858 feet (from the trail junction) GETTING THERE: NORTH ACCESS: From the Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima Road/Princess Drive exit and go north on Pima to Dynamite/RioVerde Drive. Turn right and continue east to 128th Street. Go right (south) on 128th St. and follow the signs to the temporary trailhead. As of January 2010, the last few miles are on unmaintained dirt roads. Although there are a few rough spots, we got through in passenger cars, but wouldn’t attempt it when the roads are wet. A mo-better trailhead, which will be called the North McDowell Access Area, is scheduled to open in 2011. Check the Web site below for additional access points and loop hike options. INFORMATION:

Sunday, February 21, 2010


TELEGRAPH PASS South Mountain Park From its starting point at the edge of a residential subdivision to the Depression-era lookout tower at its terminus, the Telegraph Pass trail satisfies the needs of stroller brigades, tri-athletes in training, and everybody in between. The route is paved and flat in the first half-mile, making for an easy stroll among saguaro-and-ironwood-cluttered Sonoran desert foothills. After that, though, the trail becomes more rugged, gradually transitioning into a steep climb. A gallery of 600-year-old Hohokam petroglyphs tapped into craggy cliffs makes a convenient place to take a breather before huffing and puffing your way up the switchbacks ahead. The official route ends at the 1.5-mile point where the trail meets Summit Road. Still aching for more of a workout? Head left from here and continue uphill for another quarter-mile to Telegraph Pass Lookout where a stone pavilion frames far-reaching views of Metro Phoenix. LENGTH: 3 miles round-trip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 1,480 – 1,990 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go south on Interstate 10 to the Chandler Blvd. exit, turn west (right) and drive 5 miles to Desert Foothills Parkway. Turn right and go 2.8 miles to the trailhead parking lot. INFORMATION & MAPS: City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation