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Saturday, March 6, 2010


PERALTA CANYON to the LONE PINE Superstition Wilderness Anyone who has hiked in Arizona for more than 5 minutes knows about this trail. It’s extraordinary beauty, proximity to town and easy access make the Peralta Canyon Trail #102 a mecca for trekkers. Although short in length, the route is rugged and rife with obstacles such as slick rock, water crossings (in winter) and sections where---to the untrained eye—the trail seems to disappear. Surprisingly green for a desert hike, the route is shaded by hardy trees and shrubs including hackberry, Arizona madrone, desert oaks, jojoba and sugar sumac. Through out the hike, contorted volcanic rock formations vie for attention, increasing in complexity with each foot of elevation gained. A popular turnaround point for the hike is the Fremont Saddle where views of the signature landmark of the Superstition Wilderness—Weaver’s Needle---dominate the sweeping valley vistas. From here, a fun way to extend the hike is to continue on to the lone pinion pine visible on the northeast ridgeline. To reach it, simply head east from the saddle along the many paths-of-use for just under a quarter-mile. The extra effort pays off with up-close views of the Needle and refuge from the crowds at the saddle. LENGTH TO FREMONT SADDLE: 5 miles round-trip LENGTH WITH SIDE TRIP TO THE TREE: 5.5 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 2,400 – 3,800 feet 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. INFORMATION: MORE PHOTOS:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


LEVEE TRAIL McDowell Sonoran Preserve Sorry, you can’t drive your Chevy to this levee. That’s because it’s located within the McDowell Sonoran Preserve where efforts to preserve our beautiful desert include restricting motorized vehicles to designated parking areas. This makes for a nice, quiet amble among saguaros, chollas, creosote bushes and myriad desert trees, shrubs and wildflowers. And, the views aren’t too shabby, either. The majestic peaks of the McDowell Mountains, which rise to 4,000 feet, make an impressive backdrop for this easy desert stroll. Open to bikes, horses and foot travel, the Levee Trail is a major connector route for many of the more challenging trails in the preserve. However, by itself, it’s a worthy destination for novice hikers, those with tots in tow or anyone looking for an effortless, local outing. LENGTH: 2.4 miles roundtrip RATING: easy ELEVATION GAIN: minimal GETTING THERE: From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Bell Road exit and continue east on Bell to 104th Street. The trailhead is on the north side of the road. INFORMATION: OR

Monday, March 1, 2010


BURRO CREEK Burro Creek Wilderness Area Betcha haven’t hiked THIS one. Burro Creek is a 23-mile-long desert waterway located in the rugged and remote wilderness north of Wickenburg. There’s no “official” trail--just follow the creek. Conditions vary according to water levels. In dry times, it’s possible to hike for miles without getting wet feet. However during periods of heavy rain and snowmelt, wading is required. The area is known for its active wildlife including beavers, javalina, shore birds and families of wild burros dodging among the copper-colored cliffs and mesquite forests. When we visited here in January 2010, we were “greeted” at the head of the access road by a resident landowner who reminded us to respect the private property in the area. As long as you park in the Burro Creek Campground and stick to the creekbed, you’re legal. LENGTH: 6-9 miles round trip RATING: difficult ELEVATION: 1,960 – 2,100 feet DRIVING DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 114 miles 1-way. Roads are paved up to the last 1.5 miles, and passable by sedan. GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go NW on US60 (Grand Ave) to Wickenburg. In Wickenburg at the intersection of US60 and US93, go north on US93 for 59 miles to the turnoff for Burro Creek campground—between mileposts 140 and 141. Turn left (west) onto the campground access road and continue 1.5 miles to the parking lot. Facilities include restrooms and running water. INFORMATION:

Sunday, February 28, 2010


BELL PASS McDowell Sonoran Preserve Just look at what we here in Phoenix have right in our backyards---thousands of acres of beautiful Sonoran Desert with miles-and-miles of hiking trails ranging in difficulty from barrier-free to extremely difficult. Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve boasts some of the best desert outdoor recreation around—all within walking distance from suburbia. For a good work out and amazing views, try the Bell Pass Trail. Although there are many access points and loop options; here’s one that works well if all you want to do is an out-and-back hike to the Pass. Here’s the plan: from the 104th St. trailhead, head north on the closed road for .2 mile to the Levee Trail junction. Turn right (east) here and go 1 mile to the Paradise Trail junction. Go left (north) on Paradise for .2 mile to the Gateway Loop junction. Turn right (east) and follow Gateway for .2 mile to the Bell Pass Trail turnoff. From here, it’s 2 miles to the Pass. This route is almost entirely flat up to the Bell Pass junction. After that, the ascent starts out gradually and does not get unduly steep until the last half-mile. The Pass itself is a narrow saddle straddling Thompson Peak (the one with the antennas) and McDowell Peak---these are the two most prominent peaks when viewed from Scottsdale. This sweet spot features views of the Mazatzal Mountain range and the confluence of the Salt and Verde Rivers. From the Pass, the trail continues another 1.25 miles and connects to both the Prospector’s Trail and Windgate Pass Trail. LENGTH: 7.2 miles roundtrip RATING: difficult DOG RATING: 2 paws (dogs must stay on leash) ELEVATION: 1,704 – 3,204 feet DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 35 miles GETTING THERE: From the Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Bell Road exit and go east on Bell to 104th Street. There’s a small parking area (room for about 16 cars) on the north side of the street. INFORMATION: or