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Thursday, February 17, 2011

WILLOW CANYON-MESQUITE LOOP

WILLOW CANYON-MESQUITE LOOP White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Waddell Ingeniously engineered to sample all that’s great about the White Tanks, this loop route is a perfect way to get to know the terrain of this range buttressing the western edge of Metro Phoenix. Even with punishing budget cut backs and staff reductions, Maricopa County somehow manages to keep our regional parks clean, maintained and safe. Your six-buck park entry fee is put to good use. Known for its beautiful white granite “tanks” (depressions in the rock scoured out by running water) and graceful, meandering trails, the park harbors a surprising amount of water. The coolest water hole I’ve seen there can be found off of the Willow Canyon (WL) trail. To get there, start at the Mesquite Trail (MQ) sign at Ramada Way. I like to start here instead of at the trailhead staging area because I find the extra 0.9-mile trek flat and dull---better to get to the good stuff quicker. Hike 1.7 miles on MQ and pick up the Willow Canyon (WL) trail heading northwest (go right at the sign). Willow Canyon trail is only 1.6 miles in length and the spring area spur is located off to the left near an old gate. This makes for a good place to take a break before continuing on WL to the Ford Canyon junction. Here, go south (left) and hike 0.7 mile to the MQ trail, and head east (left) to complete the loop. PHOTOS: For old times sake, I dug these photos out of my 2004 files. They were taken with a crappy point-and-shoot camera, so they’re not the best quality. Bear with me---I’m hauling the big lens out there this weekend. LENGTH: 10 miles roundtrip from Trailhead (horse) Staging Area OR 8.1 miles roundtrip from the Ramada Way trailhead. RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 1,600 – 2,995 DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 45 miles one way GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go 18 miles west on I-10 to Loop 303. Go north on 303 to Olive Ave., turn west and follow Olive all the way to the end at the park entrance. TRAILHEAD (HORSE) STAGING AREA: Once inside the park, go north on the main drag—White Tank Mountain Road— roughly 1.2 miles to the signed staging area on the right. RAMADA WAY TRAILHEAD: Once inside the park, go north on the main drag—White Tank Mountain Road— roughly 1.2 miles and turn left onto Waterfall Canyon Road and go 0.8 mile to Ramada Way. Turn left onto Ramada Way and follow it 0.2 mile to the trailhead. FACILITIES: maps available at the park entrance, restrooms, picnic ramadas, horse staging, nature center. HOURS: Park hours vary, check Web site for current info. All trails close daily at sunset. DOGS: leashed dogs are allowed. Owners must bring poo bags and clean up after their dogs. INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 623-935-2505 http://www.maricopa.gov/parks/white_tank/

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