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Thursday, January 6, 2011


BOX CANYON South Mountain Park, Phoenix Determining the age of the thousands of petroglyphs pecked into the crumbling cliffs of South Mountain is a daunting task, and figuring out their meanings is even more of a challenge. Although we will never learn definitive answers for the “whos, whats and whys” of the myriad heritage sites in the area, many archeologists attribute the work to the Hohokam people who lived here roughly 800-1200 years ago. A good place to get a look at some of the intricate rock art panels is Box Canyon-- an impressive cliff-flanked wash at the western end of the park. More than 240 petroglyph panels have been documented in Box Canyon, but many are difficult to spot. Still, even casual trekkers can easily locate at least 6- 12 galleries including the elaborate etchings of water birds, spirals and crosses on famous “bird rock”. Unfortunately, there’s also ample evidence of vandalism. Spray paint, sharp tools and even guns have been used to deface these important artifacts. How people can be so destructive is even more befuddling than the stories behind the original art. Vandalism of heritage sites is also profoundly insulting to modern native peoples and robs all of us of important historical relics and opportunities to learn from ancient cultures. As with all heritage sites: do not touch or alter or remove anything. HIKE DIRECTIONS: Begin the on Holbert Trail and hike roughly 0.1 mile to a point where the trail drops into a sandy wash where there are fire rings and seating. This is Box Canyon. The canyon runs east-west. To the west, the “box” closes up rapidly and hikers need to scramble over boulders to get very far, but the eastern side is flat and sandy. Most of the petroglyphs are located high on the canyon walls. To see even more rock art, backtrack and follow Holbert Trail for about 0.2 mile through “rock art alley” where most of the glyphs are fenced off in an effort to preserve them. FYI: the fire rings, corrals and seating in the canyon are used by various nearby stables that offer hayrides, horse rentals and cookout packages. LENGTH: half-mile exploratory RATING: easy ELEVATION: 1300 feet BEST SEASONS: October - April GETTING THERE: From downtown Phoenix, go south on Central Ave. past Dobbins Road and continue into the park. Take the first left after passing the entry gate, follow the road to the end and park across from the Holbert/Box Canyon trailhead. FACILITIES: restrooms, water, covered picnic ramadas INFO: 602.262.7393 HORSE RIDES:

Sunday, January 2, 2011


GATEWAY LOOP McDowell Sonoran Preserve One of more than two dozen designated trails within this Sonoran desert preserve, the Gateway Loop is a good way to get to know the area. One of the best benefits of hiking in the preserve is the abundant, directional signage and the beautifully maintained trails---even novice trekkers will have no trouble getting around. Gateway Loop swings around the foothills treating hikers to ever changing vistas that culminate at a particularly fine scenic saddle. For a more ambitious hike, the Loop is also a “gateway” to other trails like Windgate Pass and Bell Pass that climb to the higher elevations and ever better views. HIKE DIRECTIONS: From the trailhead, go east, cross the bridge and hike 0.1 mile to the amphitheater area. From here, continue 0.3 mile east along the Saguaro Trail to the junction for Gateway Loop. The route is somewhat less steep on the uphill when hiked counterclockwise. The entire route is well-marked. LENGTH: 4.5 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 1,780-2,375 BEST SEASONS: October - April GETTING THERE: From Scottsdale, exit Loop 101 at Bell Road. Go east to Thompson Peak Parkway, turn left (north) and go less than a mile to the Gateway Trailhead on the right. FACILITIES: restrooms, maps and there are usually very knowledgeable preserve stewards on hand to assist you. HOURS: open daily sunrise to sunset DOGS: leased dogs are allowed. Owners must pick up after their dogs. INFO: McDowell Sonoran Conservancy:, 480-998-7971 City of Scottsdale:, 480-312-7013 MORE PHOTOS: