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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ridgeline hike above the Verde River Valley

Holiday surprise on the trail: Dec. 24, 2012
McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Fountain Hills

With 20 trails laced over 21,000 acres of Verde River Basin desert, selecting a hike in this northeast Valley county park can be a dilemma. Therefore, I submit a suggestion---begin with Scenic Trail to get a fast and easy overview of the park layout.  Scenic Trail leaves from the main trailhead staging lot making a lasso-loop up and over the Lousley Hills.  Although the Rio Fire ravaged some of the area in 1995, once up on the ridgeline, the land returns to beautiful Sonoran desert glory.  Because much of the route follows the backbone of the Hills, the trail lives up to its name by offering double-edge views of the entire park, the town of Fountain Hills (look for the famous fountain at the top of each hour), the Verde River Valley and the green pecan and citrus farms of the Ft McDowell Indian Reservation.  A memorial bench on the crest provides a nice meditation or water break spot.  Here, look for an unusual crested saguaro on the downhill slope.  It's unique because the fan-like deformation is on one of the cactus' arms instead of on the top.
Overlooking the Verde River Valley

LENGTH:  4.3-mile loop
RATING:  moderate
ELEVATION:  1860' - 2011'
FEES:  $6 daily fee per vehicle, $2 walk or bike-in, annual passes available.
FACILITIES:  restrooms, water, visitor center, picnic tables, camping
From Phoenix, go east on Loop 202 to Beeline Highway (SR87). Head north on SR87 to Shea Blvd, turn left and drive less than a mile to Saguaro Blvd, turn right and continue to Fountain Hills Blvd, turn right and continue 4 miles to the park entrance. Pay your fee and drive thru the park to the main trailhead staging area at the end of Shallmo Drive.  Maps are available at the park entrance and visitor center.
A curious coyote checks us out

INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 480-471-0173


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