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Sunday, December 29, 2013


A tight section of Dinosaur Wash

Despite its tantalizing name, there's nary a Cretaceous fossil to be found in Dinosaur Wash. Instead, hikers are treated to a cactus-studded paradise of high desert peaks and beach-like washes flanked by a mix of deeply carved sedentary and igneous rocks. From the trailhead, a trio of grand mountains stands out---the elongated profile of Precious Peak (3191'), soaring Creighton Peak (3666') and the prominent russet-capped pyramid of Red Top Peak (3190').  This stony triumvirate guides the trek, which winds around their jumbled flanks
Dinosaur Wash
and breezy passes.
Here, a middle-of-nowhere character presides over a wilderness where eons of harsh winds and raging waters have sandblasted sediments and lava flows into bizarre sculptures and shallow caves.  One such sculpture looming above Dinosaur Wash resembles a yawning Brontosaurus.
After a pleasant stroll through this outdoor art gallery scented with the resinous fragrance of creosote, the trail squeezes through the peaks to emerge at Dinosaur Wash.  From here, free-form exploration is the way to go.  Head northwest (left) through a corridor of sand and stone that vacillates accordion-style between wide alleys and tight passages.  There are a few spots where minor down climbs and boulder hops are required to get through, but most hikers in reasonable shape should be able to plow through to the 4.97-mile point where a 10-foot, slick rock drop off mandating a tricky move serves as a good turnaround spot.
HIKE DIRECTIONS: Although the traditional start point for this hike is off Scenic Loop Road, we decided to tackle it from Sophie's Flat, using the A-B-C-D trail system.  Here's the plan:
From the trailhead, follow A Trail 1.1-mile to B Trail. Follow B Trail to the 1.88-mile point, veer right and follow C Trail to the 2.39-mile point and turn left on the A Trail. Follow A Trail to the 2.91-mile point and connect with D Trail.  Follow D Trail less than a mile, drop into the obvious course of Dinosaur Wash and head northwest (left).  We hiked to the 4.97-mile point and turned around at a slick rock drop off, although with some scrambling it’s possible to continue another mile to the Hassayampa River, Mistake Mine Ruins and the Box Canyon. River water levels vary with rainfall, so bring wading gear if you're intent on hiking through the box. Trails are well-signed up to the wash.
Red Top Peak

LENGTH: 9.5 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2337’- 2789’ (1100’ cumm gain)
FACILITIES: restroom, map kiosk
GETTING THERE: Sophie's Flat Trailhead:

From Phoenix go north on I-17 to Carefree Hwy/SR74 (exit 223) and go 30 miles west toward Wickenburg on SR74, turn right at US60 and continue to just before the Hassayampa River Bridge traffic circle in Wickenburg.  Turn right on El Recreo, go 0.25 mile and veer right onto Constellation Road. Continue 2.7 miles, turn left onto Blue Tank Road and drive 1.3 miles to the trailhead on the right. The last 4 miles are on sedan-friendly dirt roads.

Pass between Creighton & Red Top Peaks



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hiking Holidays

Desert Christmas cactus: Brown's Ranch, Dec 2013
Hi Hikers,
It's been a hectic couple of weeks, but in the coming days, I'll be posting a brand new desert loop hike I did yesterday  (once I get through the photos and bust out of writer's block). Until then--Na zdravi!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

New Arizona Trail book available now

Your Complete Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trail.
Available after Dec. 22, 2013

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Its here! It's here!  The epic 800+-mile Arizona Trail is now documented in a hefty 320-page book. Inside this beautiful work, are topo maps, elevation profiles, trailhead directions and descriptions of water sources, vegetation and geology for all 43 passages of the trail. Plus much, much more.  Richly illustrated with inspiring photography, this is the most comprehesive guidebook to the AZT ever published.
Book sale proceeds support the Arizona Trail Association's mission to build, maintain, promote, protect and sustain the trail.

$25.95 + $7 shipping

(Full disclosure: as a contributing photographer, I received a free advance copy of the book)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Next "Wag & Walk" dog adoption hike is January 4, 2014!

Usery Mountain Regional Park
"Oreo" participated in the December hike

Take a hike with a pack of adoptable dogs from Maricopa County Animal Care’s Mesa shelter on Saturday January 4, 2014 starting at 9:00 a.m.. In addition to being exceptionally cute and sweet, “Wag & Walk” hiker dogs are already spayed or neutered and available to go home on the spot, usually at greatly reduced adoption fees.  Even if you’re not looking for a new fur baby, hiking with a group of tail-wagging dogs who are ecstatic about getting out of their kennels for some much needed exercise makes for a memorable morning in the desert. Also, everybody who adopts one (or more) of the hiker dogs will be eligible to win free county park passes!  PLEASE JOIN US.  NO REGISTRATION---JUST SHOW UP.

"Bugle" was adopted!!

LENGTH: Merkle Trail: 1-mile loop
RATING: easy, barrier-free
FEE: $6 park entry fee per vehicle
FACILITIES: picnic tables, restrooms, water,
GETTING THERE: Usery Mountain Regional Park,
3939 N. Usery Pass Rd., Mesa AZ 85207
From Phoenx, travel east on US60 to the Ellsworth Road exit.  Go north on Ellsworth to the park entrance. HIKE MEETS AT "AREA 6" TRAILHEAD PARKING.

INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 480-984-0032

Monday, December 16, 2013


Oak Creek-Sedona

Beware of the double diamond trail rating.  That's mountain bike speak for extremely difficult, and Sedona's new Hiline Trail is most  worthy of this designation. Initially created by the biking community, the trail has been recently stabilized and absorbed into the forest service system.  Renowned for its edgy-ledgey exposure, slick rock and technical chutes, it's not a trail for novice hikers or those who fear heights. The narrow, serpentine route clings to the vertical face of a north-south running butte serving up a carousel of terrific views including  Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and the mountains surrounding Jerome and Prescott Valley.
At the 1.5-mile point, the trail meets "the Pedestal" a remarkable sandstone outcrop with dizzying vistas and abysmal drop offs.  Beyond the Pedestal, the route becomes even more dodgy, traversing loose rock, tight turns and precariously close-to-the-edge segments on its way to connect with Baldwin Trail where numerous loop options and (safer) return routes can be planned.

LENGTH: 3.2 miles 1-way
RATING: difficult
ELEVATION: 4086' - 4646'
FEE: a Red Rock Pass ($5 daily) is required
FACILITIES: map kiosk, interpretive signs, pass vending machine
From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to the Sedona-Oak creek exit 298 SR179.  Head west on SR179 and continue to the Back O' Beyond traffic circle near milepost 310. Swing around the circle and go 1.4 miles  south on SR179 to the Yavapai Point trailhead on the right. To reach Hiline Trail, hike less than a mile south on the Shady Slim trail to the signed junction.


Oak Creek-Sedona
View from Yavapai Vista Trail

Once just a pullout along SR 179, Yavapai Vista has evolved into a buffed-and-polished hiking destination. The site's time-honored interpretive signs describing notable Red Rock Country landforms are now augmented with a meticulously groomed system of short, interconnected exploratory trails. These seven routes, wiggling among slick rock  and pockets of Arizona cypress, offer a quieter alternative to the busy Bell Rock system of trails across the highway. Finding your way around is super simple. Trail maps at each junction make it nearly impossible to get lost, and white dots mark the way where the trails get sketchy on the sandstone mounds.  The path's short lengths are ideal for a quick road trip leg stretch or drama-free treks with kids. For those who prefer longer, more challenging hikes, the system also connects with forest service trails in the Catherdal Rock area.

Slim Shady Trail

LENGTH: 4.7 miles total
Basalt: 0.1
Coconino: 0.3
Hermit: 0.3
Kaibab: 0.1
Made in the Shade: 1.0
Slim Shady: 2.5
Yavapai Vista: 0.3
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 4200' - 4400'
FEE: a Red Rock Pass is required. 
FACILITIES: benches, pass vending machine, map kiosks
From Phoenix, take I-17 north to the Sedona-Oak Creek exit 298 for SR179.  Head west on SR179 and continue to the Back O' Beyond traffic circle near milepost 310. Drive around the circle and go 1.4 miles south on 179 to the Yavapai Point trailhead on the right. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Oak Creek-Sedona
Approach to Chicken Point

You'll want to save your camera batteries for the last quarter-mile of this hike. That's because the final uphill scramble over slick rock lands hikers on Chicken Point--one of Sedona’s most photographed sites. From this rust-red perch, "fly-over" perspectives of Sedona's iconic Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte rival those seen from helicopter tours.  Located between busy SR179 and Munds Mountain Wilderness, this hike straddles the spheres of "been there" and "out there". In addition to views of the keynote landmarks, the Little Horse trail's soft substrate and simple route ambles among high desert vegetation on its climb to the scenic overlook where the trail connects with Broken Arrow and Chapel Trails as well as a popular Jeep tour road.
Photo moments on Chicken Point

LENGTH: 2.2 miles one way (include access path)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 4280' - 4570'
FEE: a Red Rock Pass is required. There's a self-serve kiosk at the trailhead. Daily option is $5.
FACILITIES: restroom, map board
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to the Sedona-Oak Creek/SR179 exit 298.  Head west (left) on SR179 and continue to the Little Horse trailhead at milepost 308.9.

INFO: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900

Chapel of the Holy Cross as seen from Little Horse Trail


Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Coconino National Forest
Walker Lake in August

Arizona's own crater lake resides quietly within the bowl of a nondescript volcano north of Hart Prairie.  From a distance, the pine-speckled hill doesn't appear to be anything special.  But a short walk up a closed road reveals a shallow lake filling a vent that spewed lava in its former life.  The road makes an easy climb to the lip of the crater where it transitions into a footpath that follows the fortress-like rim. The high vantage points offer
fantastic views of the San Francisco Peaks, Kendrick Mountain, White Horse Hills and Hochderffer Hills---volcanos all. Numerous paths also lead down to the ephemeral lake that in summer shrinks to a patchwork of shallow  puddles besieged by clouds of colorful dragonflies.   The crater forms sort of a  wet "meadow in a bowl" fostering a swale of wild field mint, daisies, silverweed, and New Mexico vervain as well as a herds of thirsty elk that frequent its reliable watering holes.

Walker Lake in August
LENGTH: 1-2 mile roundtrip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION:  8,060' - 8,189' 
From Flagstaff, go north on US180 for 19 miles to the northern exit for FR151 (Hart Prairie Road) just past milepost 235.  Turn right and continue 1.6 miles on the good dirt road to FR418.  Turn left and go 0.2 mile to the second road on the left (across from a log cabin).  Go left onto this dirt road (FR9007S), continue 0.2 mile to a roundabout, veer right onto FR9004S (sign is not obvious) and continue to a circular parking area near where FR 9219T heads right.  The trail begins at the “road closed” sign in the northwest end of the parking area. Dirt roads are passable by carefully driven sedans.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Just a few odometer clicks and 1000 feet in elevation north of downtown Phoenix, is a desert rangeland with enough fresh air and open space to expunge the mind-numbing pressures of city living.  Here, a 6-mile trail around 3526' Granite Mountain transports hikers through a rugged habitat of survivalist native creatures and landforms.  There's little moderation here.   Summer heat is brutal, it freezes in winter and the area's 12" of annual rainfall arrives in episodic lusty torrents that turn bone dry washes and
Sculpted granite
canyons into raging rivers within minutes. But for a few months between the extremes, this desert preserve is a balmy, blooming paradise. The best time to hike here is from late October through early May, when temperatures are mild and wildflowers color the land like splattered paint. Hikers will get a kick out of the acres of granite masses scoured into fanciful forms by eons of geological calamity. As unforgiving elements peck away, molecule-by-molecule, the rock erodes into the embodiments of giant mushrooms, dragons, serpents and goblins. One hiker saw the profile of the Quaker Oats guy. Whatever image the nature-whittled granite conjures is a personal journey.
Although there are more direct routes to connect with this loop, going by way of Bootlegger Trail exposes hikers to some exceptional geological jumbles such as narrow passages and cave-like enclaves that would have made handy hooch hideouts for brewers evading prohibition patrols.
To take this trip, begin on Bootlegger trail and hike 0.7 mile to Saddlehorn Trail.  Follow Saddlehorn 0.2 mile (can you spot the eponymous rock formation?) and connect with Granite Mountain Loop.

LENGTH: 6-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2570' - 2780'
HOURS: trails are open sunrise to sunset
Granite Mountain Trailhead, 31402 N. 136th St. Scottsdale. From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Princess/Pima exit 36 and go 6.5 mile north on Pima to Dynamite Blvd./Rio Verde Dr.  Turn right and continue 5.9 miles to 136th St., turn left and go 1.8 miles to the trailhead on the left.
No facilities.


Phoenix Mountains Preserve

One of the greatest benefits of living in the Valley of the Sun is its plethora of  parks and recreation sites.  Phoenix is already home to many municipal parks and on going acqusition of additional lands for public use demonstrates the city's commitment to providing residents and visitors with superlative access to outdoor activities.  The current 35,000 acres of parks and preserves is laced with more than 100 miles of hiking trails ranging in difficulty from grueling to painless. In the painless category is the Penny Howe Nature Trail.  Fully paved and built on a joint-friendly slope, the trail is set at the base of craggy North Mountain with close access to water, shade and restrooms.  The stroll is enriched with informational plaques spaced at convenient intervals along the walkway. Each plaque on the self-guided tour  adds  educational tidbits about  desert flora and fauna to an easy leg stretch that's accessible to all.

LENGTH:  0.3 mile
RATING: paved, barrier-free
ELEVATION: 1420' - 1380'
FACILITIES: restrooms, water, shaded picnic ramadas
GETTING THERE: North Mountain Park, 10600 N. 7th St., Phoenix.
(7th Ave. & Peoria)
Trail beigns in the northwest corner of the Havasupai parking lot.
INFO: City of Phoenix, 602-262-7901

Sunday, December 1, 2013


McDowell Sonoran Preserve

With its boozy moniker and fresh-cut course, this trail, which departs from  Fraesfield Mountain trailhead, is an intoxicating trek.  Meandering through a seemingly endless expanse of yucca-studded “horse country” the well signed network of trails enables carefree hiking for experts and greenhorns alike. Whiskey Bottle begins with a brief climb along the east flank of Fraesfield Mountain.  Below, a yawning vegetation-rich wash where rain lingers in mud-fringed pools is a favorite “pub” for thirsty bands of local deer, javelinas and coyotes.  The trail’s high point provides a platform to wrangle your bearing by checking out views of surrounding mountains---Four Peaks to the east, white “golf ball” topped Humboldt Mountain to the north and to the distant southeast, the iconic spire of Weaver’s Needle in the Superstition Wilderness cuts a muted lavender silhouette.  The trail scoots along the preserve’s southern boundary passing an upscale golf course near the Dixileta Trail junction.  Although the route’s name suggests otherwise, the only relic of trailside imbibing is a rusted can of Modelo lodged in the roots of a mesquite tree.  However, members of the golf community might get a Manhattan at the club after 18 holes.

Jiding Javelina

LENGTH: 5.8 miles roundtrip
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  2540’ – 2764’

GETTING THERE: Fraesfield Mountain Trailhead,
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale take the Princess/Pima exit 36 and go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite Blvd./Rio Verde Dr.  Turn right and go 5.6 miles to the trailhead on the left. No facilities or water. Trailhead is open daily from sunrise to sunset.


Saturday, November 30, 2013


McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Balanced Rock

Even in a terrain replete with natural sandblasted granite sculptures, Balanced Rock stands out.  Located in the heart of the newly opened Brown’s Ranch cluster of trails, this massive mushroom-shaped behemoth stands tall and precariously exposed atop a weathered slab of igneous stone. Flanked by a complement of lesser boulders and a wind-tortured juniper, the hows and whys of the monolith’s predicament are fodder for inquisitive minds.  The path to the rock is a short detour easily accessible via connecting trails. Although it is popular as a side trip off longer loop treks, the rock can be reached most directly by hiking 1.2 miles on Powerline Road to the Balance Rock Trail junction.  From here, it’s 0.9-mile to the rock and 1.6 miles to trail’s end. A map at the trailhead shows other hike combinations. 

Balanced Rock Trail

LENGTH: 5.6 miles roundtrip (or 4.2 to the rock and back)
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2570’ – 2646’
GETTING THERE: Granite Mountain Trailhead, 31402 N. 136th St. Scottsdale.
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Princess/Pima exit #36 and go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite Blvd./Rio Verde Dr.  Turn right and continue 5.9 miles to 136th St., turn left and go 1.8 miles to the trailhead on the left. Trailhead is open sunrise to sunset.  No facilities.
INFO & MAPS: McDowell Sonoran Preserve


Yes---it's open.

Located at the southern end of the new Brown's Ranch extension of Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Fraesfield trailhead provides plenty of paved parking and access to dozens of  trails, but no other facilities.

From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Princess/Pima exit 36.  Go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite Blvd.(which will turn into Rio Verde Dr). Turn right (east and continue 5.6 miles to the trailhead on the left.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Google Field Trip App

During my hike near Cave Creek today, I fired up the Google Field Trip app. As you can see---it's now super easy to locate nearby trails, restaurants and other places of interest.
feed at Fraesfield trailhead
feed in downtown Cave Creek

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shadow Mountain

Phoenix Mountains Preserve
Summit of Shadow Mountain

This under-appreciated gem of a mountain in the least traveled corner of Phoenix Mountains Preserve  offers hikers a straight-off-the-suburban-sidewalk entre into a pristine pocket of Sonoran desert. The summit trail is unmitigated by switchbacks, ascending the peak on upright rock faces and loose gravel with dizzying exposure---it's not a trek for acrophobics. 
Those who brave the climb will find views of ball-field-checkered neigborhoods creeping up against an undeveloped swath of cactus and brittlebush.  An unusual-looking reservoir and high-rent properties fill the foreground of a 360-degree  cityscape panorama ringed by mountains, cotton fields and hazy spaces.  Even without making the woozy climb, hikers can enjoy this desert haven by following the lazy loop trails circling the base of the peak.
Lookout Mountain in the distance

Big Loop: 1.6 miles
Small Loop: 0.8 mile
RATING: moderate/difficult
ELEVATION: 1550' - 1645' or 1810' (with summit spur)
HOURS: sunrise to sunset or 7 p.m. whichever comes first
FACILITES: water fountain and horse water tank
Exit SR51 at Greenway and go west to Cave Creek Road.  Turn south and continue to Claire Dr.
Follow Claire past 25th St. and take the next right onto 25th Place (unmarked road). The trailhead is at the corner of 25th Place and Acoma. Park along the retaining wall. 
INFO: City of Phoenix, 602-262-7901

Monday, November 25, 2013

Piestewa Peak

Phoenix Mountains Preserve
Summit of Piestewa Peak

A famously fabulous and infamously crowded hike, the Piestewa Peak summit trail ranks second in elevation among the "Seven Summits of Phoenix. Camelback Mountain, at 2704' is the tallest. Because of its central location and easy access, the vertical, switchbacking route sees a lot of action.  Elbow-to-elbow foot traffic is common, especially on weekends when athletes in training and casual hikers alike jockey for position on the stony path worn smooth by years of heavy use.  Rising over 1200 feet, the strenuous trek rewards with sweeping views of  Metro Phoenix peaks and valleys. The mountain is named for fallen Arizona soldier Lori Piestewa who was killed in 2003 during the same Iraqi attack that wounded Jessica Lynch who became well known because of her dramatic rescue by fellow soldiers.  The base of the peak has been the site of memorial services that have been attended by Ms. Lynch and members of Piestewa's Hopi Nation to pay tribute to the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military.

View from the Summit Trail

LENGTH: 1.2 miles 1-way
RATING: difficult
ELEVATION:  1,400' - 2,608'
FACILITIES: restrooms, water
NOTE: dogs and bikes are not permitted
2701 E. Squaw Peak Dr., Phoenix 85016.
From Phoenix, go north on SR 51 to Lincoln Dr exit.  Follow Lincoln to Squaw Peak Drive, turn left and follow the signs to the parking area.

INFO: City of Phoenix

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Descending along the south ridge

Known locally as one of the "Seven Summits of Phoenix", North Mountain National Trail #44 is an urban hiking treasure that's also part of the annual Phoenix Summit Challenge competition held each November.  Its central location, trailhead amenities and easy access from major travel routes contribute to this trail's popularity.  The ascent begins on a set of rough-hewn stone stairs worn ragged by the constant pounding of hiking boots and running shoes. This vertical segment deposits hikers on a cracked asphalt road hacked out of the mountain’s slope that climbs 600 feet in just under a mile.  Although the tower-cluttered summit is where many trekkers turn and head back the way they came, it's not the end of the trail. Beyond the hardware jungle, trail #44 continues down the south ridge through creosote, cactus and crumbling schist, descending steeply on a less crowded, unpaved path.

Looking north from the paved road

LENGTH: 1.6 miles 
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1490' - 2104'
HOURS: 5:30 a.m. - 7 p.m. (trails open until 11:00 p.m.)
FACILITIES: restrooms, water, picnic tables
GETTING THERE: North Mountain Park, 10600 N. 7th Street, Phoenix (7th Street & Peoria).
Trail begins at the Maricopa picnic area.

INFO & MAPS: City of Phoenix, (602) 262-7901

Friday, November 22, 2013

Arizona Hiking is now part of Google's Field Trip app!


Arizona Hiking.blogspot has been selected to partner with Google Field Trip---an augmented reality app for smartphones and Google Glass.  Driven by GPS technology (and a bunch of tech wizards) the Field Trip app runs in the background of your devise and notifies you when you're approaching something of interest. A "card" will display with details about the site and if you have Bluetooth, the content can be "read" to you.    With Field Trip, you can customize your feeds to learn about everything from where to eat, local history, shopping, cultural venues, and now where to hike in Arizona!  For instance, if you're sitting in a coffee shop wondering if there's a hiking trail nearby,  the Field Trip app will notify you automatically and my copy, photos, directions and map will appear before you---like magic. 
Arizona Hiking joins contributors like Food Network, Sunset, Atlas Obscura, Songkick and other  hyperlocal-to-national experts to enrich your travel experiences.  I am very excited to be a part of this product and hope you'll love it too.  And, please---let me know if   there's a trail you would like to see added.Many Arizona Hiking destinations are already in the app, and I continue to prep content
for additional trails on a regular basis. And, of course, this blog isn't going away---I'll keep posting hikes here as usual.



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Take the “A” trail, out Wickenburg way.


Sophie Burden made wicked good beer biscuits---an accidental concoction she created when camping companions guzzled the milk she was saving for the recipe. Not one to be so easily disarmed, she rustled up some good 'ol fashioned western ingenuity, tossed a can of brew into the batter instead and viola, a Wickenburg icon was born. Dubbed the "First Lady of Arizona Inn keeping" by former governor Paul Fannin (1959-1965), Sophie ran popular Wickenburg dude retreat Remuda Ranch (where her biscuits were legend) frequently taking guests on cookouts to the flats, hills and trails surrounding the property. The ranch was sold in 1968 and is now a high-end treatment facility for eating disorders, where they likely do not serve ale-addled quick breads.  The ranch site is private, but the peripheral stomping grounds remain open to recreational hikers and equestrians.  A roomy, rustic trailhead with separate parking areas for cars and horse trailers anchors the site’s 7.1-mile main “A” loop trail. The hiking here is a leisurely amble through a hilly landscape shaped by mining, ranching and harsh desert conditions.  This area northeast of Wickenburg consists of 9.4 miles of non-motorized trails laid out in wagon-wheel-style, looping among shared motorized use dirt roads.  A maze of washes, Jeep roads and unnamed trails intersect the route, so be sure to follow the “A” signs to stay on course.

LENGTH: 7.1-mile loop
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2400'- 2740'
FACILITIES: restroom, map kiosk
From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to Carefree Highway/SR74 (exit 223) and go west toward Wickenburg. Drive 30 miles on SR74, turn right at US60 and continue to just before  the Hassayampa River bridge traffic circle in Wickenburg and turn right on El Recreo.  Go 0.25 mile, veer right onto Constellation Road and continue 2.7 miles to Blue Tank Road on the left.  Follow Blue Tank Road 1.3 miles to the trailhead. The last 4 miles are on sedan-friendly dirt roads. 
INFO: Bureau of Land Management

Sunday, November 10, 2013

New Phoenix Sonoran Preserve trails

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, North

Climbing Ridgeback trail

On Saturday, November 9, 2013,  former Phoenix mayor Skip Rimza and other city officials dedicated the Apache Vista trailhead amid a crowd of eager Valley hikers, bikers and equestrians. With 21 miles of new trails, deciding where to begin exploring this northern extension of Phoenix Sonoran Preserve can be a dilemma. Suggestion---head for the hills. Ridgeback Overlook and Apache Vista are highpoints capping this cluster of Sonoran Desert trails.  A map board at the trailhead shows how to cobble together a route to climb to both hilltops.  The peaks each have short loop trails winding over the cholla-encrusted summits that give excellent 360-degree views of both the trail system layout and iconic Valley landmarks.
Looking south from Sidewinder trail

From the trailhead, hike north on Sidewinder to Apache Vista.  After ascending, hike back down and continue on Sidewinder, connect with Apache Wash, turn left  and hike to Ocotillo.  Turn right, hike Ridgeback Trail to the overlook loop. After ascending, climb back down, backtrack to the Ocotillo/Apache Wash junction and follow Ocotillo back to the trailhead.

LENGTH: 5.50 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1720' - 2002'
HOURS: 5 a.m. to sunset or 7 p.m., whichever comes first.
FACILITIES: restrooms, shaded seating, horse staging area, map kiosk (no water)
Former Phoenix mayor Skip Rimza dedicates the site

From Loop 101 in north Phoenix, take Cave Creek Road exit 28 and go 4.5 miles north to Sonoran Desert Drive.  Turn left (west) and continue 3.5 miles to the trailhead on the right.
INFO & MAPS: Sonoran Preserve Ranger Office: 602-262-7901

Friday, November 8, 2013

Major changes coming to Flagstaff's Mount Elden-Dry Lake Hills trails system

Coconino National Forest is asking for input regarding proposed changes to Flagstaff Ranger District trails around Mount Elden. Plans will impact the six trailheads and 14 routes that are currently within this system. Ideas being tossed around include: adding 23 miles of new shared-use trails, realignment of existing trails, trailhead improvements, better signage, and decommisioning unauthorized roads. The ultimate goal is to achieve a sustainable trail system that provides better access for hikers, climbers, equestrians and mountain bikers while protecting sensitive wildlife and archeological sites. The various studies, vetting processes and public commentary reviews will be completed in 2014 with final plans put into action thereafter. Voice your comments and concerns NOW!

How to be involved 
Will the changes proposed meet your needs?
If yes, what benefits do you foresee?
If something is missing, what is it, and why is it important to you?

Submit comments to Brian Poturalski, Project Leader. 
5075 N. Highway 89, Flagstaff, AZ, 86005


Monday, November 4, 2013

Apache Wash trailhead opening this Saturday!

Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013
Just in time for the Valley's premier hiking season, a beautiful new trailhead in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, north, will be opened at 8 a.m this Saturday.  In addition to providing access to over 20 miles of new hiking trails, the site will include restrooms, maps and plenty of parking (no water). I've been driving by this place for months--- like a kid waiting for the candy store to open. And, although I've hiked the trails  from the Carefree Highway access points, this trailhead---located along gorgeous Sonoran Desert Drive---will be a major improvement over the amenity-lacking dirt lots.

LOCATION: 1600 E. Sonoran Desert Drive, Phoenix.
From Loop 101 in north Phoenix, take Cave Creek Road exit 28 and go 4.5 miles north to Sonoran Desert Drive. Turn left (west) and continue 3.5 miles to the trailhead on the right.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy tails at Usery Mountain Park

Usery Mountain Regional Park
A hopeful pup and her handler arrive at the trailhead

More than 29 miles of hiking trails bumping up against Mesa's Goldfield Mountains grace this lower Sonoran Desert park.  The miles are divided up among 19 routes ranging from easy to difficult, so there's something for everyone---including those who require or prefer barrier-free trekking. For hikers pushing strollers or turning wheels, the Merkle Trail is just the ticket.  Off limits to bikes and horses, the flat, graded path makes a loop through lush vegetation with outstanding mountain views. On the first Saturday of each month from November through April, the public is invited to hike this trail along with adoptable dogs from Maricopa County Animal Care’s east shelter. “Wag & Walk” hiker dogs are already spayed or neutered and available to go home on the spot with reduced adoption fees and a chance to win free county park passes.  Even if you’re not looking for a new fur baby, hiking among a pack of happy tails makes for a memorable morning in the desert.

Volunteers hike with adoptable dogs

LENGTH: 1-mile loop
RATING: easy, barrier-free
FEE: $6 park entry fee per vehicle
FACILITIES: picnic tables, restrooms, water,
3939 N. Usery Pass Rd., Mesa AZ 85207
From Phoenx, travel east on US60 to the Ellsworth Road exit.  Go north on Ellsworth to the park entrance.
UPCOMING WAG & WALK HIKES:  All hikes begin at 9 a.m. at the Merkle trailhead (area 6 parking). December 7, January 4, February 4, March 1, April 5. No registration required. 
INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 480-984-0032