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Thursday, February 14, 2013

A waterfall for all

White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Pool at the base of Waterfall Canyon: Feb. 12, 2013

Approaching the slot canyon
How many people can fit into the 12' x 12' box canyon at the end of White Tank Mountain Park's Waterfall Trail?  By my observations, at least 16--while a constant que waits on deck to rotate in.  Perhaps a better question might be; what on earth could possibly be so interesting that 16 people would want cram into such a place?  Welcome to one of Arizona's premier mostly-barrier-free hiking destinations. This extraordinary trail's popularity is bolstered by its wide, flat surface which is advertised as suitable for strollers, wheelchairs and walkers for at least the first 0.6-mile.  However, I've seen wheeled trekkers make it all the way up to the final 300 yards where a set of stone stairs leads to the box canyon---and beyond with a little assistance.  This is a beautiful thing.  Because so many of Arizona's special hiking trails require physical stamina and equipment lists beyond the scope of casual day trippers, it's good to know that Waterfall Canyon offers a glimpse of desert splendor to anyone willing to get out of  their car.  Besides the sometimes-flowing-sometime-not waterfall, galleries of ancient rock art line the entire route. "Petroglyph plaza"--an open-air amphitheater with benches--displays several major design panels with trailside signs explaining their significance.
Just below the waterfall, another considerable heritage site includes an eclectic mix of astronomical, hunting and magical designs tapped into boulders.  Here, the trail meets stone stairs for a short climb to the waterfall box canyon.  Inside, a trio of  stone walls, worn smooth by a million rainy seasons, jut vertically skyward from a  white sand beach and plunge pool echoing a serinade of digital camera clicks and whizzes.
Crowd in Waterfall Canyon

LENGTH: 2 miles round-trip
RATING: easy, barrier-free up to the last 300 yards.
ELEVATION:  1500' - 1700'
DOGS: leashed dogs are allowed
FACILITIES: restrooms
FEE: $6 daily fee per vehicle

From Phoenix, go 18 miles west on I10 Loop 303.  Go north and contnue on 303 to Olive.  Turn left (west) on Olive and proceed 4 miles to the park entrance. Once in the park, follow the main road (White Tank Mountain Rd) 2 miles to Waterfall Canyon Road.  Turn left and go 0.4 mile to the signed trailhead on the left.  NOTE: 2013 road construction plans may cause detours.  Visit the  park web site or call ahead for details.

Art in "petroglyph plaza"
INFO: White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Waddell AZ 623-935-2505


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