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Friday, January 3, 2014


Cave Creek Regional Park
The high point of Overton Trail

Some of the benefits of loop hikes are dynamic, ever-changing scenery and surprises around every bend. An easier, but equally interesting  alternative to Cave Creek Regional Park’s signature Go John loop, this circuit coils around a massif of crumbling schist and outcroppings of milky quartz. Because a local horse outfitter heavily uses this loop, hikers should be on the lookout for "road apples" and respect the equine right-of-way, by stepping aside when riders approach.  The route tops out at a mountain pass with picture postcard quality vistas of Elephant Mountain, Sugarloaf and Skull Mesa to the east and a muddled montage of peaks and valleys rolling out to the western horizon.  Here, a bench beckons visitors to relax and soak in the sights while a collection of artful native rock cairns decorate the trail's official high point. Moving on, the path heads downhill to connect with Go John Trail. With the tough part of the hike completed, veer right and it's all downhill from here.
Geology on Go John Trail

LENGTH: 3.4- mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2126' - 2501'
FEE: $6 daily fee per vehicle
FACILITIES: restrooms, water, picnic areas, nature center

37900 N. Cave Creek Parkway, Cave Creek 85331
Take I-17 north to Cave Creek Hwy (SR74). Head east (right) and continue 7 miles to the park entrance at 32nd Street.  Follow the main park road to the Overton trailhead at the nature center.

A guided horse trail ride

INFO:  Maricopa County Parks & Recreation: 623-465-0431

Thursday, January 2, 2014



Spanning 240 miles and linking 10 county parks, the Maricopa Trail is a unifying, non-motorized system of existing paths, closed roads and new construction. Forming a massive circle around the Valley of the Sun, its course brushes against busy recreation sites, suburban neighborhoods and desert wilds with entry points in the parks and at special trailheads.  Spear S Trailhead was established in 2011 and gives access to a splendid stretch of rangeland via paths established by the Hohokam people who lived in the area from  
about 300 B.C. to 1500 A.D. This is also cattle country, and a plaque near the trailhead features a list of early homesteaders whose roads and ranch sites still imprint the land. The Spear S trailhead is located roughly halfway between Lake Pleasant, Cave Creek Regional Park and Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, making it a convenient launch for both day hikes and backpacking.
One scenic option is to do an out-and-back hike to the Cave Creek area parks. This route jogs along saguaro inhabited hillsides, shady washes painted green with plant life and heart-stirring open desert terrain with 3219' Apache Peak as a central beacon along the way.   Trail signs are posted at all junctions, but can be easy to miss.  At the 2.9-mile point, the trail splits.  Turn north to continue to Spur Cross or stay straight for Cave Creek.

4 miles one-way to Cave Creek Regional Park, or
6 miles one-way to Spur Cross Conservation Area
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2050' - 2295' (as described here)
GETTING THERE: 41799 N. New River Road
Go north on I-17 to Carefree Hwy (SR74) exit. Go east (right) to 7th Street, turn north (left) and go 4.5 miles on 7th St  (turns into New River Road) to the trailhead on the right (located just
Apache Peak
before Linda Lane).
INFO & MAPS: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 602-506-2930

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