Tuesday, December 30, 2014
With the New Year comes the anticipated completion of the Valley-circumnavigating Maricopa Trail. Its 240-mile circuit connects county parks, open spaces and suburban communities. Most of the trail is already cut, signed and ready to explore with the gaps to be bridged in 2015. One interesting, close-to-town section runs for 16.2-miles from Lake Pleasant to Anthem. Beginning at the Agua Fria trailhead that was dedicated in 2011, the route roughly parallels Highway 74, turns north to connect with the Black Canyon Trail then heads east under Interstate 17. Near the lake, the path scoots around and above the Beardsley and Waddell canals, Camp Dryer Diversion Dam and the massive wall of Carl Pleasant Dam.
The route can be a bit confusing at the beginning. To stay on track, go east (right) on the dirt path for 0.1 mile to where it comes out on the access road. From here, continue hiking on the road, cross the canal bridge and look for a Maricopa Trail sign on the right where the road curves to the north at 0.2 mile from the trailhead. From this point on, the route is marked with signs and cairns where it gets sketchy in washes. In addition to the reservoir features, the trail also passes through an ironwood-lined gully, and crosses a flat plain of creosote and cholla before encountering a RV park near 87th Avenue. As the trail moves east, the sound of gunfire from Ben Avery Shooting Range heralds the approach to Interstate 17 and a traipse into the Anthem community.
LENGTH: 16.2 miles one way to Anthem
Option: 2.7 miles to 87th Ave
Option: 3.7 to New River Road
Option: 9.3 miles to Black Canyon Trail
Option: 11.5 to I-17
ELEVATION: 1100' - 1737'
From Phoenix travel north on Interstate 17 to Carefree Highway/State Route 74 exit 223. Drive 9 miles west (toward Wickenburg) to Beardsley CSR, turn right, go 0.1 mile and make a U-turn to the trailhead parking area.