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Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Phoenix Sonoran Preserve
Apache Wash Loop Trail

In an environment where plants and animals must adapt and invent to survive, desert washes play a critical role in managing life's most precious commodity. These serpentine natural gutters corral and horde rain water in ways that create ribbon-like forests and natural underground reservoirs.
A sure-fire way to get an education about the transformative power of washes is to take a hike on the Apache Wash Loop Trail in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. The trail dodges through and around a water-scoured furrow and its companion linear oasis that coils through flatlands below a chain of minor desert peaks.
The rugged, tree-lined trench is scoured by storms that come mostly in torrential bursts accompanied by churning clouds and lightning theatrics. During these downpours, massive walls of water roll off surrounding slopes into low lying channels forming transient rivers of debris. Flowing washes are far more dangerous than they appear, so to avoid being swept away, never attempt to hike (or drive) through one while water is running. There are warning signs where the trail crosses the wash, so pay heed. Porous soils soak up the rainfall almost as quickly as it appears but the benefits are long-lasting. The fringe of green lining the wash is made up of deep-rooted trees and shrubs like mesquite, palo verde, catclaw and ironwood that tap into underground water reserves. This tightly woven community of desert adapted plants huddled among water-tumbled boulders, sandbars and super size saguaros provide pleasant shade spots along the route. Although wildlife is most active at dawn and dusk, javelina wallows, nests and burrow diggings belie a robust critter population dependent on the wash and its reliable stashes of water and food.
The easy loop trail is simple to follow and offers both shortcut options and access to an optional summit climb. Posts at every junction show your position, distance and elevation. After hiking the loop, take a side trip up to Apache Vista to get a bird's eye look at the meandering miracle of the wash.
LENGTH: 6.7 miles (including access trails)
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 1700' - 1820'
Apache Wash Trailhead.
1600 East Sonoran Desert Drive, Phoenix.
From Loop 101 in north Phoenix, take Cave Creek Road exit 28, 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

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