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Monday, February 1, 2016


Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Cave Creek
Elephant Mountain stands out over fresh-cut Fairy Duster Loop

If you image the trails of Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area as an ice cream sundae, Fairy Duster Loop and Mariposa Hill Trail are the whipped cream and cherry on the top. Neither trail requires much effort to hike, but they perfectly complement the area's more rough-hewn, difficult routes with soft footing and sweet views. Opened in January 2016, they offer short, pretty detours that connect with backbone route Spur Cross Trail (Maricopa Trail) to explore new territory on the site's east side.
Fairy Duster Loop traces the foothills above mesquite-cluttered Cottonwood Wash where profuse plant life makes the trek sort of like hiking through a mini botanical garden. In addition to the shrub for which it's named, plants you'll find along the flowing path include joboba, buckwheat, filaree, ratany, cholla cactus, brittle bush and dozens of wildflowers, making it a good choice for a springtime bloom snooping hike.
Mariposa Hill Trail is named for a delicate lily that decorates its flanks. This trail follows what used to be Old Cottonwood Canyon Road to a lookout point with big views of Cave Creek and the saguaro-studded mountains of Tonto National Forest.
These fresh-cut routes can be hiked alone or tagged on to old favorites like the Metate Trail, for a longer loop. Here's one trail mix option.
From the trailhead, hike 0.1-mile north on Spur Cross Trail (SX) , turn right onto Fairy Duster Loop. Hike the 0.6-mile loop, then head 0.7-mile north (right) on SX to Mariposa Hill Trail. Hike 0.2-mile to the top and then back down. Continue 0.2 mile on SX to Metate Trail, follow it 0.8 mile back to SX, turn left and go 0.3 -mile back to the trailhead.
LENGTH: 2.9 miles (loop described here)
ELEVATION: 2,200'-2,468' (loop described here)
Fairy Duster Loop: 0.6-mile loop (2,330' - 2,385')
Mariposa Hill: 0.2 one way (2,400' - 2,468')
RATING: easy-moderate
FEE: $3 daily per person. Bring exact change for the self-serve permit kiosk.
From Loop 101 in north Phoenix, exit at Cave Creek Road and drive 15 miles north to Spur Cross Ranch Road. This is an easy-to-miss junction located just before entering the busy main drag of Cave Creek. It is signed and the turn off is on the left. From here, the road jogs north and then makes a tight turn to the left at Grapevine. Continue 4.2 miles to the parking lot on the left. The last mile of the road is good dirt.
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area:

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