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Monday, May 2, 2016


South trail along Oak Creek
Finding a suitable place to hike with young kids can be a challenge. However, there are plenty of trails that cater to a child's ticklish blend of boundless curiosity and brief attention span. When asked for recommendations, I point parents to short, easy paths that have plenty of interesting distractions and a big bang reward at the end. One such destination involves a hike with the fishes. Page Springs Hatchery in Cornville shares forested acres with the wildlife rich, Lower Oak Creek Important Bird Area. The site's trail system consists of connected north and south loops. For hiking with tykes, the south loop is the most entertaining. The mile-plus maze of paths offer the best opportunity for critter sightings and has viewing decks, benches in cozy alcoves, picnic tables and signs identifying native plants. Part of the trail network meanders near the creek through shady groves of cottonwoods, red willows and wild roses entangled with wild Canyon grape vines. The area's unique mix of climate, soil and slope is ideal for growing both wild and cultivated grapes. You can witness this first hand from a trail side bench wrapped in the tendrils of feral vines that overlooks the contrasting geometric order of a hillside vineyard.
Wild Canyon grape
The promised big bang reward at trail's end is two-fold. For the little ones, there's a self-guided stroll through the hatchery raceways where more than 700,000 trout are raised annually for stocking in Arizona lakes and streams. Although the hatchery pools are "hands off", just a few steps away, you can have an interactive experience at the site's Show Pond where fish food can be purchased for 25 cents and tossed into the water. The resultant feeding frenzy is a real kid-pleaser. For tippling adult trekkers, the surrounding area is home to several wineries (Javelina Leap, Page Springs Cellars) with tasting rooms. After all the excitement of the day, perhaps mommy could use a little splash of Merlot.
Hatchery Show Pond
LENGTH: 1.8 miles
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3,450' – 3,495'
PETS: leashed pets are allowed
HOURS: Visitor center: 7 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas. South trails are open dawn to dusk daily.
FACILITIES: restrooms
Wild and cultivated grapes alike thrive in the area
From Interstate 17 north of Camp Verde, take the McGuireville exit 293 (County Road 30), go 8 miles west toward Cornville and turn right onto Page Springs Road (County Road 50). Follow Page Springs Road 4 miles to the hatchery entrance on the left.
Arizona Game & Fish Department, 928-634-4805

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