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Monday, May 23, 2016


Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, North

Sidewinder Trail near Desert Hills Trailhead

We desert dwellers have been lucky this year. May temperatures have been more balmy than blistering, thus extending our cool-weather hiking season by several weeks. But, we all know what's coming--triple digit heat and the ominous whir of rescue helicopters circling above Valley trails. Each year, more than 200 hikers get into trouble on local paths. Although accidents do happen, emergencies like dehydration and heat exhaustion are avoidable. At the new Desert Hills Trailhead that was opened last week, a colorfully illustrated sign gives concise pointers on how to stay safe. The new site provides access to more than 35 miles of trails in the north end of the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve including the two longest routes, Sidewinder (6.98 miles) and Ocotillo (6.25 miles). Sidewinder makes a roller coaster style swing up and around the preserve's hills while Ocotillo wanders along the lower slopes. The trails head out in opposite directions and reconnect at the preserve's southern Apache Wash Trailhead for a 13.23-mile loop. If you're not interested in a long trek, a map kiosk at the trailhead shows how to use any of the 11 connecting paths to suit your fancy. All preserve routes are well-signed and sustainably designed, however, hiking these beautiful trails could be deadly for those who are unprepared for heat and rocky, thorn addled desert terrain.
The trailhead sign outlines the Take a Hike, Do it Right campaign that was rolled out last year to promote preparedness. Most of the tips are no-brainers, such as, bring plenty of water, hike in early morning, wear sturdy shoes and stay on designated trails. Skilled trekkers are not immune. (In the human brain, it seems the confidence synapse lives next door to the one for risk taking). Think about it--news coverage of trail tragedies often describe the victims as "experienced hikers". So, while checking out the Valley's newest trailhead, take a few minutes to review the Do It Right sign. Being properly supplied and geared up will enhance your hiking enjoyment while assuring that the trail photos you posted to social media don't become "before" images on the evening news.
Desert Hills Trailhead

Sidewinder: 6.98 miles one way
Ocotillo: 6.25 miles one way
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1,720' - 2,002'
Ocotillo Trail
Desert Hills Trailhead:
705 W. Carefree Highway (7th Ave. & Carefree Hwy.), Phoenix.
There's plenty of parking, equestrian lot, shade ramada with seating, restrooms, but NO WATER.
INFO & MAP: City of Phoenix
Take A Hike, Do It Right:

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