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Sunday, February 19, 2017


Town of Bagdad
Bridle Creek flows below Sanders Mesa
On a desert highway halfway between Phoenix and Las Vegas , motorists are treated to a botanical spectacle that unfolds in springtime.
From late February through April, the Joshua trees along US 93 sprout gigantic, lime-white blooms with surreal spikes and a not-so-sweet aroma. The annual event is reason enough take a drive along this scenic route through a landscape of sprawling flatlands tossed with rugged canyons and mountains.
Cottonwoods and willows in the riparian corridor
Despite the bloom fest, only a handful of the travelers rumbling by ever stop to marvel at the hairy-barked yuccas that can live up to 300 years. Although it's impossible to know their reasons for zooming past or their ultimate destinations, one thing's for certain though: Most motorists are not going to Bagdad. And, that's a shame---especially for vehicles with hikers on board. That's because those who veer off the byway and head into town will be treated to a pleasant “who knew” moment. Located 100 miles northwest of Phoenix, the company town that orbits around the Freeport-McMoRan copper and molybdenum mine features a massive open-pit operation that hums 24/7 and Main Street is a mix of mom and pop shops, watering holes, a single grocery store, gas station, and a golf course. Although the place doesn’t exactly scream “primo hiking destination”, the hamlet’s signature trail is a very fine one indeed.
The trail is wide and easy to follow
The Bridle Creek Trail is an unexpected trek surrounded by an expanse of barren mesas and raw, mineral rich back country tucked between the Aquarius and Weaver Mountains. The 27-acre Bridle Creek Habitat Enhancement Area traces the edge of Sanders Mesa and the riparian green zone of an intermittent desert stream. The site is certified through the Wildlife Habitat Council's “Wildlife at Work” program and is managed for habitat enhancement, community outreach and wildlife rehabilitation activities. Except for three easy creek crossings that involve some minor rock hopping, the park-like, linear trail is an easy stroll among cottonwood, willow and juniper trees.
Cottonwoods frame Sanders Mesa
Halfway through the out-and-back hike, the terraced mounds of the mine are visible in the distance. Since Bagdad isn't near a major metropolis, it's a long drive for most people. So, to get your gas money's worth, plan on taking the guided Bagdad Mine Overlook tour which is conducted on Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m.. Then, head back to the Joshua Tree Forest, pull over at a road side table and enjoy the blooms.
Joshua trees bloom Feb. - Apr.
LENGTH: 1.4 miles round trip
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3799'- 3870'
HOURS: 5 10 p.m.

Joshua trees along US 93 near Bagdad
From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to exit 223B for State Route 74 (Carefree Highway). Go 30 miles west toward Wickenburg to US 60, turn right and continue to the traffic circle in Wickenburg and connect to US 93. Go 43 miles north on US 93 and turn right on State Route 97 (just past mile post 155). Continue 10.6 miles to State Route 96, turn left and continue 4.2 miles on SR 96 (turns into Main Street) to the town of Bagdad. Turn right on Lindahl Road and go 1.3 miles then turn left onto an unsigned dirt road located just before the sign for Turtle Rock Ranch. Follow the narrow dirt (sedan friendly) road 0.1 mile to the trailhead.
There's a seating area and portable restrooms at the trailhead.

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