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Monday, January 23, 2017

PALO VERDE TRAIL

PALO VERDE TRAIL

Tonto National Forest, Bartlett Reservoir
Granite boulders above Bartlett Lake
From the drive in to the trailhead to its turnaround point, this hike is packed with stunning scenery. Hedged among rough cut cliffs and desert highlands of the Verde River watershed, Bartlett Reservoir fills 12 miles of the canyon bound channel with crystalline waters teeming with bass, catfish and bluegills. Although the year-round recreation site which is located roughly 50 miles north of Phoenix is famous mostly for its boating, fishing, shaded picnic areas and camping opportunities, the Palo Verde Trail offers hikers a surprisingly challenging route with terrific mountain and water views. The trail meanders among the foothills and washes on the lake’s western banks. This is not a hike to try during or immediately after storms because rain rumbling off the foothills turns washes and gullies into raging rivers of debris.
Chollas frame Tonto National Forest mountain vistas
Don’t be fooled by the hike’s minimal amount of elevation change---the trail is a deceptively convoluted series of twists, steep climbs and slippery descents on a base of crumbling granite and sand. Overall, you will have accumulated 900+ feet of elevation gain over the 9.4-mile, out-and-back trek.  The trail wastes no time getting you up into the hills above Rattlesnake Cove for breathtaking vistas of the distant peaks of the Mazatzal Wilderness and fire tower-capped Mount Ord. Across the water, the hulking profiles of Maverick and SB Mountain in Tonto National Forest bolster the reservoir’s 33 miles of shoreline casting shadows on peninsulas and islands that morph in size with water levels. 
Rattlesnake Cove
In springtime, these hills are ablaze in wildflower glory. Look for desert lavender, chuparosa, brittlebush, Mexican gold poppies, filaree, lupines and blooming cholla and saguaro cacti.
Beyond the marina at near the 3-mile point, the trail splits. The path to the left is a spur that shaves a mile off the route. To the right, the main trail makes a hairpin loop among deep washes, quartz mounds and areas of washouts that make the route somewhat difficult to follow. Strategically-placed rock barriers and cairns mark the way. Soon, you’ll reach the beachy inlet of SB Cove. Strewn with driftwood, this cozy notch in the landscape is a favorite stomping ground for blue heron and seasonal shorebirds. The route terminates a short walk from the SB Cove Recreation Site. If you didn’t park a shuttle vehicle there, return the way you came.
Foothills of the Verde River watershed
LENGTH: 4.7 miles one way or 3.7 with shortcut
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1798’ – 1882’
GETTING THERE:
Desert lavender can bloom any time of year
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess Drive exit 36 and go 13 miles north on Pima and turn right on Cave Creek Road.  Continue 4.1 miles to Bartlett Dam Road, turn right and go 12.6 miles to North Shore Road (Forest Road 459). Turn left continue 0.6 mile to the turn off Rattlesnake Cove Recreation Site (Forest Road 459A). Park at the last restroom at the south end of the parking loop. Walk down the stairs behind the restrooms and head right toward the trailhead sign.
FEE: A Tonto Pass is required to park.  $6 daily fee per vehicle.
INFO: Tonto National Forest