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Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Globemallow & lupine along the trail
Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Cove on Lake Pleasant
Whether you love ’em or hate ‘em, you’re likely to encounter rogue donkeys on the Wild Burro Trail.  One of the newer routes in Lake Pleasant Regional Park, the moderate two-mile path passes thru prime burro territory. The desert-adapted, North African imports first arrived in Arizona in the 1600s carrying supplies with Jesuit priests. Valued for their strong backs and hardy work ethic, the burros soon found additional employment with prospectors. During boom times, they hauled ore but when the mines went bust, they either wandered off or were released into the wild where they thrived in the arid territory. Today, their descendants wander in loose-knit social groups and are easily spotted along the park’s lakeside trails. The free-roaming herds and their habitat are protected by the Bureau of Land Management.
Globemallow are abundant along the trail in springtime
The Lake Pleasant Herd Management Area encompasses 103,00 acres around the Agua Fria River where approximately 480 burros graze. Even if you don’t spot any burros, the trail has plenty more to offer. The route winds around coves and rolling hills studded with cacti and wildflowers. Look for flotillas of American coots, roosting egrets and magnificent blue herons in flight. If you do luck out and run into some burros, keep in mind that they are wild animals that are naturally distrustful of humans. When approached, they will usually run but can bite and kick when they feel trapped or threatened. Therefore, it’s best to observe them from a distance.

LENGTH: 2 miles one-way
Wild burros are best observed from a distance.
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1860’-1568’
From Phoenix, go north on Interstate 17 to Carefree Highway (State Route 74. Go 15 miles west on SR74 to Castle Hot Spring Road, signed for Lake Pleasant. Turn north (right) onto Castle Hot Spring Road and continue past the main gate (pay fee first) to the south trailhead located near a large water tank just past the turn off for Peninsula Blvd. The trail begins across the road.
FEE: $6 daily fee per vehicle
About the wild burros:

Monday, March 6, 2017


Tonto National Forest
Red Creek trickles toward the Verde River
Crystal clear, gurgling waters, red rock cliffs, shady mesquite forests and towering canyon walls make hiking along Red Creek an especially relaxing experience. A tributary of the Verde River, Red Creek--which runs through rugged backcountry roughly 35 miles northeast of Cave Creek--creates a narrow band of green in the desert and supports abundant plant and animal life.  The "trail" is a mash up of both motorized and non-motorized routes. Running water often obscures the way, but as long as you go with the flow, you'll pick up the paths-of-use.  From the parking area, hike down the steep embankment, veer right (north) and follow the creek, informal footpaths and 4x4 roads. Stream hopping is a major feature of this simple and serene, hike but the creek bed is gravel (not mud) and the water is anything but deep or treacherous. The creek emerges from the canyon at about the 3-mile mark and trickles into a desert wash with big-sky views and miles of river rock underfoot. On the near horizon, a ribbon of green jutting over the desert ridges is a sure sign that a major water source is nearby. Keep following the trickle and it will lead you to the rushing waters and sandy beaches of the upper Verde River.
Red Creek

LENGTH: 8 miles out-and-back
ELEVATION: 2,660' - 2,210'
BEST SEASON: October -April
Red Creek
Verde River

GETTING THERE: From Carefree, follow Cave Creek Road (which will turn onto Forest Road 24) for 32 miles to the Forest Road 269 junction (Bloody Basin Road) and turn right. Go about three miles, turn left onto Forest Road 18 and proceed  2.5 miles and park in the dirt turnoff just before the steep descent to Red Creek.  Expect to spend 2.5 hours on dirt roads. NOTE: FR 18 is very rough and requires at least a high clearance vehicle.