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Friday, January 5, 2018

P.A. Seitts Preserve at Go John Canyon

P.A. Seitts Preserve at Go John Canyon
Golden cottonwoods along Cave Creek in P.A. Seitts Preserve
Tucked between Cave Creek Regional Park and horsey suburban neighborhoods, the P.A. Seitts Preserve at Go John Canyon is a tiny buffer zone of beauty. The site is owned and managed by the Desert Foothills Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that works to conserve Sonoran Desert open spaces, sensitive plants and native animal species in the north Valley.  While some of the organization’s 23 properties that protect 680 acres are off limits or viewable only by guided tours, P.A. Seitts is open to the public.
The Overlook Trail
The 271-acre site preserves an important wildlife corridor, riparian habitat and historical elements along Cave Creek. Several hiking trails and nature paths explore the property’s various points of interest. To get to the trails, hike 0.2 mile on the access path to a gate and the main trail junction. 
Craggy outcroppings on Overlook Trail
A good way to begin is to take the right fork and knock off the moderate Overlook Trail first. 
Black Mountain in distance
This 0.6-mile one-way path climbs along a slim, craggy path to the preserve’s highpoint, making a loop around the summit for an exceptional overview of the area.  The dark silhouette of Black Mountain looms in the east while the colorful gorge of Cave Creek, hazy urban contours and the hills of Tonto National Forest complete the panorama. Once done exploring, descend back to the gate and continue north on the wide Jeep Trail (a.k.a Military Road). Just over a half-mile from the gate, veer right at a two-way junction. Although it’s not signed, this short road is the Cemetery Trail. Hike 0.3 mile to a “T” junction, and head left to an historic graveyard where several early Cave Creek settlers are buried.  The burial ground has a reverent, yet wild west feel to it.  A random collection of dusty stone circles and wooden planks mark a few resting places, but mostly the dead lie in blissful secrecy.  To continue, retrace your steps back to the Jeep Trail and continue north. You’ll notice signs stating that permits are required to enter the State Trust land that’s part of a patchwork of preserve, park and private properties in the area. No worries, though. If you stay on the designated trails, you do not need a permit.
View from the top of the Overlook Trail
The Jeep Trail continues for 1.1 mile, paralleling the creek and its avenue of cottonwoods, mesquite and willows. In late fall and winter, the trees display canopies of golden leaves. Enormous saguaros, contorted ironwood trees and a smattering of dilapidated barbed wire fences populate the foothills complementing an already visually-rich trek. 
Jeep Trail
Along this stretch, you’ll encounter two rusty metal posts that mark spur paths that go into Cave Creek Regional Park. The second post denotes the preserve boundary and the turnaround point for the hike.
Jeep (aka Military) Trail
LENGTH: 2.3 miles total
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 1960’ – 2120’
P.A. Seitts trailhead:
From the intersection of Carefree Highway and Cave Creek Road in Cave Creek, go 0.6 mile north to East New River Road. Turn left, go 0.3 mile to 54th Street, turn right and continue 0.4 mile to the parking area on the right near the intersection of E. Cloud Road and 52nd Street. No fees. Preserve hours are the same as the park’s.

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