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Monday, February 12, 2018



Cave Creek Regional Park
Slate Trail
The site of Cave Creek Regional Park has a storied history. 
Cactus sprouts
Before there were hiking trails, campgrounds and picnic ramadas, the park and its surroundings were used by the ancient Hohokam people, mine operations, farms and ranches.  The park’s relics of human endeavors are transient compared to its geological features.  Although the 2,922-acre site has been picked over by prospectors in search of gold deposits that never quite materialized, the peaks, gullies and bizarre curiosities borne of earth’s disruptive forces remain basically unchanged since before humans arrived. 
Jasper and Quartz
Taking a moderate-rated loop stroll on the Slate, Quartz and Go John trails reveals a wonderland of rock while staying (mostly) away from the park’s busiest routes.
Slate Trail departs from a paved parking area with restrooms, heading east on an easy-to-follow, wash-addled tread.   During the first stretch, minor outcroppings of vertical-tilted metamorphic rocks –the “slate”—begin to pop up along the trail. Then, just beyond the half-mile point, the scaly gray slabs take center stage. The outcroppings balloon in size running amok on and around the route.   Patches of Palo verde and ironwood trees provide a little shade, but mostly, this hike is open to the sky.
The fin-like rocks form a scrub board surface littered with chunks of milky quartz and blood-red jasper. Some formations jut skyward in shark fin style while others lean in stony waves with tiny cacti sprouting from cracks where splits in the decomposing rock harbor just enough moisture to nurse plants to viability. At the 0.6-mile point, head north on the Quartz Trail for a walk past a gigantic mound of white stone that stands near a bend where a crack in the hilly terrain reveals views of mountains on the western horizon.
This 1.4-mile section follows the contours of several small peaks before it connects with Go John Trail for the return trip. Go John is the longest and most heavily-used trail in the system. Park trails are also used by a nearby horse outfitter that offers guided rides and the swooping, undulating nature of Go John makes it a popular choice for mountain bikers.  So, keep an eye out for speeding bikes and plodding equine parades. Hikers should always yield to horse traffic by stepping off the trail and following the directions of the riders.  From the Quartz-Go John junction, head left, continue 0.9-mile to the Jasper Trail, turn left and hike 0.4 mile back to the trailhead, enjoying the scattered gems and crunchy slate underfoot.
Go John Trail

Quartz Trail

LENGTH:  3.2-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2060 - 2300 feet
From Carefree Highway in Cave Creek, go 1.5 miles north on 32nd Street to the park entrance. Follow the main road past the visitor center and park at the Slate Trailhead.

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