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Monday, January 28, 2019

Mesquite Canyon Trail

Mesquite Canyon Trail

White Tank Mountain Regional Park.
Edge-hugging segment of Mesquite Canyon Trail
Towering over cotton fields, citrus groves and an ever-expanding landscape of subdivisions, the White Tank Mountains on the western edge of Metro Phoenix rise to just over 4000 feet.
Mexican gold poppies open in daylight.
For more than 30 million years, tectonic upheavals, volcanic events and erosion have shaped the range into a mass of canyons, ruptured ridgelines and scoured drainages where “white tanks”— depressions in buff-colored granite—retain rain water.  The inhospitable terrain is made approachable by way of the trails within White Tank Mountain Regional Park in Waddell.
Make it a loop with the Willow Canyon Trail if you like.
Poppies galore!
Benches are placed at scenic spots along the first 0.25-mile.
Dainty Desert Hideseed grow in moist clefts.
Excellent views appear in the first mile of hiking.
Complex geology of the White Tank Mountains.
A lone Mexican gold poppy hides among dry grasses.
Long switchbacks ease the climb.
Although the park has many family-friendly, effortless routes, most of its more than 30 miles of trails involve difficult-to-extreme mountain ascents. While challenging hiker-favorites like Ford Canyon and Goat Camp pass through some hazardous sections of loose rock, precipitous edges and steep climbs, Mesquite Canyon Trail rises to equally dizzying heights with fewer obstacles. 
Brittlebush grow along the Mesquite Trail
The route may be accessed at either the main trailhead staging area or at ramada #7.  Starting at the ramada bypasses about a mile of flat, easy hiking and delves right into the uphill trudge.  The first quarter mile follows a roomy dirt track with benches placed at scenic overlooks.
Fragrant desert lavender attracts pollinators.
One of the best features of this trail is that great views can be had after only a short bit of climbing and the vistas continue to improve around every bend. A half-mile in, the lung pumping begins as the trail narrows and takes on a series of long switchbacks that snake up the canyon above a gorge with brilliant white stone at its base and a daisy chain of tanks.  Crowds become noticeably thinner once the path transitions into an edgy traverse of outcroppings of layered metamorphic rocks bent into accordion-like folds and gigantic boulders with peeling veneers.  Tucked among clefts, scree and exposed ledges, springtime wildflowers give reasons to pause on the way up. 
A fresh crop of jojoba fruits ripen on bushes. 
The "white tanks" can be seen at the bottom of Mesquite Cn.
Lush fringes of brittlebush, jojoba and cholla shade patches of Dainty Desert Hideseed, lupine, Emory's rock daisies, globemallow, buckwheat, scorpionweed and bright orange Mexican gold poppies that unfurl when warmed by the afternoon sun.  
Watch for fiddleneck near drainages.
The twisted terrain contains a glut of micro climates that bounce between mossy gullies and parched flats. The varied pockets of shade, sun and moisture foster a vast assortment of blooming plants.  
A scenic point on Mesquite Canyon Trail.
At the 1.8-mile point, you can opt to make an 8.4-mile loop using the Willow Canyon and part of the Ford Canyon Trails, otherwise continue uphill to the trek’s high point and the junction with Goat Camp Trail above Slick Rock Canyon.  This breezy turnaround perch makes for a fine lunch spot before descending among woke poppies.
Globemallow is a common sight in Mesquite Canyon.
Bud on a pink variety of globemallow.
Lupine grow in open areas along the lower trail.
LENGTH: 5 miles one-way from the main trailhead or 4.2 miles one-way from ramada #7
RATING: difficult
ELEVATION: 1540 – 3023 feet
20304 W. White Tank Mountain Road, Waddell.
Construction on Interstate 10 and surface streets in the area may cause detours. Check the Arizona Department of Transportation website for updates.
Follow the main park road to the trailhead staging area or continue to Waterfall Canyon Road and ramada #7. There are restrooms at both sites.


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