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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ridgeline Circuit


View from the Ridgeline Trail

Summer hiking is Arizona is an endeavor that takes extra effort.  While making long drives to the high country to escape the Valley heat is an ideal solution, road trips to pine-shaded hiking trails are not always feasible. 

View of Golden Cliffs Trail from MUP-A

But hikers got to hike.  By applying a large dose of common sense and doubling down on safety precautions, summer hiking in the desert is doable. 
Trails are well-marked in Paloma Regional Preserve

Of the many safeguards needed to stay alive in summer heat, three are of paramount importance:  timing,  sun protection and, water, water, water.  First, plan to hit the trails early and be done by 8 a.m. or before the dangerous heat kicks in.  
Ridgeline spur to overlook

Many local parks and preserve open at sunrise, so plan accordingly.  One of the most misunderstood elements of desert hiking involves proper attire. 
Knoll with spur trail overlooking the park

An investment in a brimmed hat, long sleeve shirts and long pants made of sun-protective technical fabrics will pay off big time.  These fabrics not only shield against sunburn and insects, but they also act like evaporative coolers to keep moisture on your skin. Yup, you’ll feel cooler in long sleeves than a tank top. Then there’s water.
Paloma Community Park from Ridgeline trail

Bring plenty, more than you think you’ll need. I personally carry nearly a gallon for a 3-hour desert hike.  This includes two 16-ounce bottles that I almost always end up giving away to heat stressed hikers. Dogs will get my extra water first.  
Speckled Rattler Trail junction

And, speaking of dogs—leave then at home. Heat is brutal on canines. Our furry friends suffer burnt paws, heat exhaustion and even death on local trails every year.
Saguaros on the Ridgeline Trail


With the objective of being up-and-out by 8 a.m., hikers can maximize the effort by choosing trails with easy access, some moderate challenge, bail out options and fantastic views.  The trails of the Paloma Regional Preserve in Peoria exceed these criteria.  A good early morning summer circuit uses the Multi-Use Path-A, Speckled Rattler, Crankset and Ridgeline trails. 

Tight bend on Ridgeline Trail

From the trailhead, the route follows MUP-A for 0.4-mile to Speckled Rattler and then connects to Crankset. This first 1.57-mile leg is flat, tracing the base of West Wing Mountain with the cut of the Golden Cliffs trail visible on the slopes. 
Valley vistas from Ridgeline Trail

A large map kiosk marks the junction with the Ridgeline trail, where the route begins its climb.  At the top of the first of several sets of switchbacks, the trail splits.  The left arm heads up a craggy knoll for a short trek to an overlook above Paloma Community Park, a nice little diversion.
Green corridor of New River below Ridgeline

View from Ridgeline overlook spur

The route then traverses a saguaro dotted ridge, swooping uphill in flowing curves and tight turns engineered to make the going almost effortless.  Views grow larger and more varied as the trail ascends to its highest point.  The green swath of New River fills the valley below while a ring of mountain ranges surrounds the horizon.
Long switchbacks mitigate the climb

The trail then spirals down to its end point at marker 90,the turnaround point for this trip.  To build a loop or shorten the hike, download the preserve trail map and keep an eye on the time, your water supply and how you feel.  The goal is always to get back to the trailhead alive.


LENGTH: 5.7 miles (out-and-back, as described here)

RATING: moderate

ELEVATION: 1,393 – 1,850 feet


297799 N. Lake Pleasant Parkway, Peoria.

From Interstate 17 in Phoenix, take the Loop 303 exit 221 and continue west to Lake Pleasant Parkway.  Turn left and go 1 mile to the Paloma Community Park entrance on the left.  Follow the signs to the trailhead parking area.  There are restrooms near the trailhead. No Fees.

HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily

City of Peoria

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