Alternative Rock

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Health & Fitness Issue: January 2014
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Trek in a new direction with these lesser-known Valley hikes.

There's no shortage of hiking trails in Arizona. Perhaps the most comprehensive guide to hiking in our state, – authored by none other than PHOENIX magazine's resident hiking expert, Mare Czinar – covers more than 500 trails, and Czinar says many others exist. Though local hikers tend to gravitate to well-known and well-trodden urban trails like Piestewa Peak, Papago Park and Camelback Mountain, the Valley has plenty of less-traveled options for folks who want to enjoy a good quad burn while communing with nature. Here are a few hiking-guru-approved alternatives to our typical tracks.

Deem Hills
Visitors can traverse trails of varying length and difficulty in this city park, including Circumference Trail (5.9-mile loop), which acts as a main artery for the rest of the trails (most of which rate easy-to-moderate). The Basalt Trail (.64 miles) features porous black boulders left over from lava flows, and the Ridgeline Trail (1.45 miles) offers sweeping suburban views and smatterings of saguaros pointing toward the sky.
Directions: I-17 to Happy Valley Road; Happy Valley west to 51st Avenue; north on 51st Avenue (becomes Deem Hills Parkway). The trailhead is on the right.

Alvord Lake
More of a leisurely stroll than a hike, this 1.1-mile loop skirts a 25-acre lake filled with ducks. The paved path is barrier-free, and offers pleasant views of South Mountain and the Estrella Mountains. The hike's within Cesar Chavez Park, which includes a playground for kids and ramadas perfect for post-hike picnics.
Directions: From central Phoenix, go south to Baseline Road. Take Baseline west to 35th Avenue, turn south and follow the signs for Cesar Chavez Park (7858 S. 35th Avenue).

Dixie Mountain Loop
Located in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, the moderate 4.2-mile Dixie Mountain Loop (pictured) provides panoramic views of the mountains in Cave Creek and New River, Piestewa Peak and the Hieroglyphic Mountains. Other eye candy includes flora like cholla cactuses and creosote bushes, and wildlife like Gambel's quail and hawks. No restrooms or water near the trail.
Directions: I-17 to Jomax Road; east on Jomax to Norterra Parkway; Norterra south to North Valley Parkway; turn right to reach Copperhead Trail, then left for Melvern Trail. Turn left at Melvern; the Desert Vista Trail is 0.1 mile ahead, on the right. Follow Desert Vista to the trailhead.

Gilbert Riparian Preserve
Almost otherwordly in its wilderness wetland aesthetic, this preserve is a paradise for bird watchers and hikers alike. An easy, barrier-free hike (1.7 miles one-way) reveals flocks of fowl lounging around the lake, including egrets, herons, stilts and killdeer. There are viewing blinds along the shore.
Directions: US-60 to Greenfield Road; south on Greenfield to Guadalupe; turn left and continue to the parking areas.