photos by Mare Czinar; Yavapai Point

Off the Beaten Trek

Category: Health & Fitness Issue: December 2015
Group Free

Leave Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak to the madding crowds. The Valley has fresh dirt and new local trails to explore – and plenty of them.

photos by Mare Czinar; Skyline Regional ParkWest Valley
Skyline Regional Park opens this month in Buckeye. Located south of the White Tank Mountains, the 8,675-acre preserve will satisfy hiker cravings for more West Valley trails. Twenty-eight miles of non-motorized, shared-use trails laced among natural desert and rugged ridge lines will be built out in phases. Camp sites, interpretive programs, restrooms and picnic ramadas round out this new epicenter of family-friendly outdoor fun.

Located 2 miles north of Interstate 10 on Watson Road (exit 117) in Buckeye. buckeyeaz.gov/parks-recreation/

 

Phoenix Sonoran PreserveNorth Valley
Over the past year, Lake Pleasant Regional Park rolled out four new trails and will unveil an updated Discovery Center in March 2016. Carb-load for the Beardsley Trail (4.1 miles, easy) – the park’s newest and longest route that travels south from the lake to connect with Valley-circumnavigating Maricopa Trail near Carefree Highway. Another late 2014 debutante, the Yavapai Point Trail (1.5 miles, moderate) climbs nearly 400 feet on an edge-hugging route topping out over the lake for a perfect sunrise trek. For the best chance to see the famous hoofed beasts that roam around the lake, take the Wild Burro Trail (2 miles, easy) through prime wildlife territory and secluded coves. Cottonwood Trail (1.2-mile, easy) offers an effortless trek with lake views from the park’s northern access point.

41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown, maricopa.gov/parks/lake_pleasant/

Closer to town, Phoenix Sonoran Preserve North has seen mad-hot expansion in 2015 with the addition of four easy-rated trails – Badger Brawl (3.39 miles), Cliff Walk (2.88 miles), Apache Wash Loop (5.59 miles) and Esplanade (3.4 miles). State-of-the-art trail signs feature mileages, elevations and scannable codes to download maps. The new Desert Hills Trailhead at Carefree Highway and Seventh Avenue is on track to open in late 2015 or early 2016. When completed, it will have 167 parking spots, six equestrian spaces, restrooms (but no drinking water) and interpretive signs.
 
Apache Wash Trailhead: 1600 E. Sonoran Desert Dr., Phoenix, phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/sonoran-preserve/trail-descriptions-and-map

 

Coyote CanyonScottsdale
Another growth spurt in new trail development is happening in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. In the north sector, Coyote Canyon Trail (1.3 miles, moderate), with its bizarre crested saguaro and slot canyon, is a hiker favorite among a cluster of new routes. Gooseneck Trail (6.7 miles, moderate) forms the main artery between the preserve’s north and central sectors anchoring several tiny loop hikes in between. And in the south, the Andrews-Kinsey Trail (2 miles, moderate) snakes along desert hills linking with Fountain Hills McDowell Mountain Preserve.

7447 E. Indian School Rd., Scottsdale, scottsdaleaz.gov/preserve

 

Maricopa TrailEast Valley
When complete, the Maricopa Trail (ETA: 2017) will make a 300-plus mile loop around the Valley, connecting parks and suburbs with public lands and outlying towns. One of the newest segments (1.4 mile, easy) debarks from the Bulldog Canyon Trailhead in Mesa to link with Usery Mountain Regional Park’s Pass Mountain Trail (7.5 miles, difficult) and Tonto National Forest. You can also get in on the action to complete the project by volunteering with Maricopa Trail + Park Foundation (mctpf.org).

Bulldog Canyon Trailhead: From US 60 in Mesa, take Ellsworth exit 191and go 8.2 miles north (street becomes Usery Pass Road) to the corral on the right. maricopa.gov/parks/MaricopaTrail/