Jeff and I are about to wrap things up in beautiful Mesa, Arizona. We pulled into Mesa on November 6 and will be heading out by March 10.
With the exception of two weeks in Quartzsite, that put us in one spot for four whole months! How is that possible?
It’s been a fabulous stay and Mesa in the winter could not have left us wanting anything more. Pleasant daytime temperatures for ANYTHING sport/outside related, daily sunshine to give a healthy glow, cool nights for snuggle and sleeping perfection. Winter is more than tolerable here in the Grand Canyon State!
Another special thing about this place is that you have some amazing hikes all within 30 minutes of home base. And you can get as easy or as technical as you want.
So here are the hikes Jeff and I did while in the area.
Our very first hike in the Mesa area was at South Mountain. Jeff and I did a night hike with our buddy Marshall and wrote about our hike here.
South Mountain is the largest municipal park in the US. It boasts 16,283 acres of desert goodness dating back to the Calvin Coolidge presidency (1924) with original Civilian Conservation Corps infrastructure from the early 1930s.
There are 58 miles of trails to mountain bike, horseback ride, trail run or hike…from easy to heart pumping. Whatever tickles your fancy, it can all be done here.
Views here are of the Phoenix. But if you time your hike at dusk you will treat yourself to a fabulous sunset and twinkling horizon as the city settles down for the night.
Superstition Mountains-Flat Iron
I wish I could say I have a love/hate relationship with Flat Iron since it was brutal to the demise of our winter plans. But even in spite of breaking my wrist here I still LOVE this hike.
It’s one of the most challenging hikes (outside of the Grand Canyon) I’ve ever done both in elevation and technicality.
The trail starts from the Siphon Draw Trailhead in the Lost Dutchman State Park and lulls you into a false sense of ease for about the first mile. The trail is a pure gentleman here and is conversational grade with easy footing. La, la, la…look at those pretty cacti over there!
Then BAM! After making a left turn you are confronted with the realization that this mountain is going to beat you into over 2000’ elevation submission!
Pure vertical. Pure scramble. Pure bouldering. There are no switchbacks here and your gluts, quads and lungs will be screaming for mercy!
I LOVE this hike despite it showing me whose boss on my way down.
Tonto National Forest
We just skirted Tonto National Forest on my first hike after my infamous fall. Jeff and I were hiking again with buddy Marshall on Christmas Day and kept things easy and surefooted.
Tonto is the sixth largest National Forest in the US with almost 3 million acres that stretches from the desert floor (1300’) to ponderosa pines (7,900’). Its uniqueness is evidenced by six separate ecosystems in one forest.
I was unable to find out how many miles of hiking are available here. But with 3 million acres…I’m guessing your could hike for a year and still not explore everything.
Easy to challenging hiking, horseback riding and jeeping are everywhere. We stuck to simple jeep trails that could go on for days in and of itself.
This is a beautiful local park plopped right in the heart of Phoenix.
The park includes two golf courses, the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix Zoo and a few miles of red desert trails to explore. It is a popular place for the locals to get their Saturday morning burn on. Nothing too strenuous here and lots of families come for the easy park and hike to “The Hole in the Rock” before hitting the Zoo.
Jeff and I wanting to do some trail running and actually ran around the park twice to get in 6 miles. This place was a bit more crowded and limited than my liking. But for a quick “hike” feel without having to leave the city, it will do in a pinch.
Jeff and I were really trying to take in some of the top “must see” places in Mesa before moving out of the area and Wind Cave came in as a top destination on our Internet search.
Wind Cave is located in Usery Mountain Regional Park located on the Valley’s east side. Usery has a stunning campground, and once you have hiked up to the cave you take in beautiful views from 2,840’.
I use the term “cave” loosely as Wind Cave is nothing more than an indentation in the side of a small mountain. So inspiring I didn’t even take a picture of it!
The hike is a short 2.9 mile round trip and is pretty popular. Wind Cave is not too challenging and can be hiked with kids. It was a bit steeper than I had been hiking post wrist surgery, so I was a bit unnerved in a couple of spots due to my over sensitivity to falling.
But overall it was a nice morning hike with RV’ing friends that we hadn’t seen in a couple of months.
If you come to Phoenix and ask about a hike, undoubtedly Camelback will be mentioned immediately.
It is the mountain that locals and tourists alike come to conquer at 2,706 at its peak.
Camelback gets its name from the shape of the mountain that looks like the humps of a kneeling camel.
The hike is not that long but it is certainly challenging with an accent of 1,280’. There are two approaches to Camelback. The Echo Canyon Trail will get you up 1,280’ in 1.14 miles verses the Cholla Trail in 1.4 miles.
Jeff and I chose the Cholla Trailhead to ease my post fracture fears of scrambling.
This is an extremely busy trail (as is the Echo Canyon Trail). Street parking is at a premium and will require an additional .5 mile hike uphill just to reach the TH. We were actually there for a Thursday lunch hike and had trouble finding a place to park. There are no other parking options except along the street, so we circled a couple of times before a spot opened up.
Though dogs are allowed on this trail, we really should have left Sam at home. I ended up going against the leash laws and let Sam off his leash in order to prevent tripping up other hikers. There was a sign posted at the TH that stated that they were holding meetings to discuss shutting the trail down in the future to dogs. This is one of those rare times I might agree with the “No Dogs Allowed” policy.
Camelback truly is a great hike if you are patient and is a moderate hike until the last .3 miles. It is a pure scramble and bouldering for the last push. It was beyond my ability with a still healing wrist, so Sam and I waited in the saddle while Jeff summited the peak.
The city views are amazing and I am glad that we made the effort to do this well-known hike. But it was too crowded for my liking and we will probably stick to the Tonto National Forest in the future to get our hike on.
So that is my hiking summary for the Phoenix/Mesa area for winter of 2015/16. All in all it’s been a wonderful place to burn up a cold winter in the lap of warm sunny luxury.
We have a three-week trip with multi-stop flights to Nashville for a Sales Conference and 2 weeks home in Bentonville, Arkansas before flying back to our home on wheels in Mesa.
March will have us moving north for the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah to cross another destination off our bucket list. Oh…the tragedy of our life!