Rediscovering Trail Running

The hard part about getting back into running after a long time away is the shortness of the runs.  It usually takes me a mile or so to get into sync and find my rhythm.  Another mile of decent running and I’m starting to feel fatigued and tired enough that I have to really pay attention to form.  These short distances usually mean I’m doing quick, boring loops on the streets or at the park in my neighborhood.  I miss being able to run 6-8 miles on an average run and really get to see some stuff, vary the route, make it interesting.  That’s what I’ve missed about trail running.

It hardly seems worth it to drive out to a trail for a run if I can only pull off a couple of miles.  But I finally started to get some strength back and the knee is holding up really well.  I’ve been (very) slowly adding on distance to my runs and bike rides.  Saturday, I decided I wanted to get a little bit of a longer run in and thought that hitting the trail would be the way to do it.  Getting out on the trail I would have more to look at, a chance to vary the route if I wanted to and I would be away from the familiar “track” I usually run.

Trail Running Trail 100

I drove out Saturday morning and lucked out to find one spot left in the tiny parking lot at the east end of Trail 100 through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  As I got my stuff together and got on the trail I was disappointed to realize I forgot my headphones.  Running on pavement I usually have music and had planned listening during my trail run.  As I began running though, I remembered that I gave up music on the trail a long time ago.  Sound is one of the big draws to trail running for me and I almost ruined it for myself out of thoughtlessness.  I really enjoy hearing the crunch of rock under foot, the chirp of birds and insects, the wind blowing through rocks and trees as I run.  Most importantly, I rediscovered, is the importance of hearing the mountain bikers coming up behind me so I can move off trail for them.

I also forgot about how trail running effects pace, especially out here in the rocky, thorny desert trails we have.  Settling in to a slower pace allows me to go further and enjoy the run much more.  Rather than running on a long flat surface where I can get distracted and complacent about my run, the trail is varied and interesting with hills and washes, obstacles and debris, wildlife and scenery.  I can run more naturally without feeling like I am over-thinking the mechanics of running.

A runner friend encouraged me to run by feel, not paying attention to the “data” as I run.  Trail running is where this makes the most sense to me.  I am out for the joy of the run and the beauty of the trail, I should be worried about pace, distance or calories burned.  I wanted to get 4 or more miles in on my run this Saturday but I didn’t want to pay attention to the GPS.  I wanted to just run a comfortable run at an enjoyable pace.  I actually ran a little under 4 miles, so I didn’t hit my goal (unless you include the short warm up walk).  But really, I felt the run was successful and comfortable and it felt great to get back out on the trail.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve Trail 100

My Tips for Enjoying a Trail Run

  • Lose the Tunes – Connect with the outdoors and the trail by losing the music and allowing yourself to experience the sights AND the sounds of the trail.
  • Slow it Down – Be OK with the fact that you probably won’t run the same pace on the trail that you do on pavement.  It’s a very different experience, adjust accordingly.
  • Just Run! – Running on the trail for me is more about the trail and less about the performance.  Get the run in and make it fun without the constant GPS obsession.


Trail Shoes

I recently picked up some new shoes for running as most of my other shoes are old and beat up from before my injury.  I had just purchased a new pair of running shoes before I broke my foot, but didn’t like them and gave them away so I was still in need of new shoes.  I picked up some light trail shoes from Columbia to try out in hopes that they would do the job.  I really liked the Conspiracy Outdry trail shoes I got from columbia but they’re a little bulky for running so I ordered the lightweight Conspiracy Vapor.  They are a low profile, lightweight, multi-sport shoe with well thought out reinforcing and a nice low 3mm drop.  I was starting to run in zero drop shoes before my injury and I do like the low angle of the Vapors.

Columbia Conspiracy Vapor Trail Shoes

Like the other Conspiracy shoes I’ve worn, there were pretty comfortable right out of the box, although they don’t have the same awesome shape of the original.  I liked the wide toe box on my original Conspiracy’s and they felt great, the Vapor was narrower through the toe box and took a little time to break in.  The weight is nice and about 9-10 oz. per shoe and the tread has a nice grip to it.

I’m not terribly happy with these shoes when running on pavement.  Unfortunately, I can’t really explain why.  They just seem to be harsh on my feet running on pavement compared to other running shoes (I have been running in my Altra Zero Drop shoes as well).  Once I got the Vapors on the trail, it was a different story.

Columbia Conspiracy Vapor Trail Shoes

On the rocky, dusty desert trails around here the Vapors performed great.  The sole/midsole assembly is rigid enough to protect my feet from the sharp rocks on the trail, but flexible enough to be agile on the technical terrain.  They breathe well and the reinforced outer provides some nice protection.  I was pleasantly surprised at the difference in how these shoes felt on the trail vs. the pavement.  They are a “trail shoe” and not a true running shoe and it shows when I run in them on different surfaces.

I just started using them so we’ll see how they hold up.  If the other Conspiracy shoes are any indicator, they’ll do fine and at $80 they’re cheaper than any running shoes I’ve ever had and most trail shoes I’ve purchased.


I also wanted to add a note about the socks.  I have been using a variety of socks over the last couple of years to try out new brands, styles, materials and fits in an attempt to find a great sock.  I have a few brands that I really love including Point6, Ausangate and Smartwool.  The first gear review I ever wrote was for the Smartwool PhD hiking socks that I wore for a month on the Colorado river in 2007.  I was really impressed with how the socks held up to daily abuse in and out of water day after day.  Smartwool recently sent me the socks shown above to try out as one of their Fan Field Testers.  They are the NEW and improved ultra-light PhD micro running socks and I love them.  They quickly reminded me of why I was so enamored with Smartwool in the first place.  The socks fit well, hold their shape and take a ton of abuse without the slightest whimper.  The only other socks I have that have held up as well are my Point 6 socks (which I really do love) but the PhDs are much thinner which I really like for running socks.

Camelback Mountain Summit via Cholla Trail…

East view from the Saddle near the Heli-Pad...

Camelback Mountain sits firmly in the middle of the Phoenix Metro area and is bordered by Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.  It’s central location and prominent shape make it incredibly enticing, attracting over 300,000 recreational visitors each year.  Located on the north side of Camelback Mountain is a shallow cave, or grotto, where the ancient Hohokams practiced religious rituals.  This fact, coupled with the mountain’s mystique have led some to refer to Camelback as the Sacred Mountain.  During the late 1800s, the federal government reserved Camelback Mountain for an Indian reservation.  By the 1940’s most of the land had fallen to private ownership. Gary Driggs, a local resident with a close association with the mountain, has fought to protect the mountain, successfully, since the early 1950’s.  The area has been off-limits to developers since the mid 1968, thanks to Driggs and the  Preservation of Camelback Mountain Foundation led by Barry Goldwater.  A ceremony was held in 1968 in honor of the mountain’s preservation and was attended by President Johnson (the First Lady was said to have hiked Cholla Trail in high heals).  The Phoenician, a world-famous resort built-in 1988, sits right at the south-eastern base of the mountain and it’s golf course wraps around to the north-east side near the trailhead.

Camelback’s accessibility is what makes it so dangerous.  Novice hikers, weekend warriors and clueless urbanites have all flocked, at one time or another, to the mountain in the middle of the city for an easy afternoon workout in the sun.  Many of them come unprepared.  Camelback is no walk in the park and for those who arrive with insufficient water, improper footwear and a lack of respect may find themselves on the evening news.  Every year, rescue crews respond to dozens of calls of stranded, injured or missing hikers at Camelback Mountain.  People think that because the trails are in the city that there is somehow less danger here.  In the summer of 2009, rescue crews were called out to Camelback over a dozen times in a single day, most related to dehydration.

climbing the "spine"...

Access to the Cholla Trail requires parking roadside on 64th Street just north of Camelback Road.  This area fills up quick throughout the year so plan to add an extra couple of miles to your overall hike.  The trailhead is located about a half-mile down Cholla Lane on the south side of the road.  The beginning of the trail actually wraps around part of the Phoenician’s golf course.  Then you start your climb, gradual at first, up rock steps and a narrow trail.  At peak season much of this trail can be crowded forcing people to stop along the narrow path to let oncoming traffic by.

yes, those are people on the summit...

Once the rocky trail crawls around to the first lookout, you are at the eastern-most point on the trail and it cuts back to the west towards the summit.  Watch your footing through this area because even though the trail is well-worn and not technical, there is plenty of loose rock and uneven ground to twist an unsuspecting ankle.  On much of this trail, a bad step could send you reeling down the mountain, other times it may just mean a bad fall into an angry cactus.  The climb is consistently uphill, though not steep at this point.  Not until you’ve reached the saddle, about halfway up, does the trail become technical.  From the saddle, route finding is accomplished by following old painted blue dots on the occasional rock.  Following the dots, you climb up the spine of the mountain.  “Spine” is a good description of this ridge-line since it’s mostly jagged, broken granite jutting into the sky like vertebrae.  This portion of the hike is especially dangerous and I’ve known many hikers who have turned back.  If you suffer from even a marginal fear of heights, the trail to the summit can be too much.

If you’ve never done the hike before, the summit sort of sneaks up on you.  You’ve made climb after climb thinking “this is it!” only to see more climbing before you.  Then all of a sudden, there you are…with everyone else!  The Echo Canyon Trail also reaches the summit (from the west side) and you often find yourself on a very busy, crowded, chat-filled rock wondering where all these wheezing, sweat-soaked people came from.  The crowd is usually pretty eclectic.  Being in the middle of the city, you’ll have people in business clothes, Yoga gear, shorts, jeans, bathing suits and, yes, even in their underwear.  All tired, sweaty and happy to have reached the top in one piece.

I usually sit at the top for at least a few minutes, check my time, maybe take a picture or two and just enjoy the view.  The summit offers some amazing 360 degree views of the Phoenix area.  Timing your hike to be able to see a sunrise, or sunset from the mountain is a must in my book.  Whenever you hike it though, be sure you come prepared, have respect for the dangers on this mountain and try to leave it just the way you found it.

Sunrise from Camelback Mountain...


Cholla Trail at Camelback Mountain.

No trailhead parking. Street parking limited at Invergordon and 64th Street. Hikers must walk up the south side of Cholla Lane. Cholla Trail is only recommended for experienced hikers and has steep, rocky sections with drop-offs on both sides of the trail.

Trail Length: 1.5 miles (from the trailhead)
Elevation Gain: 1,250 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Oct. 1 to April 30 th: 7:30 a.m-5: 30pm
May 1 to Sept 30 th: 5:30 am- 7:30 pm

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Big Jim Trail

Big Jim Peak
This hike was specifically chosen to satisfy two main desires I had in selecting a hike.  First, that there was a peak to summit.  I had been toying with the idea of focusing on peakbagging in the mountains around Phoenix, and this was the first hike I specifically chose based on that goal.  Second, it was a very obscure trail that has seen very little traffic.  I really wanted to hike a trail in an area new to me on a trail that was not heavily used nor established.  Big Jim Peak sits about 6 miles into a remote portion of desert called Hell’s Canyon Wilderness west of Lake Pleasant along Cottonwood Creek, north of the Phoenix Metro area.

Big Jim Peak

Singer ‘Walkin’ Jim Stolz hiked more than 28,000 of trail before his death in 2010.  Walkin’ Jim Loop is named for this intrepid outdoorsman, adventurer, singer and author.  The trail was originally blazed by Bob Greg and named after Jim Stolz with the latter’s permission.  Jim later accepted Bob’s invitation to hike the trail with him in 2010 shortly before his death.

I was planning on doing this hike with a small group, but as often happens, people slowly began to back out.  When I finally accepted that I was going to be hiking alone, in an unknown wilderness area, I began to doubt the trip and almost backed out myself.  I collected information, maps and researched the trail and the area.  The morning of the hike, I came very close to cancelling.  Then, ridiculous as it may sound, I thought of my dad…and the idea of backing away from a challenge because of ‘the unknown’ suddenly seemed unreasonable.  So, I grabbed my gear and followed the directions to the trailhead.

There are old ranch roads that traverse this wilderness area.  The whole area used to be cattle land and there are still some wild cattle loose in the area, as well as wild burros and a variety of other wildlife.  The trail actually crosses some old homestead sites deep in the wilderness with partial fences, debris and artifacts littered about the clearings.  The trail is fairly well worn in the beginning and crosses Cottonwood Creek a couple of times.  As it takes you further into the desert, the signs of use diminish and the trail becomes more overgrown.  It became clear to me a couple of miles in the that main use of the trail was by the local wildlife, not humans, and I was forced to stoop below branches and push through overgrown brush.

Big Jim PeakI had marked my route beforehand on a fairly detailed topo map, and was able to follow the trail easily despite it’s spotty and faint appearance.  In places, the trail can disappear completely but is marked relatively well with cairns for those with a careful enough eye to catch them.  There were portions of this trail where the only way to continue the route was to walk from cairn to cairn.  The topo map was invaluable at times, and allowed me to triangulate my position and reorient myself.

Big Jim PeakThe trail itself is a lot of fun.  The terrain changes repeatedly, the trail wanders through dense Mesquite forests, crosses dry and wet creeks and washes, climbs up and over various rock formations covered with a variety of lichen and drop in and out of several small canyons.  The trail is very remote, and one of the few places where I really noticed the silence.  Desert silence is a strange thing, and unique.  Occasionally, I could hear the motor of 4×4 vehicles in use on some of the old, abandoned ranch roads.

About 4 miles in, there is a sign marking the side trail to Big Jim Peak (peak 3465).  The Peak dominates the horizon for a couple of miles prior to this intersection.  The peak trail actually heads across the foothills of this small range and into a canyon just below the peak.  From here it snakes up the canyon to a saddle between the peak and the rest of the ridge.  The trail ends here.

Hiking to the peak is a trailblazing challenge, forcing you to make your own way through the scrub brush and grasses.  There are some cairns along the way to help remind you that you are going in the right direction.  I eventually crested the craggy rock that surrounds the peak, and was able to boulder hop to the highest point.  With a little searching, I was able to find the hidden glass jar with the peak ledger in it.  It had rained the previous week so the ledger was still slightly wet and I had trouble writing my name on the page.  The last entry was from October of 2008.  Though I’m sure there had been other visitors, the idea of being the first one on this summit in over 2 years was exciting.

Big Jim Peak

I pulled off my pack and spent some time at the top watching eagles hunt along the cliffs below my position.  I dug my lunch out of the pack and found a relatively flat rock to sit and enjoy my lunch.  From the peak, I had a great view of Lake Pleasant to the East and the remaining desert wilderness to the west.  It’s a fantastic vantage point and I was disappointed I had decided not to bring my good camera.  I laid down on a boulder for a bit to enjoy the sun.  When I decided to start down, I sat up and grabbed my gear and felt a sharp sting on the back of my thigh.  The intricate, animated dance that followed had to have looked insane.  luckily, I was alone and by the time I had stripped out of my pants the only evidence left of my visitor was the barb and venom sack still pulsating from the scorpion that got me.  I had never been stung by a scorpion before, but living in Arizona, you know what the dangers are and I now had a sense of urgency to get back to civilization.  I had no idea if I was allergic, or if my body would react weird to the sting and I was 6.5 miles from my truck.


Big Jim Peak

The return hike was a little of a blur.  Mostly just pushing hard to get back.  I was running low on water, it had gotten warm out since I had started my hike and I was feeling fuzzy.  I don’t know if it was lack of water, fatigue or the scorpion but the hike back was way harder than the hike in.  When I finally got back to my truck, I felt relieved.  I downed some Gatorade, loaded my gear and started the drive home.

I estimated the hike would be about 9.8 miles round-trip.  However,  when my GPS died at the peak it read close to 6.5 miles making the round-trip closer to 13 miles.  I really would love to do this hike again when I can spend the night on Big Jim Peak and get some sunrise shots over Lake Pleasant before hiking back.  Hopefully without a scorpion encounter…


Pueblo Canyon Hike and Ruins

Pueblo Canyon Cliff Dwellings

Pueblo Canyon Cliff Dwellings Ruins – Photo by Jabon Eagar

One of the main attributes of back country hiking that intrigues me the most is visiting places that very few people will ever see with their own eyes.  There is something special about being one of just a handful of people to have personally witnessed some of the more magical parts of this planet.  I had originally set out to do this hike on my own, but considering how remote the area is I had second thoughts.  I invited some friends to come along and also found another group (led by photographer Jabon Eagar) planning the exact same hike and contacted them to see if we could hike together.  I began planning my trip and convinced several people to come along, but that fell through as, one-by-one, they all cancelled.  The same thing happened with Jabon’s group and we both decided to push the trip off.  I wouldn’t let this one go, so earlier this year my fiance and I joined up with Jabon to hike Pueblo Canyon.

Pueblo Canyon Cherry Creek Valley

Pueblo Canyon Cherry Creek Valley – Photo by Dave Creech

Pueblo Canyon is a very remote, obscure, rarely used trail on the east side of the Sierra Anchas (Spanish, “Broad Range”).  The Sierra Ancha Wilderness lies about 100 miles east of the Phoenix Metro area and north of Globe.  It’s 32 square miles are some of the most rugged and inaccessible wilderness in Arizona.  Established in 1933 as a “primitive area” and later absorbed into Tonto National Forest, it was originally shared by several Native American Tribes but was last occupied by the Salado Culture over 700 years ago.  It’s said that the remains of Salado cliff dwellings and other signs of habitation can be found in nearly every south facing canyon wall in this area.  Pueblo Canyon itself has 3 main sites and rumors of more further along the cliff.  Many of the main Ruins in this area, including Pueblo Canyon were documented in 1934 by Dr. Emil W. Haury.  As part of the Gila Pueblo Project Expeditions, Dr. Huary explored the area from 1930 to 1934 led by local Rancher Dewey Peterson.  Peterson owned and operated a ranch at Aztec Peak, just above the canyons where the ruins were found.

Due to how remote this hike is, we had to set out very early in the morning to be able to hit the trail before too late in the day.  We met up with Jabon and his group around 6am in Mesa and then set out on the 3+ hour drive to the trail head.  The drive takes you through some of the most scenic territory in Eastern Arizona.  Beautiful rock formations, canyons and cliffs line the road north of Globe.  The trailhead is a little over 23 miles down Cherry Creek Road.  A dirt road the whole way, Cherry Creek Road is partially maintained and well traveled, but soon becomes a very primitive jeep trail requiring a 4-wheel drive vehicle.  It also crosses Cherry Creek at times and can be hazardous if the creek is up.  We made it to the trailhead without incident only to find that we now had a flat tire, but decided to deal with that upon our return and headed up the trail.

The hike starts where an old mining road intersects Cherry Creek Road.  The road was built in 1954 to service the Big Buck Uranium Mine found near the first set of ruins.  Hiking this first section gets your blood pumping early as it steadily climbs toward the canyon interior and into the Sierra Ancha Wilderness area.  About a half mile or so in, the trail splits.  It was a little tricky to figure out exactly where this split was, continuing to the south would take you to Cold Spring Canyon (there are ruins there also) and taking the trail west would lead you to Pueblo Canyon.  We continued heading toward Pueblo Canyon reaching a landing of sorts that opens up to the Cherry Creek Valley and offers some amazing views to the east.

Pueblo Canyon Cliff Dwelling

Pueblo Canyon Cliff Dwelling – Photo by Jabon Eagar

The trail is very overgrown from here until reaching the ledge at the base of the cliffs.  We found ourselves trudging through overgrown Manzanita and Scrub Oak making route finding difficult at times.  We ascended above the slope and leveled out at a prominent ledge that sits at the base of the massive sheer cliffs that rise above the canyon.  This is where all the action is!  From this point we were at the base of the south canyon wall and could look across the narrow canyon to the north wall and make out the cliff dwellings we were after.  Hiking was easier here, though the vegetation had changed and we were now climbing around Prickly Pear, Yucca and Desert Spoon.

The first set of ruins is very close to the mine site and, therefore, the most disturbed.  Tailings from the mine were dumped in the ruin site and eventually the ruin itself was damaged beyond recognition.  The mine is fairly nondescript and is not very deep.  It was still a good place to stop, set up some photographs and have a snack.  The trail heads further west from here in to the heart of the canyon where a thin, graceful waterfall plunges some 200ft into a small pool.  The ledge trail leads you behind the ribbon falls along some slick, algae covered rock.  We took some time here for photos and carefully navigated the slippery path behind the waterfall to the north wall of the canyon.  After a short walk, building with anticipation, you stumble across the first major set of ruins.

Pueblo Canyon stone walls

Pueblo Canyon Cliff Dwelling – photo by Jabon Eahar

Pueblo Canyon pictographs

Pueblo Canyon pictographs – photo by David Creech

It is a wonder to see each one of the cliff dwellings still left standing on this side of the canyon.  Some the wood and mud roof structures are still partially intact.  Wood beams still rest in place, lodged in the stacked stone walls.  Many of the mud and stone walls still have a primitive stucco finish (mud plaster).  In some places, you can still see the coloring and pictographs that originally decorated the stucco walls.  The back wall of the structures is the cliff face itself.  Parts of the dwellings are multi-story and rock art high on the cliff is still visible, if only slightly.  Some of the rock art on the walls is unlike any I’ve seen in Arizona.  Vibrant pictographs and hand prints in bold reds and whites decorate the cliff.

Pueblo Canyon Collapsed Ruins

Pueblo Canyon Collapsed Ruins – photo by David Creech

Climbing in and around the ruins, careful not to disturb or damage any part of them, we explored the structures for quite some time.  We ate our lunch sitting among the stone walls, looking out over the canyon floor 1,000 feet below us and discussing the history of the Salado Culture.

Hand print pictographs

Hand print pictographs – photo by David Creech

The return hike seemed to pass quickly.  We ran into one section where we seemed to lose the trail, but a little bush-whacking put us on course and we were soon back at the truck and Jabon quickly went to work switching out the flat.  The ride home seemed very, very long and I found myself wishing we had planned an overnight so that we had ample time to explore the adjacent canyons and see more of what the area had to offer.

I will go back some day, there is so much more to see.  I just need to find a few adventurous volunteers brave enough to venture into the wilderness with me.


Pueblo Canyon Cliff Dwelling

Pueblo Canyon Cliff Dwelling – Photo by Jabon Eagar

Click here for more of Jabon’s photos from this hike.  To check out more of Jabon’s beautiful photographs visit his website.

Overton-GoJohn Trail Loop

Cave Creek Recreation Area Go John Trail

The Cave Creek Recreation Area (Now known as Cave Creek Regional Park) is nestled in the foothills of a small range just north of Phoenix, Arizona.  Located off of 32nd Street north of Carefree Highway, this area has a vast and colorful history.  The park and it’s trail system are an expansion of old mining trails from the 1870’s when Jasper and other minerals were mined from the hills around the park.  Some of the old mine sites are still visible even though many of them have been closed off for years for safety reasons.  The park includes 2,922-acres of beautiful, classic Sonoran Desert scenery and the new visitors center offers classes and lectures about the flora and fauna of the area.

Cave Creek Go John TrailMy all time favorite loop in the park is a combination of two different trails that intersect and create a 6.5-mile loop.  The Overton Trail heads out from the main parking lot at the visitors center and takes you west (clockwise) at a nice, gradual incline into the depths of the park.  The trail here is very well maintained and an easy walk.  This is a multi-use park and the trails see a fair share of bikers and horses so watch out for both.  As the trail crests the first rise you get a fantastic view of the western ridges in the distance and is absolutely fantastic for well timed sunset photos.  The trail wraps around the west side of the mountains that make up the heart of the park and allows you to climb up and around the back of the mountains where you leave all signs of civilization behind.  For a park that sits surrounded by residential developments, the back side of the park (north side) gives you the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.

The Overton Trail tops out at a flat landing where a small bench has been erected for those needing a quick rest.  Shortly after the landing, the trail connects to the Go John Loop.  This secluded section of hiking winds down a very flat, easy section of trail that has seen a lot of maintenance over the years.  This section is usually where I work on some trail running and try to slam through it at a good pace because it’s not until you reach the bottom of the wash that the trail becomes interesting again. From the bottom of the wash the trail turns into a mixture of sand, loose rock, ragged exposed bedrock and everything in between.  The trail winds though the vegetation offering up-close and personal views of some of the Sonoran Deserts most famous wildlife.  Palo Verde Trees, Mesquite, Saguaros and Barrel Cactus highlight the trail.

Cave Creek Recreation AreaAs the trail climbs out of the wash there is a short section that some hikers find challenging and Mountain Bikers can practice their technical skills.  Once past this climb, the trail pretty much levels out and becomes a nice, easy hike to the east side of the range.  From the east side you get a glimpse through the valley to the town of Cave Creek and the residential properties that back right up to the park.  The trail meanders right along a barbed-wire fence the marks the eastern boundary of the wilderness area.  Watch for Mountain Bikers through this section as the trail is perfect for them to pick up speed.

The tail end of the trail is a slow, easy descent to the east parking lot.  Once back at the parking lot you can either walk road side back to the main lot at the visitor’s center or hike a section of trail that takes you through the middle of the developed part of the park.  There are tables and gazebo picnic areas, a kids playground, barbecue pits and public restrooms.  I have often done this loop and not seen anyone on the trail, but returned to find a very active park with kids playing families having lunch.

Cave Creek Regional Park offers overnight camping in designated areas and trail rides on horseback during part of the year.  Check with the ranger at the visitor’s center for rules and fees.  As with all of the Maricopa County Parks, there is a $6 per vehicle fee to enter the park for day use.  Annual Passes are available for $75.

Directions to the Park

Cave Creek Recreation Area Go John Trail ViewFollow Maricopa County Parks on Twitter!