My only problem so far with Arizona is that there are far too many mountains and trails to explore. That and the fact that one of the mountains seemed to have eaten my debit and credit cards…really not sure how that happened exactly. But Arizona is seriously like one giant playground and I want to hike alllllll of it but that’s a bit of a stretch for a 2 week trip! Hmmph.
I wanted to fit this blog post in before the rest of the crew (being Eric, my sister, her husband and my adorable little niece) arrives tomorrow; it has been a busy week for me! I have my half-marathon in two days (eeeeeek) so am going to take it easy-ish until then. The last thing I need is to get some blisters, pull a hamstring and/or fall off a mountain.
Speaking of mountains, I’ve visited a few this week and even snuck a couple of sunrise hikes in. Normally I’m not a morning person, but these sunrises were definitely worth it plus I had the trails mostly to myself. Before I get into the hiking part of this post, some of the other awesome stuff here includes: driving golf carts on main roads (any road with a speed limit of up to 35 mph), having a bar in the grocery store, pickle ball, the SUN, the sun aaaand the sun. I am definitely not a “winter warrior”…give me all the sun and warmth please and no I do not miss the snow.
Hike #1: Skyline Regional Park
We did the Turnbuckle trail at Skyline Regional Park on my first full day here (Sunday). This park is pretty close to where I’m staying with my dad and stepmom (in Surprise AZ, in an “active adults community”/compound) and is free! It’s a newer park and has 16 miles of trails to explore. The Turnbuckle trail was rated as moderate and was about 3 miles, taking around 1.5 hours with some stops. There was a fairly steep section with a lot of switchbacks – fun! It was busy since it was a weekend and I returned to Skyline on Wednesday morning to catch the sunrise. For my sunrise hike, I started off on the Quartz Mine trail then had to hustle to get to Crest Summit off the Skyline Crest trail. I may have misread 1 mile as 0.1 miles on the map…oops. And the Skyline Crest and Summit trails were difficult, an invigorating start to the day for sure haha. I did end up making it to the top of Crest Summit to watch the sun come up, had a nice little snack and took some pictures. I then continued on Skyline Crest (this ended up being my favourite trail in this park), met up with small sections of Lost Creek and Mountain Wash trails before getting onto Turnbuckle. This time, I trekked up the fairly steep Valley Vista trail and was rewarded with an amazing view and spot all to myself to have another snack – snacks are key; if you hike with me I can promise you will not go hungry. I also had a little photo shoot up here with a cactus, playing around with the timer on my camera – yes I’m a dork. After my little party, I hiked down and got back onto Turnbuckle and continued on my merry way. I ended up pretty much doing a big loop of the park after taking Granite Falls trail to Chuckwalla (love that name) which then met back up with Granite Falls/Turnbuckle before getting back to the parking lot. Phew, my Garmin told me I walked around 17ish km – and my legs could feel it. This was an awesome hike and I highly recommend the early wake-up call to watch the sunrise from one of the summits.
Hike #2: South Mountain
South Mountain is ginormous so I unfortunately didn’t cover all of it 😦 I did the Mormon Trail to Hidden Valley Loop and this is probably my favourite hike overall from this week. It’s one of the more popular trails from what I had read and it was pretty busy when I got there. There was a tiny parking lot (full) so I parked on the street – lots of street parking available, just watch out for the no parking signs. This one started off with a good climb and once I got to the end of the Mormon Trail (not to be confused with Mormon Loop), I continued on National Trail for a little bit and then took the counterclockwise option onto Hidden Valley. I met a Phoenician (is that what you call someone from Phoenix?? He knew where Sudbury was and had even been there, impressive) on my way up who gave me some directions – the trail was pretty well marked and it was easy to see shoe-prints in the dirt but I could see how some areas could be a bit confusing. The first fun little spot was “Fat Man’s Pass” – as you can probably guess, it was a bit of a tight squeeze (had to take my backpack off) between some rocks. The next little bit of fun was sneaking under some other rocks (it wasn’t too obvious that this was the trail here) and then through a “tunnel” near the end. I of course stopped to eat somewhere along the way, parked myself on some rocks and enjoyed the nice view of the city. On my way back down Mormon Trail I climbed up to a viewpoint that provided a spectacular view of Phoenix. I did feel like I was intruding a little bit on the gentleman who had his arms up with fists clenched in the “I did it!” victory position…so I just kind of snuck up, took some pictures, made some small talk (agreed it was worth the 6000 steps to get there – also learned it was 6000 steps to get there) and went on my way. As I was taking my final few steps of this trail, I was met with a gaggle of children and a woman with a baby on her back. As the one child exclaimed that she stepped on glass, the baby started wailing and continued to wail as I watched them make their way up the mountain. I can attest that the sound really carries. I was not so secretly happy to be finished my hike, which was relatively peaceful. Oh except for the bees. There were lots of bees. I would love to do more hikes on South Mountain, this was an awesome one.
Hike #3: Estrella Mountain Regional Park
From South Mountain, I took my little red rental Fiesta along Baseline Rd. to Estrella Mountain. I loved this drive – nice view of the mountains the whole way along. My GPS wasn’t working so I kind of just drove toward the mountain and proceeded to make the sharpest left turn of all time into the park. They really could put the sign at least one meter ahead of the road it’s marking. Anyway, this was the first time I had to pay for park entry ($6), but the nice man at the booth (who insisted I had been there before or at least had to have a sister that goes there all the time) gave me some maps and was very helpful. I decided to do the Rainbow Valley Trail, but cheated a bit and took Dysart trail to shave off a km or two. I hiked these trails for about two hours – relatively flat which was appreciated after South Mountain with some wildflowers, cacti (of course) and mountain views. Would be worthwhile going back to maybe catch a sunset or just explore more of the mountain.
Hike #4: White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Another sunrise hike! I did this one today (Friday) and the clouds made this one amaaaaaazing. The White Tanks are (supposed to be) only a 20ish minute drive from where I’m staying but I failed at navigating – I blame it being too early in the morning. Nevertheless, I made it there in time for the sunrise. $6 to enter again, and worth it again. I didn’t have as much of a plan as I did for my other sunrise hike so I just turned off onto the closest trail which happened to be Goat Camp. I knew this one was rated difficult and was something like 10km one way so that wasn’t going to be happening today. Luckily there was a shorter trail called Bajada which still gave me some great views without as much effort – after that last few days, I felt I could be a bit lazy today. I wasn’t hiking so much as taking pictures every couple of steps so this trail was perfect for that. After my little jaunt, I checked out a small bit of the Mule Deer trail and then drove around, enjoying the scenery and stopping to take more pictures. I would definitely return here to do more hiking – the Waterfall Trail would be cool to check out after a heavy rain and some of the difficult trails like Goat Camp and Ford Canyon look really challenging (and therefore fun). The park also has a library, nature center and lots of camping spots.
Enjoy some Arizona sunrise pics:
Sorry for such a long post! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else tomorrow and can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful state 🙂