Hikes in Maricopa County Parks

6 Feb

We escaped from the city suburbs on Monday to Cave Creek, one of the Maricopa County Parks (Maricopa being a county within the greater Phoenix area). It was lovely to be away from the traffic noise and the lines of RV’s in the Buckeye camp ground. It was convenient to be at Leaf Verde RV in Buckeye for our return but we love the open space we get at State and County Parks.

Our friends Paul and Sue are overwintering in this area too, they were staying at Lake Pleasant so drove over on Tuesday for us all to catch up with the latest news. We combined this with a bit of exercise, walking one of the trails in Cave Creek Park. It was a total distance of around 5 miles but it passed very quickly having someone to chat with. We did manage to stop chatting and walking long enough to admire the view from time to time.



The desert is a little greener over this side of Phoenix, here and there are a few flowers blooming, signs of Spring or maybe just a mild Winter?

We have been getting some lovely sunsets and sunrises since we came back, last Sunday was one of the best but we did not take pictures. Monday night we set ourselves up ready to watch the sunset and had the camera all ready, but of course, Mother nature did not oblige and the sun went down without a display. Tuesday night the show was on again not as good as Sunday but …


Wednesday we were on the move across town again, Usery Mountain Park would be our next stop, this time for four nights. We needed some replacement light bulbs so as we were passing we called in to one of the large RV sales locations in Mesa. We could not resist a stroll around the new RV’s, some with price tags of $200,000 and more, just out of curiosity…. we are pleased to report that haRVey is still our favourite!

We have stayed at Usery before in December 2009 and enjoyed the walks in the desert  mountains here. Thursday morning we set off to walk the Cat Peaks trail, this began as a level  path through the desert plants and cactus, again we found some blooming already.









The Cat Peaks Pass trail led us up to the summit of the peaks. At around 1900ft they are not high but in this landscape their height is significant and gave us a good view to the flat valley below along with a good place to sit and eat our snack.


The distant mountains in the haze are the Superstition Mountains where we will be exploring after we leave Usery and are staying at Lost Dutchman State Park.


I still find the desert amazingly beautiful with its diversity of plants. Also here at Usery there are a lot of birds and their singing and twittering is a constant background ‘noise’. The saguaro cactus are all so different in appearance their arms poking out at various angles from the main trunk or stem of the plant. It is 70 years before they get their firstP1240600 arm so these little guys to the left of the picture have a lot of growing to do.

The cholla cactus  almost look soft and inviting to touch, beware if you do, they have lots of very sharp spines. However when they die they produce an architectural legacy by leaving behind their skeletal remains.

The holes in the skeleton then allow  all manner of insects to enter and make a home before the vegetable material finally disintegrates.





Another thing which amazes me is when I see plants growing here in the wild that we consider house plants back home or cultivate for our gardens. By the roadside as we made our way back to the camp ground I spotted these grasses with lovely fluffy purple plumes. I recognised them straight away as being something I had attempted to grow in our north east garden where they did not achieve this grandeur!


The Wind Cave trail is noted as the most popular in Usery Mountain Park, it is a short trail at 1.5miles but described as strenuous with steep gradients. It was decided that Sue and Paul would join us on Saturday and we would all hike the trail, Sue with her arm in a sling and I with a sore ankle thought we may have to abandon part way but still wanted to give it a go.

There is a 1.3 mile hike from the campground to the trail head where for those who arrive for the day by car, parking is provided. We should have heard alarm bells when we reached this area as both sides of the road were lined with cars and the official parking area was full. The atmosphere was jovial with lots of families and young children preparing to set off on the trail.


Our destination of the wind cave lay high above us on the rock face. We had this mountain as the view from our camping spot so had been looking at it for 3 days, not realising that was where we were going to walk to.

Not only were there many people preparing to start the walk, lots seemed to have made an early start and the single width path meant that you had to step aside to let others pass. The entire uphill walk was taken up with constantly stepping aside, either for those walking more quickly than us (like the 7 year olds!) or those on the return route.



We had packed a picnic lunch, so had others. On arriving at the cave there was not a P1240618lot of space to eat lunch in the small area which had turned into a dining room!


Luckily Paul investigated a side path and led us around the corner to a small second cave area where we could eat our lunch in a bit more peaceful surroundings.





The view out was lovely, back across the desert, with the clear blue skies we now are beginning to take for granted, as a back drop.




So, Sue and I were very pleased we had made it to the top. The trail was really not as difficult as we had supposed, but now we had to hike back down, which sometimes, on a gradient, can be more difficult if the surface is loose. We took our time, thankfully there seemed less people on the trail now making it more enjoyable.






So here is the evidence, the total miles recorded by our GPS with our walking average. We are not sure when we achieved a maximum speed of 9.1mph… not sure any of us have ever hiked that fast!


Back at camp we de-briefed in the sunshine with a cool beverage discussing the merits of hiking mid week versus week ends. We concluded, I think, that we are spoiled having the ability to enjoy the trails when it is quiet and we much prefer it that way.


One Response to “Hikes in Maricopa County Parks”

  1. Katy February 7, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    Beautiful photos and, as always, interesting stories.

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