Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

Cave Creek Regional Park

Memorable Hiking Is Close To Home

Series: Hiking America | Story 2

When conditions are right, you don't have to go far from Phoenix to see spectacular wildflower displays. We've had some decent rains this winter, so this might be one of those years.

One place you should definitely try is Cave Creek Regional Park. The park has over 11 miles of trails, and the hikes range from less than a quarter mile in length to almost six miles. We hiked the Overton Trail and part of the Go John in early April one year and the flowers were incredible - in places, the blossoms were waist high right up to the edges of the trail. Glorious!

The Overton Trail is just over two miles long and takes you around the base of a mountain until it meets up with the Go John Trail. You can go back the same way you came, but we took a right turn at this point and followed the Go John 1.3 miles back to the parking lot.

Overton Trail

The Overton Trail is fairly level and is rated moderate, but we were with a group that included several very young children and they had no trouble with it at all, even on the portion of the Go John that we took. I would recommend that you take the Overton and head west if you are planning to return on the Go John, because that way you'll be going downhill on the Go John.

The trails at Cave Creek Regional Park are very well marked, with trail markers at every junction. You can print out maps at http://www.maricopa.gov/parks/cave_creek/.

To access the Overton Trail, you get off the Cave Creek Parkway at the trailhead sign. It's about a 500-foot walk to the main trail. If you take a right at the trail, you will pass a side trail that leads to the amphitheater and Nature Center.

Stop by the nature center to check out the critter-viewing center and look at the items available in the shop, which has things like books and cards and even bottled water for sale.

Clay Mine, Slate, Quartz, Jasper Trails

There are several very easy hikes in the park: the Clay Mine Trail is less than a mile long and the Slate Trail is just over a mile and half. These trails are mostly smooth and wide, but not paved. Also, both these trails are out and back, so that doubles the actual distance you will hike.

There are no trails as of yet that are handicapped accessible. The Quartz Trail and Jasper Trail are listed separately, but they are simply little bits of trail that connect others, so they are added to a hike, not hikes in themselves.

You can put together a variety of hikes by getting a map and hiking parts of various trails to make a loop as long as you like. Almost all the trails are shared use, so you may encounter horses and/or mountain bikers. Hikers yield to horses, and bikers are supposed to yield to hikers and horses.

Flume Trail

The Flume Trail at 2.3 miles is listed as moderate, but you have to hike a bit on the Slate trail to get to it, so it is longer than listed: you need to go about ¾ of a mile on the Slate Trail.

Also, the Flume is an out and back, not a loop. The Flume trail gets its name from the remains of a mining flume that used to transport gold ore.

Go John Trail

The only trail rated moderate-difficult is the Go John Trail, which is almost six miles long and is a loop. You can even get to the Maricopa Trail from the Go John, and head to Spur Cross Ranch. To do this, you would take the Overton west then north, and turn left when you reach the Go John.

You will come to the Maricopa Trail at the northernmost reach of the Go John. Turn right here and you will stay on the Go John. Turn left and you're headed for Spur Cross. Again, print out the maps available on the Maricopa Parks Web site to put together a killer hike to suit your abilities.

Guided Hikes

There are guided hikes available at the park as well. The park offers Spring Fitness Hikes, Photography Hikes, and hikes to the Clay Mine to learn and explore. In fact, if you want to go inside the Clay Mine, you can only do it on one of these guided hikes.

The entry fee to the park is only $6 per vehicle, and the guided hikes are included in this fee. Just wear sturdy shoes and a hat, bring water, and be at the designated spot at the right time.

Picnic And Camp

The park has several picnic areas, including group areas that can be reserved. There is a playground and beach volleyball area, restrooms, and campgrounds including RV spaces. There are 38 campsites and each can accommodate up to a 45-foot RV.

The camping includes water and electric, dump station, picnic tables and grills, and fire ring. There are also very nice restrooms and showers with hot water.

You can reserve a site at http://www.maricopacountyparks.org/. Camping fee for developed sites is $25 per night. If all the sites are full, there is an overflow area that is basically a big parking lot with access to water.

'Away From It All'

Cave Creek Regional Park is a wonderful place to visit in the spring. The trails will make you feel as if you're far away from it all, even though you're close to Phoenix and Cave Creek.

To get there from Phoenix, take I-17 north to Carefree Hwy (SR 74). Exit Carefree Hwy. and travel east to 32nd St. (7 miles). Turn north on 32nd St. to the Cave Creek Regional Park entrance.

Kids will love it, and no matter what your fitness level, you'll find lots to look at and plenty to do.

To rent horses and get information re: prices, etc., call Cave Creek Trail Rides — a recreation service partner with Maricopa County Parks and Recreation — at (623) 742-6700.


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