White Tank Mountain Regional Park: The simple pleasures of desert hiking
Alexis Egeland, The Republic | azcentral.com
I grew up in Southern California, where we have beaches and mountains and endless suburbs, so I am still amazed by the subtle beauty of Arizona desert scenery. I think that's why I loved hiking the Mesquite Canyon Trail in White Tank Mountain Regional Park.
The hike's pleasures are simple. It didn't have the Instagram-worthy views, rock formations or waterfalls that some Valley hikes boast, but it did have stunning scenery punctuated by saguaro cactuses.
I recommend hiking this trail early in the morning, when the air is a bit brisk and the sun isn't beating down on you. But the main reason to hike at dawn is that the trailhead is to the east of the mountain, so the first 2 miles or so provide a sweeping view overlooking the Valley — a view enhanced by the bright, paint-like colors of an Arizona sunrise.
Hiking the Mesquite Canyon Trail
Length: 5 miles round trip.
How strenuous: Mesquite Canyon is one of the few trails listed as difficult on the park map, but don't let that scare you away. I didn't think it was too bad.
The first mile and a half was easy — just a walk through the desert. There was some pretty scenery, the terrain was mostly flat and there are restrooms and a playground about a mile in. After about a mile and a half the trail starts to climb and become a little more strenuous. I would say that this is a hike anyone in decent shape could do. It also would provide a good challenge for trail runners.
Getting there: 20304 W. White Tank Mountain Road, Waddell. From Phoenix, take Interstate 10 west to Loop 303. Go north to Northern Avenue, west to Cotton Lane, north to Olive Avenue and west to the park entrance. Pay the entrance fee, pick up a park map and ask for directions to the trailhead.
Amenities: Restrooms are at the trailhead and in other parts of the park. They are very well-kept and have actual plumbing, which is a plus. The park also has a campground, picnic areas and a nature center. There are drinking fountains near the restrooms but not along the trail, so it is best to bring your own drinking water. About a mile into the hike is a large, covered playground. The terrain up to this point is very easy, so it would be possible for a family with young kids, or even a stroller, to get there.
Does your cellphone work here? Verizon worked fine throughout the hike.
Good place to get a post-hike meal or beverage: After the hike we stopped at an empanada truck set up at Olive Avenue and Cotton Lane, about four miles from the entrance to the park. The family-owned truck had delicious empanadas and horchata that hit the spot after the hik
Admission: $6 per vehicle.
Details: 623-935-2505, maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/white-tank-mountain-regional-park.
This piece was originally published on azcentral.com.