Usery Mountain Park is at the border of Mesa and the desert. The park is part of the Maricopa County Park System. There are 30 miles of hiking trails, camping (tents or RV’s), and archery range. It does run $6 to get a car load in.
Every month there’s a full moon. Coincidentally, there’s a Range hike too. Be warned, during the winter there will be 200-300 sets of feet crunching sand and gravel. I only had 60 people with me tonite.
The hike itself is fairly level. A distance of about 2 miles should be easy for almost all who can hike. The landscape is typical for the Sonoran desert. Saguaro, chollas, and assorted cacti. Views of the mountains surrounding the park. It’s silver blue in the moonlight.
This is from the road sides along Saguaro Lake. The lake has several access points. It rests within the mountains. Several elevation changes and arroyos (dry river beds) give several different views and plants. The stately Saguaros are everywhere. The blooms are limited by rainfall. This is the second month of blooms here.
211 Million years ago, this was a tree. Today it’s an eighty foot long fossil. Now there are only a few hundred full size and thousands of partial tress here. For $20 pass that is good for a week you get this and the Painted Desert too.
The basics are during the rise of the dinosaurs life was a forest here. Shallow water with a prefect muddy low oxygen shallow waterway… add millions of years and here you are. This area resembles the Badlands with color. It’s in a barren open meadow landscape. Although fairly flat, the dry area and erosion of heavy winter moisture has made for a.surreal world.
There are multiple visit centers. Plenty of history here. Good displays of what preceeded Dinosaurs and the human impact. This spreads over 30 miles of pavement. Good for all ages. You walk among the petrified trees. People sit on a Triassiac tree for family pictures!
Ok eye candy below
This piece of paradise is an hour from Flagstaff and three hours south of the Grand Canyon. I40 runs through the Northern part and Holbrook, AZ had food half hour away.
Saguaro Lake is located 20 miles Northeast of Mesa, AZ. It’s has a marina and several boat ramps. And three roads into the area. There are marked trails for hiking, atv’s and horses. This is part of Tonto Forest area and daily passes are sold off site year round in places like Ft McDowell, Mesa, and Jake’s Corners
And being there at the beginning of March, there are wildflowers. The area is loaded with cacti and cholla.
An oasis in the High Desert. This impounded lake is surrounded by mountains and the stately Saguaro cacti. Located about an hour and a half out of Pheonix this is an unbelievable drive and set of short hikes.
Of course, those with a boat it’s prefect. I have only an inflatable kayak… The wife is funny about going out on a lake 350 feet deep in an inflatable craft. There are 3 boat ramps and they are about 120 get wide and quarter mile long. You can drive down them in a car, just stay out if the way.
There are several roads (some paved) that lead to the water. I mean to the waters edge. Which means be careful because you are alone here for the most part. But several places give you the chance to be alone. The Saguaro cacti are plentiful. The views great on grey days.
I can tell you there are cliff dwellings in a National Monument but they close at 4pm. I missed out today.
A grey day in Sedona looks better than a good day other places. A few miles west of the “Y” in Sedona is Dry Creek Road this leads to a bunch of trailheads. But for those who don’t want to walk in cold weather these pictures are all from the road.
If you hike stay on the trails and bring a friend. There are a ton of exposed areas. There were a few puma (mountain lion) prints asking my little solo hike. There were people at the trailhead on my return telling me this is bad place for heat illnesses. Bring water!
There are trails everywhere here outside of Payson, AZ. This is a stab in the dark hike. I left with no more than a distance and direction. The trail offers solitude.
The forest like most in the area have Ponderosa Pines, Alligator Cypress, and Sycamore through out the hike. The forest is open with tons of natural light.
While there were plenty of hoof prints from elk, wildlife around 11 AM was missing. But I did have a butterfly pose for me (actually sipping minerals out of wet soil). I’m not used to seeing them in November. Or as below, a wildflower.
The trail crosses a highway and continues as multiple trails to a small creek and a pasture, or across the state if you keep following the White diamonds. But I stopped at the meadow. Very relaxing but not for nature watching during the middle of the day
This gorgeous piece of travertine has a 183 feet high bridge carved by this passive looking stream. Its located about ten miles North of Payson, AZ off AZ87. The State Park is a nice ride off the highway that ends in some hairpin turns. The park is fairly small none of the four hikes being longer than half a mile.
The bridge is tall enough that you need to drop 200 feet in a fairly quickly manner. Railroad ties make stairs in places to make it easier. The view above is from Gowan trail, it is the easiest way down. You can make it to the bottom where a misty waterfall will get you wet if you stand there long enough. Above you are plenty of swallows that make nests inside holes in the travertine above you. Benches are there for the return trip.
If you wish to rock hop a little you can get about 100 feet into the tunnel safely. The rocks are highly polished and can be wet bring really good shoes. The views are spectacular.
Now every tunnel had two sides! Above and below are the other views. The second trail is Anna Mae trail. It has the same drop of 200 feet but is much shorter like 500 feet! At the bottom you aren’t able to see the Bridge. So you rock hop. It’s not a difficult “path” but good shoes, knees, and ankles are required. There is mostly uneven smooth rocks that are in the creek. It’s worth the challenge. Below you can see the misty waterfall back light from the morning sun.
The Pine Creek Trail is a half mile of Creek that means very little trail and lots of these cataracts. It’s a nice view and super quiet for most part. It starts with Anna Mae Trail, and is a collection of arrows on rocks and trees that meander side to side. This is a half hour of looking for the best foothold. Below was my prize picture. Kind of Dragon like thing made from a tree trunk still in the ground. I don’t know what happened to the tree but it wasn’t pretty.
Finally, they advertise a Waterfall trail. Uh, not much to see here. You do get a fern choked “waterfall”, meaning water drips a lot from above. There is no cascading. There is no sound of a traditional waterfall. So either do this first or last when splashing with water will cool you off.
There is a scar across Arizona. It runs North West to South East, north of Pheonix. Surprisingly, the altitude reaches almost 8000. Not the Valley of the Sun most people think of. The mountains break for a wide green valley. This green world colored by Ponderosa pines over 80 feet tall. From up here, they are like berber carpet.
The Rim Road, or Forest Service Road 300, follows the edge fairly closely. it’s single lane gravel. Probably best when dry. No guardrails if you are into those kind of things. The views are measured in tens of miles here. I started just north of AZ 87 and west AZ 260
Below on upper left you can see the road. The logs and dead trees are from a forest fires in 1990. The small pines are about ten feet tall!
There are Peregrine Falcons and Eagles here. I had a Peregrine come up from below and fly about 30 feet away. Close enough to see its colors. The Eagles were much further away. There are Elk, Bears, and Cougars through here. But you’ll probably never see anything but Elk.