Saturday, February 9, 2008

Hike #27: Ford Canyon/Mesquite Canyon Loop Trail, White Tanks Mountain Regional Park

Length: 10 miles

Although the Superstition Mountains to the east of the Phoenix Valley are generally considered to be the busiest and best source of hiking trails in central Arizona, the White Tank Mountains to the west of town, though smaller, offer many unique trails that rival the Superstitions in terms of both difficulty and beauty. Located about 20 miles west of downtown Phoenix, the White Tank Mountains provide a wonderful desert environment, that seemed far richer in both vegetation and wildlife than any area of the Superstitions I've yet explored.

My adventure in the White Tank Moutains began with a leisurely walk through the desert surroundings of Ford Canyon Trail. The first 3-miles of this trail are an easy stroll along a very well-developed path, with little to no incline; this segment of the Ford Canyon Trail is quite popular and likely to be somewhat crowded with both hikers and mountain bikers. However, just after the 3-mile point, the trail narrows and begins working it's way into the mountain's white granite cliffs; the increased difficulty discourages most other hikers and almost all bikers, so the trail will now pretty much clears out and provides long-awaited solitude.

Actually entering Ford Canyon, the trail quickly climbs the canyon's wall - above brilliant pools of water in the white granite of the canyon floor. While walking this, one can't help up wish the trail were just a hundred feet lower so that that crystal clear water would be within reach; forunately, the trail soon dips and returns back to the canyon bottom, winding its way around the many deep pools and large boulders. For the next couple miles, the trail continues along the semi-dry wash of the Ford Canyon floor. This segment of the trail can be somewhat difficult to follow due to the lack of developed path; however, the trail generally continues through the wash and can be found by merely following the numerous footprints in the wash's sand.

Eventually, the trail leaves the wash and returns to an establish path (that leads straight up!) The majority of this trail's elevation is gained in the miles immediately after the wash. Climbing through a series of steep switchbacks, the trail slowly leads up one peak and then quickly desends again. From this first desent, a spectacular view of the Phoenix Valley (with the Superstitions Mountains and Four Peaks Mountain) can be seen between the rugged peaks before you. Unfortunately, the decent is short-lived, and the trail soon begins another steep climb towards the trails highest point.

From here, the Ford Canyon Trail ends, and the Mesquite Canyon Trail begins. Working it's way down the mountain's eastern cliff, the Mesquite Canyon Trail has an odd pattern of steep, rocky desents followed by amazingly smooth (and level) plateaux. Eventually, the Mesquite Canyon Trail returns to the parking area and a welcome end to a long hike.

To see more pictures of the Ford Canyon/Mesquite Canyon Loop Trail, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Cody, Thanks for the good description of the trails. Hope you don't mind, but I referenced you in my blog,, where I've posted paintings from the Mesquite Canyon Trail. White Tanks are really a great place to hike, especially for a Connecticut resident escaping the January cold!- Nancy Boudreau