Friday, February 22, 2008

Hike #29: Wind Cave Trail, Usery Mountain Park, Tonto National Forest

Length: 4 miles

Although I greatly enjoyed my last visit to Pass Mountain, I was fully prepared for a great disappointment with the Wind Cave Trail. One of the things I enjoyed most about my Pass Mountain Trail was the amazing views of the Superstition Wilderness on the east side of the mountain; since the Wind Cave Trail is entirely on the west side of the mountain, I was fully prepared for a mundane hike. Fortunately, with the help of some beautiful spring flora, the Wind Cave Trail proved an enjoyable and unexpected desert adventure.

The Wind Cave Trail begins in the the Usery Mountain Park, one of the county-controlled parks. Although this area is normally your stereotypical desert with little more than sand and prickly cactus, with the recent winter rains, the desert floor had been transformed into a sea of green with scattered bursts of wildflowers! Working your way towards the mountain, you gradually begin climbing along a series of switchbacks leading to the easily-recognizable strip of yellowish exposed rock 2/3 the way up Pass Mountain. Wind erosion has slowly cut away this rock to form Wind Cave, a small cavern on the south side of the mountain.

Although Wind Cave is the official end of the trail, those more adventurous might choose to continue another half-mile towards the peak of Pass Mountain. Although the trail is slightly more difficult after the cave, numerous spray-paint arrows and a rather well-worn path make the assent relatively painless. Once at the peak, there is a commanding view of both the Superstition Wilderness to the east and the entire Phoenix Valley to the west. (Unfortunately, the sky was completely overcast during my visit, so the view was considerably diminished.) From here, merely retrace the trail back to the park entrance.

To view more photos of the Wind Cave Trail, click here.

1 comment:

  1. I hiked this trail for the first time today. Its a good workout! Almost everyone I met along the way were good, friendly people. That keeps you motivated to keep going! Excellent hike!