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Hiking


The Maricopa Trail

The Maricopa Trail offers visitors to Surprise a vast area of Sonoran Desert and mountain hiking with easy access. It lies at the far west of Surprise and connects to White Tank Mountain Regional Park, which features an additional 25 miles of excellent shared-use trails. Maricopa County is home to one of the largest regional park systems in the United States. Ten parks in the system circle the Phoenix metropolitan area, preserving approximately 120,000 acres.

The Maricopa Trail is an unfinished 242-mile (389 km) trail located within Maricopa County and connecting the major regional and municipal parks in and around the Phoenix metropolitan area. A loop trail encircling much of the urbanized area, the trail also consists of four spurs that will connect the loop with outlying mountain parks in the region. The trail crosses the U.S. 60 in Surprise and approximately 15 miles of the trail  run west of the Loop 303.

Conceptualized in 1997 by the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department, the Maricopa Trail was envisioned as a pedestrian beltway that would connect nine of the department’s ten regional parks, linking them with the city of Phoenix’s South Mountain Park and encouraging their use by the area’s residents.

The trail incorporates existing portions of the Sun Circle Trail, the National Trail in South Mountain Park, portions of the trails within White Tank Mountain Regional Park, Cave Creek Regional Park and pathways already developed along the McMicken corridor in Surprise. Construction on new segments of the trail began in 2006 and has brought the total length of the existing corridors to approximately 80 miles (130 km).

The Maricopa Trail connects nine county parks as well as one municipal park:

  • Buckeye Hills Regional Park (spur route)
  • Cave Creek Regional Park
  • Estrella Mountain Regional Park
  • Lake Pleasant Regional Park
  • McDowell Mountain Regional Park
  • San Tan Mountain Regional Park (spur route)
  • South Mountain Park
  • Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
  • Usery Mountain Regional Park (spur route)
  • White Tank Mountain Regional Park (spur route)

White Tank Mountains

Getting There: From Bell Road or Grande Ave. take Hwy 303 south to Olive. Turn west for 4 miles on Olive to the White Tank Mountain Regional Park entrance.

Fees: There is a fee per car. Annual passes are available.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sun – Thurs and 10 p.m. Fri & Sat.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers approximately 25 miles of excellent shared-use trails, ranging in length from 0.9 mile to 7.9 miles and difficulty from easy to strenuous. Overnight backpacking with a permit is allowed in established backcountry campsites. Day hikes can provide some breathtaking views of the mountains and panoramas of the Valley below. Horseback and mountain bike riders are welcome, although caution is stressed as some of the trails may be extremely difficult.

In addition, there are 2.5 miles of pedestrian-only trails. These include two short trails that are hard-surfaced and barrier free. Waterfall Trail is barrier-free for 5/10 of a mile. The handicap accessible portion now ends about 1/10 of a mile past Petroglyph Plaza. The short loop of Black Rock Trail, which is about 1/2 mile long, begins at Ramada 4.

Trail Name Miles KM Use
Bajada 1.1 1.7 km Shared use
Black Rock Long Loop 1.3* 2.1* km Hike only
Black Rock Short Loop 0.5 0.8 km Barrier-free / Hike only
Ford Canyon 7.4 11.9 km Shared use
Goat Camp 6.3 10.1 km Shared use
Ironwood 0.9 1.5 km Shared use
Mesquite Canyon 5 8.1 km Shared use
Mule Deer (Maricopa Trail) 3.4 5.5 km Shared use
South 1 1.7 km Shared use
Waddell 1 1.6 km Shared use
Waterfall 0.9 1.5 km Barrier-free first 0.5 mile / hike only
Wildlife 0.2 0.3 km Shared use
Willow Canyon 1.6 2.7 km Shared use

Ford Canyon Trail

Getting There: From Bell Road or Grande Ave. take Hwy 303 south to Olive. Turn west for 4 miles on Olive to the White Tank Mountain Regional Park entrance.

Fees: There is a fee per car. Annual passes are available.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sun – Thurs and 10 p.m. Fri & Sat.

This wide path is lined with river rocks – placed there long ago by prison inmates. It is very easy to follow. There are a couple of junctions where convening trails make a hodgepodge connection. The path generally follows the edge of Ford Canyon and gradually angles up into a side canyon that starts displaying white granite bedrock tanks – the range’s namesakes. These tanks contain varying amounts of water accumulated from previous rainfalls. The gradual climb along Ford Canyon brings the western part of Phoenix into view. The higher you climb on the trail, the closer you get to the main stream bed.

Take a walk over to the exposed granite and see if you can find any water in the tanks. Look for remnants of old rock dams and water catchment basins. Also look for stone fencing and small corrals, which are remnants of cattle grazing days.

Waterfall Trail: Leave White Tank Mountain Road at 1.65 miles from the entrance taking Waterfall Canyon Road to the left then a very short spur road. The trail leaves this branch road at a sign 2.0 miles from the park entrance near the picnic ramada and comfort station #6. Total ascent 180’.

  • Length: 5.8 Round Trip
  • Elevation Change: +-900’
  • Elevation: 1500 ft.
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Goat Camp Trail

Getting There: From Bell Road or Grande Ave. take Hwy 303 south to Olive. Turn west for 4 miles on Olive to the White Tank Mountain Regional Park entrance. Goat Camp trailhead is just inside the park entrance off Black Canyon Dr.

Fees: There is a fee per car. Annual passes are available.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sun – Thurs and 10 p.m. Fri & Sat.

The trail heads due west for approx 4 miles along Goat Canyon. The trail starts at 1500’, goes to 3150’. It is almost all uphill to the towers. Bring at least 2 liters of water and a rain poncho or wind breaker. Part of the trail is in the shade.