Pass Mountain and many other county trails get overlooked often. And unless you live in the Phoenix area, the only time you’ve probably heard the phrase “Maricopa County” is in relation to its relentlessly self-promoting sheriff, Joe Arpaio. I’m not going to dive into that can of worms except to say that he doesn’t exactly do much to foster warm, fuzzy feelings for the county government.
That’s a shame for the Maricopa County Parks crew. This system of more than 10 parks isn’t perfect – but it is outstanding. I am constantly thankful for the county parks department, and all it has done to provide a lot of quality outdoor recreation for residents and visitors alike. I feel like it’s a bargain to hand over my $6 whenever I go into a county park (See a complete list of fees). Huge props to the county parks staff, especially for McDowell Mountain Regional Park. That one’s my favorite by a long shot.
Today, I’m focusing on Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa (we’ll get to McDowell in a future post) and the Pass Mountain Trail. This is getting you close to the famous Superstition Mountains, and within very nice sight of the Four Peaks Wilderness Area.
Back in May, I headed out to Usery to have a look-see at its trails. I’d already hiked the fairly quick Wind Cave trail, so I decided to hike the 7.1-mile Pass Mountain Trail. I was disgusted at myself for forgetting my mighty Garmin Foretrex 201 GPS receiver. That means no elevation data and self-made map. Sorry about that, folks.
I started out heading north, which meant I was headed clockwise. You can also take it counter clockwise – no big difference.
The first part of the Pass Mountain Trail hike is upwardly rolling, with plenty of switchbacks and fairly loose terrain. I don’t really consider this a great mountain bike trail, but it’s pretty cool for hikers. You’ll hike a good two miles before the trail turns slightly east, and you will get some serious views. You’ll see the Salt River Canyon to the northeast, and a beautiful valley separating Pass Mountain from its neighbors. You’ll also see beautiful, swirled rock colors. Miles 2.5-5.5 are pretty spectacular. Keep an eye out for birds of prey and lizards, too.
The final third (or thereabouts) of the Pass Mountain Trail is pretty much flat, workmanlike dullsville. You’ll start seeing the red tile roofs again, but you’ll also get a glimpse of the Superstitions. That’s one of the coolest, most-foreboding collections of rock ever, so that’s not too awful.
You’ll find plenty of facilities at Usery. The park, like all Maricopa parks, offers a pretty wide assortment of organized events. That’ll be everything from yoga to guided tours.
Take I-10 east to US 60 east. Get off at Ellsworth Road and head north to the Usery Mountain Regional Park entrance. You can also take the 202 east to McDowell Road and head east to Ellsworth. As of right now, that stretch of McDowell is under some construction, so fair warning!