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San Tan Mountain Day Hike
San Tan Mountain Regional Park
March 4, 2017
by Dave French
  GPS Map 
Dave, Larry, Mohammed, Tamar, Tom, Debbie, Jeanne, Billie, Karen, Susan, Ralph, Cecilia

Eight Trailblazers met at the Home Depot on Power Road in Mesa just before 8 AM and loaded into 2 cars to drive to the San Tan Mountain Regional Park, in Pinal County south of the Town of Queen Creek. Even though the park is in Pinal County, it is run by Maricopa County as one of several regional parks that surround the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. We met four more hikers at the trailhead and proceeded on the hike about 9 AM.

We hiked south on the San Tan Trail and then branched off on the Malpais Trail and came back on the Hedgehog Trail, for a total distance of 9.5 miles. Two hikers decided to not do the Malpais Trail and continued on the San Tan Trail to the Moonlight and Stargazer trails for a total distance of 6.9 miles.

There’s gold in them thar hills!
A quick pause. [photo by Ralph]
Trailblazers trudge through the desert.
Beehive Hill — but the bees are O.K.
“The flowers that bloom in the spring, tra la ...” [photo by Ralph]
Things are looking up.

The weather was a little cool at the start, but warmed up very quickly. The temperature was near 80 degrees when we finished a little after 1 PM. We got a breeze in the latter part of the hike, which felt really nice.

The trails in this park are well maintained and easy to hike. There is some rolling terrain but no real climbs. The biggest problem was all the mountain bikers zooming by us. The park offers some nice views of the mountains and hills that Debbie really wanted to climb, but the trails stayed in the flatter valleys and washes.

Lava flowed here and left us this rock formation. [photo by Mohammed]
Snack break on the Malpais Trail.
See, this saguaro knows the way.
Sometimes, boots have to be repaired on the trail. [photo by Mohammed]

We spotted a rare crested saguaro and took lots of pictures. Mohammed found the following information on the crested saguaro:

“It is formed when the cells in the growing stem begin to divide outward, rather than in a circular pattern of a normal cactus. This is an unusual mutation which results in the growth of a large fan-shaped crest at the tip of a saguaro’s main stem or arm.”
Crested Saguaro greets us.

As we proceeded on the Malpais Trail we starting seeing some wildflowers, poppies, lupines, and more. This part of the valley gets less winter rain but probably more summer rain than some other parts so the wildflowers are not as prevalent as I saw earlier in the week in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve near Carefree Highway. We stopped about half way through our hike on Malpais for snacks and some rest.

poppies [photo by Mohammed]
poppies [photo by Ralph]
poppies [photo by Dave]
poppies [photo by Mohammed]
Desert Chicory [photo by Mohammed]
A bird in the bush is worth two in the hand.

We made it back to the trailhead and linked up with the two that had taken the shorter route. Two other hikers decided the 9.5 miles was not enough, so they took off on the Goldmine and Dynamite trails and an additional 6.9 miles. Tough folks!

Those are rugged hills. [photo by Mohammed]

Seven hikers ventured to San Tan Flats for some food and drinks. This restaurant reminds me of the former Greasewood Flats that use to be in north Scottsdale. We stood in line to order food and a different line to get a beer. They issued each person a buzzer to tell you when your food is ready. We waited a long while for the buzzer to sound but finally got our food and moved on. Not the greatest experience.

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updated March 6, 2017