21 Arizona Trailblazers gather near the Mesquite Canyon/Waddell Trail
junction for the requisite group picture. [photo by Dave]
Li, Heather, Yanis, Katie, Gretchen, Jessica.
Michael, Janet, Michelle, Donna, Debbie, Ramona, Tom, Krista, Kari,
Dan O., Dan D., John, Chuck, Deirdre, Dave.
At 9:30 AM on a bright and sunny morning in mid-January, twenty-one adventurous
Arizona Trailblazers strike out from the Mesquite Canyon/Waddell Trail junction and hit
the trail running. These hikers are totally hyped and ready to rock n’ roll today.
So clear the trail and make room for the Arizona Trailblazers!
It’s a very pleasant 62 degrees as we start our epic journey of discovery in
Arizona’s White Tank Mountain Regional Park, located at the far western edge
of the vast Phoenix Basin.
Our goal today will be to complete a 9.5-mile loop hike through one of the most scenic
sections of this very remote and rugged piece of Arizona real estate, part of it
exploratory for most of us.
Today’s hike will incorporate four different trails (Mesquite Canyon, Willow
Canyon, Ford Canyon, and Waddell Trail), forming a 9.5-mile clockwise loop through
the heart of White Tank Mountain Regional Park.
We’ll start out on the Mesquite Canyon Trail and hike that west for 1.8 miles
to its junction with the Willow Canyon Trail. Then hike the Willow Canyon Trail west
for 1.6 miles to its junction with the Ford Canyon Trail. At 4.7 miles, the Ford Canyon
Trail will be the longest part of the loop but also the most scenic, as part of it traverses
the rough and boulder-choked floor of Ford Canyon, where large expanses of gleaming
white slickrock prevail.
At the junction with the Waddell Trail we’ll head south for about 1.3 miles, as
we make the final leg of our journey back to the trailhead.
At least that’s the plan anyway.
But we all know about the best laid plans of mice and men (John Steinbeck, for you
Trailblazers make their way up the winding Mesquite Canyon Trail.
[photo by John]
We continue to steadily gain elevation on the Mesquite Canyon
switchbacks. [photo by Tom]
Dave is in the lead. For an old codger, Dave is
an exceptionally strong hiker. [photo by Tom]
We finally reach the Mesquite Canyon / Willow Canyon junction.
[photo by Yanis]
Hikers continue making their way UP the trail. [photo by Tom]
Clever Keeper keeps us amused, as he performs tricks for treats. [photo by John]
After nearly two miles of steady uphill hiking, we finally reach the junction with the
Willow Canyon Trail and take a short break to celebrate the occasion.
The Willow Canyon Trail meanders to the northwest for less than a mile before
heading straight west to its junction with the Ford Canyon Trail.
Although short stretches of the trail head uphill from time to time, much of it is fairly
level compared to Mesquite Canyon.
Somewhere along the trail, we take a short break when we come across Keeper
and his owner Jeff. Keeper is a cute little Pomeranian mix and performs a series of
tricks for us, as long as he gets a small treat for each performance. We stop to
watch for a few minutes, before moving on toward the Ford Canyon junction.
We make much better time on the Willow Canyon Trail as we continue moving west
toward the next trail junction.
I radio ahead to the lead group to start looking for a good lunch spot with plenty of
large boulders for seating.
After lunch we move out once again, and it’s not too much longer before
we finally reach the junction with the Ford Canyon Trail and start hiking north.
After about two miles of hiking through a long series of switchbacks, we come
across a large black and yellow caution sign, warning hikers of hazardous travel
The park trail map also clearly states “Hazardous trail for 1.9 miles: Rough
section; narrow spots; large rocks in wash. Hikers must use caution.”
Although concerned about this from the start when planning this hike, I was
assured by a couple of our hikers who had hiked this trail earlier that it
wasn’t really as bad as it sounds.
We just need to be extra careful and cautious through the roughest sections.
From the looks of these increasingly larger boulders choking the canyon floor,
we may be finding out sooner than later.
Dan, Debbie, Heather, and Katie on the
Ford Canyon Trail. [photo by Tom]
The going is very slow through this stretch of Ford Canyon and we lose quite a bit
of time as we carefully negotiate drop-off after drop-off, each seemingly more
challenging than the previous one.
We eventually get past this section and start to make up time over the rest of
the Ford Canyon Trail, although the long roller coaster stretch of trail through still
more rough and rocky terrain continues to slow us down a little.
It isn’t until we finally reach the junction with the Waddell Trail that the
going really gets easier.
At the junction we start heading south over relatively flat, rolling terrain for about
1.3 miles back to the trailhead.
We make record time down the Waddell Trail, and all of us are back at the parking
lot by 3:00 PM.
← Dave uses the moonwalk maneuver to back down between
these two large boulders. [photo by John]
Michelle negotiates yet another butt-slider on the Ford Canyon Trail.
[photo by Li]
Tom and Debbie are up next. Each hiker has their own personal approach.
[photo by Li]
This tank is fed by a periodic waterfall flowing from the cliffs behind it.
[photo by Yanis]
Debbie stands next to one of the most photographed tanks in these
mountains. [photo by Dave]
Despite a few initial misgivings about the Ford Canyon Trail and an unfortunate
foul-up trying to connect with one of our hikers at the Library and Nature Center
just outside the park entrance, everything goes relatively smoothly.
With a starting temperature of 60 degrees and an ending temperature of 72 degrees,
we couldn’t have asked for a better day of hiking.
Thanks to both Deirdre and Michael for convincing me that hiking this loop clockwise
was a much better option than hiking it counter-clockwise.
That was made quite clear on the hike through Ford Canyon.
So for all future hikes on this loop trail, I can now strongly recommend hiking it
clockwise instead of counter-clockwise.
Please take note all future White Tank Mountain hike leaders.
After cleaning up and making sure all hikers are back safe and sound, we discuss
lunch options. Most of the group opts to head back home, while seven hungry hikers
decide to make a pizza stop at the nearest Oreganos. After this hike, I believe a
number of us are already hyped up for White Tank Mountain Part II on February 24.
This will be another loop hike, but a longer one (13 miles) incorporating the Goat
Canyon Trail and the Mesquite Canyon Trail.
Check out the website for additional details.
Kari and Michael on the Waddell Trail. [photo by John]
The parking lot and trailhead are finally in sight. [photo by John]
Chuck and Donna hike the final leg of the Waddell Trail back to the
trailhead. [photo by John]
Stopping for a lunch break at Oreganos. [photo by Tom]
Clockwise: Donna, Heather, Debbie, Li, Michael, Tom, Michelle.
Dave’s Hiking Stats:
• 9.6 miles
• 1,600 feet elevation gain
• 5 hours 44 minutes total time
• 2.3 mph average moving time
Concerning the best laid plans of mice and men (John Steinbeck, Of Mice and
Men) referenced at the beginning of this trip report, thankfully nothing bad
or disastrous actually happened and Murphy’s Law was not even a minor
player on today’s hike.
I just wanted to see if anyone was actually paying attention.
So if you managed to get this far, you passed the test.
Congratulations and Happy Hiking!