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Granite Mountain Loop Hike
January 18, 2020
by Carl Lunde and Lin Chao
  GPS Map 
by Carl Lunde
Group picture at trailhead. [photo by Lin]
front:  Lin, Katherine, Li, Tom, Neil, Carol
back: Ian, Susan, Debbie, Terry, Carl, John, Chris, Ramona, Heather, Kevin, Gail

On January 18, seventeen intrepid Arizona Trailblazers met at the trailhead parking lot at 8:00AM. It was cold. There were two hikes. One hike was about 11.2 miles. This was a big loop that encircled the Granite Mountain and Cholla Mountain complex as well as the Diablo Black Diamond Technical Trails. The other one was 9 miles, a shorter version that went on east side of Cholla. John, Gail and Kevin did the 9 miles hike.

Today’s hike consisted of stitching together several trails in the central and northern sections of the park. The elevation in these two regions ranges from about 2300 to 3000 feet or so, as a result, this foothills region gets much more rain than the valley floor; and is therefore much greener and with some incredible saguaro and ocotillo and many other great cactus plants in very large concentrations and it also has great variety of terrain, with lots of boulder areas and granite mountains.

Tom, Carl and Carol are enjoy talking and hiking. [photo by Li]
Faithful Toad greeting us, as always. [photo by Lin]
My team, our AZ Trailblazer hikers. [photo by Lin]
Beautiful trail! [photo by Lin]

We began at the Granite Mountain Trailhead and went clockwise on our grand loop tour. We started on the Bootlegger Trail, which is the main stem that is used to get to many of the trails in this area. We then took Granite Mountain trail to Balanced Rock Trail and to Balanced Rock. We stopped at Balanced Rock for a fun photo op and then continued westward and took the western part of the Cholla Mountain Loop Trail.

Group picture at Balanced Rock. [photo by Lin]
Li and Tom. [photo by Lin]
Li and Balanced Rock. [photo by Carol B]
Our leader, Lin, is trying to balance this rock. [photo by Li]
Look this way, everyone. [photo by Carol B]

We stopped at The Amphitheater and Cathedral Rock (where we took a snack break) and had a photo op for the cathedral. We continued northward and joined up with the Stagecoach Trail. We took Stagecoach Trail, High Desert Trail, and The Divide Trail around the west, north, and eastern edges of the El Diablo Technical Trail area (Black Diamond mountain bike technical trails). We took another snack break on The Divide Trail. The Divide Trail is along the backbone of the area and ranges in elevation from 2927 to 2972 feet. The other trails we took were all lower in elevation, typically around 2800 feet elevation or so. Once we got to the Branding Iron Trail, we took that east to the Granite Mountain Loop Trail and took that back to the trailhead, stopping at the Scenic View.

But the timing was off for seeing The Fountain in Fountain Hills. Besides the four scenic points mentioned above (Balanced Rock, The Amphitheater, Cathedral Rock, and Scenic View as well as being on the backbone trial of this area of the park, the saguaros were magnificent. The giant boulders were something to behold and the vistas and views were most impressive on this cool and clear sunny day. We were able to see all the nearby and far away mountains including Browns Mountain and Cone Mountain, Pinnacle Peak, Tom’s Thumb, Weaver’s Needle, Four Peaks, and many others.

Cute Rocks. [photo by Lin]
Between Rocks. [photo by Carol B]
Kevin, John, and Gail are ready to turn right to do the shorter hike. [photo by Lin]
Which trail should we follow? [photo by John S]
Bird nest. [photo by Carol B]
Dancing Cactus and happy John. [photo by John S]
Can you balance the “Ball”? [photo by Lin]
We are marching together as team. [photo by Lin]
Time for a snack, but Li is still full of energy. [photo by Lin]
Perfect picture frame. [photo by Lin]
Our fastest and longest hiker, Li. [photo by Tom]
Meet at the junction? Sure. [photo by Tom]
I use my little finger to support this big guy. [Lin]
Happy Carol! [photo by Li]
Two strong women. [photo by Li]
Happy Li! [photo by Li]
Carl.“We need to make turn here.”  Terry. “Are you sure?”  Carol. “Let me look at a it.”   [photo by Li]
“I am taller than you.”  “But I am cuter than you.”  [photo by Lin]
Airshow while we were hiking. [photo by Lin]

After the hike some of us were hungry, so we went to Liberty Station Tavern r Restaurant on Pima road. It was a very pleasant place, and the food was good. Thanks to Carl for picking this restaurant!

Hungry hikers at Liberty Station. [photo by Tom]
Salmon salad for Li. [photo by Lin]
Anyone want some wine? [photo by Lin]
Note from leader, Lin

Thanks to everyone who came to hike with me and Carl at Granite Mountain Loop. It was an awesome day. The weather was perfect, the trail was very scenic, the airshow was extra bonus, seeing new and old friends was always exciting.

We did 11.6 miles in 5 hours. Joe’s group did 9 miles in 4 hours.

Thanks to Carl for helping me lead the hike. You really know your back yard!

Lunch at Liberty Station was very good. Thanks, Carl Lunde, for the suggestion!

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated February 7, 2020