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Thunderbird Conservation Park
Peoria
June 9, 2022
by Robbi Fowler
  Park Map 

Five hikers (hike leader - Robbi F, Bill M, Terri K, Diane M, and Terry L) convened at the parking lot at North 67th Avenue and Patrick Lane. It was 87° when we started out and 96° when we finished. While everyone else hiked up north, this group, braving the Phoenix heat, hiked 3.92 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes, +-597' EC.

Thunderbird Conservation Park, a 1,185-acre park in the Hedgpeth Hills, is a conservation park dedicated to preserving the desert environment. The hills were named for Robert Hedgpeth, an early homesteader in the area. The park took its name from the World War II pilot training facility located four miles south of the park. The city of Glendale acquired the park in 1951 through a lease with the federal government. Ownership came in 1956 with the assistance of the Glendale Women’s Club and Glendale Rotary Club. Maricopa County operated the park from 1963 to 1984 and many of the park improvements were made during this time. In 1984 the park was returned to the city.

Park activities include picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, jogging and bird watching. About 15 miles of multi-use trails have been constructed, thanks to the efforts of many volunteer groups.

Our little band left the Patrick Lane parking lot and headed up Chuckwalla to the first knoll for a group photo and a look down across the valley.

We continued east on Chuckwalla 0.5 miles to descend into Ramada area 9, 10 and 11. No picnickers today, but it is a nice spot to stop in the shade of a ramada and do just that. We left the ramadas on the other side and ascended Sunrise trail, past the water retention reservoir and onto the Sunrise Summit Trail. We went to the far side of the hill to gain the summit by the southeast. We took another photo, looked at the 360° view of the valley, but didn’t dally long in the unrelieved sunshine. We left the hill by the northwest and continued on to the Ridgeline Trail.

view
There goes the trail, uphill.
view
The trail gets steep.
view
The Park sure looks different from here.
view
We get a nice view of the city and South Mountain.

At the junction of the Ridgeline and Coach Whip I surveyed our little group for the rigors of heat and sunshine. We had the option of a right or a left at this point. Right being a simple course of least resistance back to our cars; left being the route laid out in the hike description. Consensus was to turn left and continue as planned. We wound our way along the ups and downs and twists of Coach Whip until we gained the extra wide path that skirts the upper end of the amphitheater overlooking the 59th Ave parking lot and ramada area.

Our only wildlife observations were birds (hummingbirds, Gimbels quail and cactus wrens) and a few lizards. Even the animals were smart enough to shelter out of the heat; and the heat was beginning to take its toll on our group.

From there we headed up once more, this time to the Sunrise Trailhead we had not encountered before and stayed on Sunrise, skirting the ramada area and choosing to do the Coach Whip return to the cars rather than reverse our route over Chuckwalla.

The Park: Open Sunrise to Sunset, daily, Gates locked at Sunset.
Main Entrance: 59th Avenue between Deer Valley and Pinnacle Peak roads.

Getting there: Pinnacle Peak Rd from I-17 turns south at a stoplight and “becomes” 59th Ave. There is also a parking lot on Pinnacle Peak Road for the eastern portion of the park not pictured above. There is a footbridge from the east side of 59th that crosses to the Cholla Trail on the northern most peak. Cholla follows the hill’s circumference and then over the top and down ending back at the stoplight at Pinnacle Peak Road.
To access the N 67th Ave parking lot, just drive North from 101 to Patrick Lane and turn right at the stoplight.

Admission: No fees.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated June 10, 2022