Ten hikers convened at the main parking lot at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.
At 6 AM it was 79° when we started out and 90° when we finished. Being
just north of Phoenix Metro in Cave Creek helps a little, the breezes were lovely, but
it still got hot. All the hikers this day were prepared and hiked 3.76 miles in 1 hour
34 minutes with a +-367' EC.
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area encompasses 2,154 acres of diverse, rugged
upland Sonoran Desert. It contains numerous archaeology sites, portions of Cave
Creek and the remnants of early mining and ranching. Several floral communities
present in the conservation area provide a rich habitat for diverse wildlife. We,
however, saw one lone bunny, some lizards, and a hawk.
Jewel of the Creek Preserve, which is not a part of the county park but overseen
by Desert Springs Land Trust is made up of two trails. Dragonfly which comes into
the Preserve from Spur Cross to make a large loop of 27 miles of land that is a
riparian paradise and a smaller loop, The Harry Dalton Loop Trail.
We did half of each before leaving the Jewel and entering Spur Cross Ranch.
The Jewel of the Creek differs from other valley hiking spots because it contains three
distinct habitat types, Sonoran Desert Upland, Mesquite Bosque and Riparian. The
riparian area is supported by year-round water and is home to a beautiful canopy of
Cottonwoods, Gooding’s Willow, Arizona Ash, Sycamore, Arizona Walnut, and
We began by traversing the road into the park back to The Jewel of the Creek
Trailhead Sign. We descended into the riparian area taking the right hand turn to
enter the Harry Dalton Trail until it looped around and joined with the Dragonfly.
It’s a tougher choice at other times of the year, when the water is higher
the other side has a sandy beach, next to a constantly flowing wide pool in the creek,
lots of split log stream crossings and even a child sized cave to explore. We followed
Dragonfly Trail, past an old mine entrance, in and out of shady patches and glimpses
of water running in the creek ascending gradually to the Spur Cross Trail. We spotted
some of the petroglyphs we looked for, but alas did not manage to catch the location
of the large rock that holds the Dragonfly Petroglyph the trail is named for. Views of
Elephant Mountain, the far-off hills and the wash and creek valleys below us, all
liberally covered in Saguaros, framed the sunny track until the hard right downhill
toward the Metate Trail.
There, two of our hardier trekkers decided to add more mileage to their morning
and headed out to do Metate, a portion of Spur Cross Road and the Fairy Duster
Loop adding another 2 miles to the originally planned less than four miles. The
remainder of our group, headed up the hill to what is the usual beginning to most
hikes in Spur Cross—the ranger’s trailer and picnic tables. From there,
we went up the rise to the parking lot we began in, changed our shoes and headed out.