Several side trails bisect the large loop (Stoneman Wash, Bluff,
Granite, and Tonto Tank trails), and others like the Dixie Mine
trails veer off from it, making for a wide range of possible
distances. We did all sorts of various configurations and
out-and-backs from our campsite and from the main staging area,
quickly learning our way through the labyrinth of trails.
The trail system at the bottom right of the map is the Competitive Track
for running (not hiking), fast and/or technical cycling,
"galloping equestrians" and/or endurance riders, and
This weekend hundreds of cyclists are participating in several
mountain bike races at this venue. There
are three loops totaling almost fourteen miles. Jim ran there a
couple times but didn't take photos. I never did get over there
Other trails for which I have no photos are the Wagner Trail, a
flat, smooth 1.1-mile trail next to the north loop of the
campground; the 1.2-mile Lousley Trail, with
excellent views of the Verde River; and the short Nursery
Tank Trail, a wide, smooth trail that can be navigated with strollers
and walkers. There are also Youth Group trails in the far NE
corner of the park that are reserved for those groups.
The North Trail, in the upper right corner of the map, is a
well-groomed 3-mile hike-bike trail that we walked one day with
a ranger-guided group. I'll show photos from that interpretive
another entry highlighting the flora of the Sonoran
We ran this 3.5-mile loop clockwise but it's faster the
other way, we decided. This popular trail intersects at two
points with the Pemberton Trail just north of the main staging
area. Two-thirds of it is fairly rocky, winding up and down and
ridges of Lousley Hills. The other third is smoother trail through
low desert terrain and across washes. Bikes are permitted but
apparently don't use this trail as much as hikers and
You can see the elongated loop on
the map above, just north of the competitive track loops and
across the road into the park.
I took the following photos 1-10-08 going CCW on the loop:
The views from the ridges
are great, looking east toward the orchards and Verde River
through the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and south to Fountain
There are excellent views of the fountain from the ridges
but we were there at the wrong time to see it. Here is one good vantage
Then we wound down to the valley and back through the lower
desert to the Pemberton Trail near the main trailhead parking area. The
run totaled about 4½ miles.
The 3.5-mile Granite Trail lies between Bluff Trail and Stoneman
Wash, partially bisecting the Pemberton Loop. It starts at the eastern side of the Pemberton Trail near
McDowell Mountain Road on the low side of the park and climbs
gradually northwest, crossing the Bluff Trail, intersecting Stoneman Wash, then heading down into a gulch (arroyo) past
interesting granite boulder formations. It loops through the gulch and ends
farther west on the Bluff Trail.
Jim and Cody cross Stoneman Wash on the
Granite Trail. 1-8-08
A post marks the trail through a wash in
the granite canyon
Sculpted sandy wash flows below the granite
We made a westward arc through the granite canyon and boulders and
climbed gradually to the end of the Granite Trail at Bluff
Trail. The next two photos are from the Bluff Trail, looking
back toward the canyon we'd just run through:
BLUFF & TONTO TANKS
These trails measure 2.1 and 2.7 miles,
respectively, bisecting the Pemberton Trail on ridges running
generally east to west through the park. We used the Bluff
Trail several times to connect from our campsite to the western
side of the Pemberton Trail, a gradual uphill trek out and downhill
back. The Bluff Trail is smoother than the Tonto Trail and is
fun to run, especially back down toward the campground. Warning:
cyclists really whiz down that descent, too.
Jim inspects an old Saguaro Cactus, which
grows only in the Sonoran Desert.
Teddy Bear Cholla, a type of
cactus, looks soft but it has very sharp spines.
Spines of a dead saguaro in front, with a
multi-armed sentinel of the desert behind.
That's the McDowell Mountain range in the
Jim and Cody head up the Bluff Trail toward
Rock Knob. What a beautiful day!!
Getting close to the Pemberton Trail
Looking south on the Pemberton Trail from
Coming back down the Bluff Trail toward the
campground (little white RVs in the valley)
Jim finds another commemorative bench on
A Foothill Paloverde ("green stick") guards the trail
In order to keep these entries at a reasonable length (and in
deference to those with slower computers or internet connections), I'll showcase the
Pemberton Trail in the
next photo essay.
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2008 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil