By Nicole Underwood / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(QUEEN CREEK, AZ) - Arizona always offers a new area to explore for those who are curiously seeking beauty and adventure. Here’s one option: consisting of over 10,000 acres, the San Tan Mountain Regional Park is a large rural park located in Pinal County, and administered by Maricopa County Parks. The park is just south of Queen Creek and preserves a portion of the San Tan Mountains, making it a beautiful southwest destination to admire the Sonoran Desert.
According to the Maricopa County Parks website, their main focus is to preserve the natural desert for Arizona residents and visitors, allowing its vast open spaces to be enjoyed and protected. They currently govern twelve other parks, including San Tan Mountain Regional Park, which receives 2.4 million visitors to over 200,000 acres each year. As counties like Maricopa County — and Pinal — continue to steadily grow, it’s important to maintain the quality of these spaces for future generations.
The Regional Trail System is a step towards meeting this need, creating goals in the areas of: Land Use, Transportation, Environmental, and Economic Development. They identify goals around the trail systems, metropolitan areas, open space corridors, and trail creation to provide a protected, yet accessible area for all to explore safely and responsibly.
Being part of 12 other types of preserved parks in the state, this rugged, saguaro-covered terrain is a classic landscape to experience what makes the desert so magical. You can wander the non motorized trails with ease, taking in the gorgeous landscape and beauty of the area. The most beautiful part of this area is being connected to the past. The park has many locations to see ancient petroglyphs from the Hohokam peoples, dating back to 1100-1450 A.D. However, be mindful to respect these sacred spaces and refrain from touching when you are on your hike.
San Tan Mountain Regional park is perfect for many recreational activities. Whether you are into horseback riding, cycling, or classic hiking, the park has a plethora of trails to venture into. In total, the park includes nine multi-use trails ranging from 20 miles exploration, from less than a mile to over six miles depending on the trail you choose, ranging from 78 to 1,286 feet in elevation gain. Many of the park’s trails were actually constructed from old mining roads, making them the perfect width for large groups, or cyclists and hikers to share the trail.
Some of these create trails include Little Leaf Trail, Stargazer Trail, the Hedgehog Trail, Moonlight Trail, San Tan Trail at 6.4 miles and the Goldmine Trail that takes you to the highest peak of the entire park. All these popular trails offer something for hikers and bikers on every level, while giving you access to the gorgeous views and desert wildlife. For those who are social, you can connect with local hiking groups or mountain bikers, like the San Tan Shredders, to join one of their organized adventures.
Looking for an easy, short hike? Then, place the Moonlight Trail at the top of your list. At just over a mile, you can both get your Sonoran scenic fix with a relatively mild length. However, if you are wanting a fuller day with more difficulty, explore the park along the San Tan Trail. There, you can soak in the mountain views along Rock Peak while also having access to the central area of the park to get the complete experience. All Trails is a great resource to explore these trails in full, and read feedback from outdoor enthusiasts who have tips and feedback about their journeys.
Want to schedule a day to explore? Lucky for the locals, the park and trails are open year-round. Visitors may enjoy the park from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the hours change from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
The park offers activities for the community as well, such as bird watching and fun science days for the family. Recently on May 14, annual spring Global Big Day, the regional park staff hosted a 24-hour event for Arizona birders to submit checklists of bird species they find within the park. Global events like this help scientists collect important data to help monitor bird populations and migration.
Check out their Facebook for upcoming events this summer and any tips on hiking safely as temperatures increase.