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Table Top Wilderness

Summary: Nice hiking in some great Sonoran desert scenery. The sign at the trailhead reads: "Table Top is an example of pristine Sonoran desert. Congress added the 34,400 acre North Maricopa Mountains area to the national wilderness preservation system in 1990, citing its outstanding opportunities for solitude and unconfined recreation, abundant flora and fauna, magnificent panoramic views and important archeological features." In January of 2001 the area was added to the 486,600 acre Sonoran Desert National Monument which also includes the: North & South Maricopa Mountain Wilderness and the Sand Tank Mountains. There are two developed hiking trails in the wilderness, the 3 mile long Table Top Trail, and the 7 mile long Lava Flow Trail.
Directions: From Phoenix drive west on Highway 8. Take exit 144 and drive south on Vekol Road (zero your odometer here). In 2.1 miles the pavement ends at a split; left will take you to the Vekol Ranch, follow the sign to the right which reads 'Vekol Valley Road, Table Top Trailhead 13.2 miles, high clearance vehicles only, 4-wheel drive recommended, road not maintained, impassable when wet, do not cross flooded washes, cell phone service is poor.' At the 7.9 mile point at a decrepit building, stay right where the road splits (following the 'Trail' sign). At the 11 mile mark, turn left at a coral and go over (or around) the yellow cattle guard. At 11.9 the road splits once again and becomes bumpier, stay to the right (ignore any faint secondary roads in this section). At the 14.7 mile mark you will reach the Lava Flow South Trailhead which has a pull out on the right. You reach the Table Top Mountain Trailhead at the 15.5 mile point. There are several places to park as well as picnic tables and an outhouse.
Road Conditions: High Clearance Vehicle
Navigation: Easy
Length: Table Top Mountain: 7 miles round trip (3.5 each way)
Lava Flow Trail: 7.25 miles one way (14.5 round trip)
Date Hiked: December 2002
Weather Conditions: Sunny & nice
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: Table Top Trail: Be aware that this trail climbs approximately 2000 feet in 2 miles. From the Table Top Trailhead walk past the wooden posts and head through the desert on a flat path (0 miles). After 10 minutes or so, you will reach a trail register (no maps available when I was here). Continue onward as the trail parallels a shallow wash through desert consisting of creosote bush, prickly pear, saguaro, paloverde, buckhorn cholla, ocotillo, ironwood, chain fruit cholla and bursage. The path crosses the wash, then soon begins climbing at an easy grade up a low shoulder towards Table Top Mountain. As you near the mountain, the path becomes steeper and passes through a few very rocky sections of basalt. After climbing a while, the trail drops down a short distance and crosses a wash. The path then begins a series of steep switch backs up the west facing slope of the mountain towards a prominent jutting rock formation, eventually passing this formation on the right. As you near the top of Table Mountain you will pass some low rock walls constructed of basalt boulders (off you your right). A short climb from the walls will bring you to the summit, which is marked by a wooden post and dotted with yucca, prickly pear and ocotillo (3.5 miles). Enjoy the view & when ready, return the way you came (7 miles).
Lava Flow Trail: The Lava Flow Trail runs south to north through the creosote flats connecting three trailheads (Lava Flow South, West and North). The distance from the south trailhead to the west trailhead is 4.5 miles, the north trailhead is another 2.75 miles further. The trail is flat, easy walking the entire way. From the south trailhead, walk past the signboard across a wash and in 5 minutes you will reach a register (which had trail maps when I was here). Continuing on, it's flat hiking on an old road through wide open desert consisting of: creosote bush, saguaro, ocotillo, buckhorn cholla, teddybear cholla, chain fruit cholla, barrel cactus, prickly pear cactus, palo verde & bursage. The path heads northwest then bends more west and begins to skirt Black Mountain (which is covered with dark basalt boulders) to the west, crossing an occasional wash. After following the side of the mountain for a while, the trail bends a little more to the west and becomes more road-like. Soon you will see a well defined, but unsigned trail that branches to the right (4.5 miles). If you continue straight you will come to the Lava Flow West Trailhead; we will turn right however, and continue north. This section of the trail is more of a path than a road, though it looks as if someone graded it with a little bulldozer at some point. The path continues north towards a prominent dome shaped peak in the distance. After about 1.5 miles the path bends to the right and winds its way between some low hills before finally arriving at a register, then 5 minutes later, the north trailhead (7.25 miles). Return the way you came (14.5 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars):
Nice desert scenery to a mountain with good views, perfect for a winter stroll. The author hiked the Table Top Trail solo at a fast pace in 2
hours. He returned at a later date with his wife and hiked the Lava Flow Trail from south to north and back again in 5 hours.
Maps: Pick one up at the trail register if they have been stocked by the ranger.
Books: Exploring Arizona Wild Areas - Scott S. Warren
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

Table Top Mountain.