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Usery Mountain Regional Park

Summary: Easy hikes in a nice desert setting just east of Phoenix. Most paths are multiple use, which means you'll have to share them with mountain bikers and an occasional horse. Entry fee is $5 per carload or you can buy an annual pass for $75. Why this area is called Usery Mountain Regional Park and not Pass Mountain Regional Park is a mystery to me. The Usery Mountains are actually to the northwest of the Park (identified by the large "Phoenix" and arrow spelled out on the side in white stone). I don't believe there is any hiking on Usery Mountain, unless you plan to become a moving target for the shooting range..... but I digress.
Directions: From Phoenix, take US-60 east to the exit for Ellsworth Ave. Turn left onto Ellsworth and head north for ~7.5 miles to the Usery Mountain Regional Park entrance on the right. Follow Usery Park Rd. to the left branching Wind Cave Dr. Drive to the end and park.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car
Navigation: Easy
Length: Wind Cave: 3.2  miles out and back
Pass Mountain Trail: 7.1 mile loop
Date Hiked: March 2005
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: Wind Cave Trail: From the Wind Cave parking lot (0 miles, 2000 ft) the path starts just to the right of the bathroom. After a few feet you pass a junction with the Pass Mountain Trail which heads left and right. Continue straight as the trail gently ascends through typical desert vegetation towards Pass Mountain. The path becomes somewhat steeper as it nears the hill, eventually climbing up to the prominent escarpment you see above. When it reaches the cliff band the path bends right and travels along it a short distance to a sign that points left for Wind Cave (1.6 miles, 2800 ft). The cave itself is really just shallow alcove and is not terribly interesting. Most people stop here, but more adventurous types may want to continue past the cave (past the sign indicating the trail beyond is no longer maintained) and continue climbing. The trail is well defined at first and a bit rocky as it continues up the hillside. Soon, however, the path degrades into multiple use tracks (each with it's own spray painted dots or cairns). It doesn't matter which you take, they all climb steeply up to the top of Pass Mountain which offers some nice views of the rest of the range to the north, the Goldfield and Four Peaks Mountains to the northeast, the Superstitions to the east and (if you're so inclined to look) the ugly suburban sprawl of Mesa to the south. When ready, return the way you came. Watch your footing on the loose rocks on the way down.
Pass Mountain Trail: I'll describe this path traveling clockwise from the Wind Cave Trailhead. Once on the path, stay right at all junctions to make a loop. The start of the hike begins a few steps up the Wind Cave Trail. Turn left onto the Pass Mountain Trail which winds it's way through an area consisting of cholla, brittlebush, saguaro, ocotillo and barrel cactus. the path travels north, climbing gently as it does so. Unfortunately your hike along this section will likely be accompanied by the sound of gunfire from the shooting range to the west. As you get near the north side of Pass Mountain, the trail bends right and begins traveling east along the slope of the mountain with some nice views of the Goldfield Mountains to the northeast. The path eventually begins to bend south and climbs gently up to a pass before descending gradually down the other side to eventually pass behind a few houses. Bending west, the path travels across level ground past the small hill of Cat Peak before turning north, traveling through a few minor washes, to arrive back at the parking area you started at earlier (7.1 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author completed both of the hikes listed at a moderate pace in about 4 hours, taking pictures of the abundant wild flowers along the way.
Maps: A map of the area may be found here or get a nicer one at the Park entrance when you pay your fee.
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

Pass Mountain. Pass Mtn. from the summit.
Pass Mountain Trail. The east side of Pass Mtn..