We packed a whole lot of Arizona into one excursion during our visit to the state a couple of weeks ago.
A whole lot of typical Arizona was involved. You know…
- Saguaro cactus (among other varieties) towering over us, waving
- A narrow dusty trail lined with red rocks and marked with petroglyphs
- Small lizards quite good at disguising themselves jutting in and out of sight too fast for us to catch
In addition, as we hiked we gazed at rocky and rugged mountains in the distance wondering if we’d be lucky enough to spot a burro wandering the hills. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our day.
This excursion had us exploring another one of Maricopa County’s Regional Parks: Lake Pleasant. With the area obviously being a desert region, you can probably guess that the lake is man-made, thanks to a dam and the Agua Fria and Colorado (diverted via an aqueduct) rivers. Lake Pleasant (surface area 7500 acres) serves as a reservoir for the entire Phoenix metropolitan area. And if you’ve been to the sprawling space that makes up the “Valley of the Sun”, you know that’s huge!
Aside from the utilitarian purposes of the park, it’s also a spectacular desert oasis and not such a typical Arizona sight like those I mentioned above. Not only did this deep blue water catch me by surprise, but all the action that goes along with the lake did too. It’s home to scuba diving, fishing, and over at Scorpion Bay, there’s a marina with a lively restaurant and all the services an Arizona boater could ask for.
While we did visit the marina (unfortunately the restaurant was closed when we arrived), most of our Lake Pleasant exploration time was spent hiking the Pipeline Canyon Trail. In terms of trail options, this was really our best bet as the only other hiking trail (Roadrunner) is just 0.8 miles running right along Lake Pleasant between the Visitor’s Center and one of the boat ramps.
Bergen (2.5 years old) hiked about half of our 4 mile journey and we learned that his love for hiking doesn’t discriminate between types of terrain. He loved our dusty desert hike (with not much shade) just as much as he loves his mud-filled wet hikes (with more than enough shade) back home in Western Washington. The other half of his adventure was spent on my back in the ergo carrier, which added more of a workout for me, but with just a small amount of uphill here and here it was very doable.
He still found plenty of rocks to throw, and while fascinated by the cactus and other prickly flora, he stayed clear and didn’t test the danger of any spikes. To prepare for this exact type of encounter, we spent a lot of time talking and reading about what we would see in Arizona prior to our trip. This background knowledge building helped Bergen to know what to expect and provided him with some language in order to talk about what he saw. Just the obvious, “cactus”, “ouch”, and “hurts” seemed to do the trick!
Info to Know:
- Lake Pleasant Regional Park is located northwest of Phoenix:
- 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd.
Morristown, AZ 85342
- Open 24 hours/day, 365 days a year. See website for facilities (marina, nature center, etc.) hours
- 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd.
- Day Use Entry Fee: $6 per vehicle
- Hike is easy to moderate and great for kids. Bring plenty of water though–even on a 70 degree day, we needed it!
Visited Arizona? Have you done any desert hiking? Tell us about your experience!