Trail 100 East From North Mountain Visitor Center

Aw, pretty...

Aw, pretty…

Forgive me if this blog isn’t as clever as my others.

I’m a mother now. I have to make certain sacrifices. Because I have exactly 27 minutes until the nanny goes home.

Good writing may have gone by the wayside but good hiking has not. Now that baby is no longer a screaming, writhing, constantly-nursing newborn, I’ve been strapping her into a carrier and hitting the dirt.

Just us girls on the trail.

Just us girls on the trail.

On the very best day of my motherhood so far, baby and I set out alone to explore Trail 100 heading east from the North Mountain Visitor Center (make sure to check that place out — great exhibits for kids, a bookstore, a library, jewelry for sale, and special events).

This hike is yet another little itty bit of the great Trail 100 which stretches end to end in the Phoenix Mountains totaling 11 miles. The hike described here is considerably shorter. It wanders under 7th Street via a tunnel, past the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Hills Resort, and into some of the most serene desert you can find in the middle of the city.

After a recent rain, the place was covered in green grass and swollen cacti. I loved it out there as I worked up a decent sweat climbing a few small inclines. Baby slept the whole time, and the smell of horse crap from the neighboring stables only lasted for a few minutes. Pretty awesome.

Trail 100 East From North Mountain Visitor Center

Distance: 1.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 180 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Location: North Mountain Visitor Center in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Online Map & Driving Directions (click the link and scroll to bottom of page for Google map driving directions)

What a nice little stretch this is.

What a nice little stretch this is.

Description:

From the southeast corner of the parking lot at the North Mountain Visitor Center, find Trail 100 clearly marked by large signs. Hang a left to follow the trail east and you’ll immediately travel through the tunnel that runs under 7th Street. With the Pointe Hilton resort to your right and horse stables to the left, you’ll have to travel a few feet to escape the odd aromatic mix of chlorine and horse manure. This doesn’t last long and before you know it, Trail 100 opens up into a gorgeous desert landscape. From here, just follow the signs for Trail 100 which will keep you veering and turning to the right as you bypass two trail intersections. At the 2nd intersection, you’ll hang a sharp right to follow the Trail 100 sign and the trail will narrow as you begin to climb up rocky terrain. Once the trail reaches a small saddle (at just under a mile), feel free to call it a day and turn around.

From what I experienced, this allows for about an hour’s nap for the 4 month old strapped to your chest.

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Maternity Hike: The Final Days on Trail 100

Strangers no longer hesitate to comment on my pregnancy.

Strangers no longer hesitate to comment on my pregnancy.

“It’s a long walk back if you start having labor pains!” a friendly man blurted at me on the trail the other day.

Now that I’m just two weeks away from my due date, hiking has become less like hiking and more like a slow waddle through the dirt. Lately, I’ve been hitting a very, very, very simple trail that’s near my home (and my birthing center) and I only hike with my husband at sunset.

And I only do this on days when I really feel up for it.

On that note, I probably won’t be up for hiking during the next couple months (though I will be up all hours of the night with a newborn baby). Rest assured, I’ve got a guest blog in the works (thank you Kate Crowley!) and will be back on the trail as soon as I can.

Trail 100 to The Bench

Distance: 1.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 25 feet-ish (maybe less)

Difficulty: Ridiculously easy

Late Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate (because if it’s strenuous, time to head home and put your feet up)

Location: North Mountain Visitor Center in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

I re-used a map from another blog post. But you have to forgive me because I'm super pregnant.

I re-used a map from another blog post. But you have to forgive me because I’m super pregnant.

Description:

To start the hike, find the signs to Trail 100 on the south side of the North Mountain Visitor Center building. Head west along Trail 100. At 0.3 mile, Trail 100 and Trail 306 combine and you’ll follow the shared trail south. When you encounter a small clearing with a bench and the trail marker for Trail 101 (at 0.7 mile total), it’s time to turn around.

But make sure you sit on the bench for a minute and hydrate. Because you’re super pregnant.

(If you’re not super pregnant, click here for a longer version of this hike).

 

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

Obligatory disclaimer for the pregnant ladies and all other humans: Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise.

Maternity Hike: Trail 100/101 to North Mountain

These trails have existed for a long time but this combination was new to me!

These trails have existed for a long time but this combination was new to me!

With the limited energy, small bladder, and cardio deficiency I’m experiencing during this pregnancy, I’ve been on the hunt for trails under three miles that still offer a little bit of climbing.

Oh, and if there’s a bathroom at the trailhead, that’s a sure-fire winner.

The Phoenix Mountains Preserve just keeps delivering. Armed with my Green Trails Map, I’m having a blast scouting out “new” trails (combinations I haven’t yet explored) and then heading out for a new adventure.

My newest adventure once again taps the main artery of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve: Trail 100.

When Trail 101 meets the North Mountain summit trail (Trail 44 - paved), the maternity hike is over. But the non-maternity hike can keep going!

When Trail 101 meets the North Mountain summit trail (Trail 44 – paved), the maternity hike is over. But the non-maternity hike can keep going!

This one begins in a popular area near the North Mountain Visitor Center, passes by Shaw Butte to the west, then follows a little-known trail on the north side of North Mountain. This quiet area is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding popular trails. The hike ends at the intersection with the North Mountain Summit Trail. And aside from the yellow flags indicating sites where irresponsible hikers left their dog’s waste (oh, come ON, people!) the hike was glorious on a breezy spring day.

See how it all fits together? You could make all kinds of delicious trail combinations yum yum!

See how it all fits together? You could make all kinds of delicious trail combinations yum yum!

Trail 100/101 to North Mountain

Distance: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 225 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate

Location: North Mountain Visitor Center (North Mountain/Shaw Butte) in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Online Map & Driving Directions (click the link and scroll to bottom of page for Google map driving directions)

Description:

To start the hike, find the signs to Trail 100 on the south side of the North Mountain Visitor Center building. Head west along Trail 100. At 0.3 mile, Trail 100 and Trail 306 combine and you’ll follow the shared trail south. When you encounter a small clearing with a bench (at 0.6 mile total), see the trail marker for Trail 101. Hang a left to follow Trail 101 southeast to start a subtle ascent that slowly intensifies.

At about 1.1 mile total, you have an elevated view of 7th Street below. Turn right to continue along Trail 101 following the correct trail signs (do NOT take the trail that heads north as it is clearly signed as a closed area). You’ll continue to climb until you reach the paved road that marks the intersection with Trail 44 (North Mountain Summit Trail) at 1.2 miles. Turn around here and enjoy your descent as you retrace your steps to the North Mountain Visitor Center for a total of 2.4 miles.

Option for non-pregnant people: Instead of turning around, take Trail 44 to the summit of North Mountain! This will add 350 feet (give or take) in just 0.7 mile on the way up. The trail is wide, paved, and easy to follow to the summit which is littered with large, metal towers. You’ll certainly get a FINE workout from this addition that creates a total hike of 3.8 miles with 575 feet of elevation gain. Just don’t forget to turn off of Trail 44 to return to Trail 101 on the way down!

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

Obligatory disclaimer for the pregnant ladies and all other humans: Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise.

Maternity Hike: Trail 100 West from Dreamy Draw to the Saddle

Taken while on the way up the big ascent of the day. Photos for my blog make the perfect excuse to catch my breath!

Taken while on the way up the big ascent of the day. Having to take a photo for my blog provides the perfect excuse to take a break when I’m with a superior hiker.

So I’m the girl who wrote the book on hiking. I should be a powerhouse on the trail, right? Of course I’m not lately and I’ve conveniently blamed my pregnancy for my unusual shortness of breath and wimpy stamina.

It worked until a few weeks ago when I hiked with my brand new sister-in-law. She’s a big win for the family. Beautiful, intelligent, funny, charming, and adventurous. She’s also pregnant! I’m beyond thrilled. I adore all my cousins so I just love the fact that we have little cousins in the making!

I loved it, that is, until she totally shamed me on the trail. She was eight weeks pregnant at the time and made me feel like a big ol’ wimp. While I was gasping for air, she scaled the inclines like it was nothing. With my convenient excuse canceled out, I had to face the music: I haven’t been exercising enough.

(Affirmation: I’m not a terrible mother-to-be for not working out as much as other pregnant women.)

Anyway, I pathetically explored Trail 100 heading west from the main parking lot at Dreamy Draw with her. We started the trail by traveling underground through the tunnel that cuts under Highway 51. Then it was just a matter of following the Trail 100 signs until we reached a saddle. This side of the park is far less traveled and therefore, doesn’t feature the madness of trail-blazed paths that plague the park on the east side of the 51.

It may be easy to follow but I found the hike to be a challenge nonetheless with its somewhat-hefty elevation gain of about 325 feet in the first leg. In fact, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that this is the toughest hike I’ve done so far during my obviously-out-of-shape pregnancy (re-reading affirmation now).

Trail 100 Portion: West from Dreamy Draw to the Saddle

I admit, this one kicked my (pregnant) butt just a little bit.

I admit, this one kicked my (pregnant) butt just a little bit.

Distance: 2.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 500 feet

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

Location: Dreamy Draw Recreation Area in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Online Map & Driving Directions (click the link and scroll to bottom of page for Google map driving directions)

Description:

From the main parking lot at the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, find the large trail head on the north end. Follow the trail north for just a few feet until it splits. Take a left turn to head west and you’ll soon pass through the tunnel that travels under Highway 51 (you are now on Trail 100). Once you’ve cleared the tunnel, continue following Trail 100 up a short incline. At just 0.3 mile, notice the trail forks. Turn left to head southwest as you continue to climb.

It’s easy to follow the trail from here as it curls along the south side of a small peak. You will encounter one other fork in the trail at about 0.9 mile so veer right to remain on Trail 100 following the trail markers along the way. From here, you begin the main climb of the day which ascends about 200 feet in a very short distance (just 0.2 mile, ouch). Rest assured, it’s over quick when you reach an obvious saddle that offers views to the northeast of the McDowell Mountains and Four Peaks on a clear day. It’s the perfect place to turn around for the return trip of 1.1 mile as you retrace your steps back to main parking lot at Dreamy Draw.

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

Obligatory disclaimer for the pregnant ladies and all other humans: Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise.

Maternity Hiking: Dreamy Draw Bike Path to the Bridge

Somehow a sunset makes the constant nausea and fatigue manageable. Oh, did I mention I'm pregnant?

Somehow a sunset makes the constant nausea and fatigue manageable. Oh, did I mention I’m pregnant?

It seems like hiking takes on a new meaning every year.

Eight years ago, I would rip my way up Piestewa Peak to burn muscle and lung so I could hurt in a different way as I was emotionally negotiating a crummy breakup. Five years ago, I hiked so I could gain a physical release that replaced mediocre sex with boring men. Four years ago, I hiked to get to know a new boyfriend who turned into my husband and one of my best hiking companions. Then about two years ago, hiking became my job as I wrote Take a Hike Phoenix.

Today, I hike to escape the nausea, fatigue, and imprisonment on the couch that comes along with the first trimester of pregnancy.

Oh yeah, I guess this post doubles as my pregnancy announcement. I’m 10 weeks pregnant.

So from now until August 31st (my due date) this blog will mostly be committed to the trails that I deem appropriate for a pregnant woman. In other words, these trails are pretty darn easy. But I hope they help another sickly pregnant woman slide off the couch long enough to get a little air and some exercise. In my experience so far, it’s about the only thing that actually makes me feel better.

These trails will also work well for beginner hikers, kids, and other folks who enjoy easy strolls through the desert.

First up: Dreamy Draw Bike Path to the Bridge

Distance: 2.1 miles

Elevation Gain: About 150 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pregnancy Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Location: Dreamy Draw Recreation Area in Phoenix Mountains

The Dreamy Draw Recreation Area is located in north central Phoenix.

The Dreamy Draw Recreation Area is located in north central Phoenix.

This simple trail is paved all the way and runs through Dreamy Draw Recreation Area then along Piestewa Fwy 51. It stretches for miles but for my pregnant purposes, I followed it to the pedestrian bridge that crosses the 51 for a nice little walk that barely tops 2 miles.

Starting on the south side of the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area parking lot, head up the path to pass by the volleyball court and Ramadas. Take a left at the restrooms and you’ll soon find the wide bike path that stretches north and south. Take a left to follow the path north/northeast for about a mile. Within this mile, the path will turn to asphalt and pass along a few homes to the southeast with Highway 51 to the northwest. Just when the sound of the traffic gets a little annoying, you’ll find the pedestrian bridge. Cross the bridge to overlook the cars below then turn around when you reach the far side. Retrace your steps along the path for a gentle descent and enjoy the feeling of not spending the last hour rotting on the couch.

A few words of caution: Be sure to stay to the far right side of the path and bring a flashlight or headlamp if you hike at sunrise or sunset. Mountain bikers love to cruise along this path and they ride FAST. Getting plowed would be bad under normal circumstances, let alone in your “delicate condition”.

For an interactive map, photos, and Google driving directions, visit my Everytrail entry for the Dreamy Draw Bike Path to the Bridge.

Obligatory disclaimer: Check with your doctor before engaging in exercise.

Preview Excerpts from Take a Hike Phoenix

This gorgeous sight can be found on the Spur Cross and Elephant Mountain Loop in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.

This gorgeous sight can be found on the Spur Cross and Elephant Mountain Loop in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.

Hey all!

The wonderful people at Moon.com posted my Top Five Phoenix Area Hikes to De-stress During the Holidays complete with full excerpts from my hiking guidebook, Take a Hike Phoenix.

Here’s my author page for the entire list of posts and reviews with color photos (ooh-la-la!).

If that’s looking pretty good to you, consider taking the $12 plunge and purchase Take a Hike Phoenix today.

Happy hiking to you!

Best Solitude Hikes for Beginners in Honor of National Take a Hike Day

This Sunday (November 17th) is National Take a Hike Day!

I’m excited. But given my pathetic blog stats lately, I very much understand that not everyone is a hiking nut like me.

I get it. Exercise — an activity that requires you to wear tight clothing, grow sweat rings, and potentially expose your lack of cardiovascular endurance — is not something everyone wants to share with other humans.

So for those of you who hate getting sweaty in front of others, I propose you give one of these trails a shot. Each is easy, short, and offers plenty of privacy so you can try out this hiking thing without feeling too self-conscious.

Tip: Click the hike title for a link to its EveryTrail review and be sure to scroll to the bottom right corner of the EveryTrail page for driving directions.

You can so totally do this. I promise.

You can so totally do this. I promise.

South Central Valley: Judith Tunnell Trail in South Mountain

This is a barrier free trail. Which means it’s wheelchair friendly. I was sure to include wheelchair-friendly hikes in every chapter of my book and I regret that I did not feature this one (2nd edition, here we come!) because it really is lovely. The trail is beautifully paved and was totally deserted when I explored it with my family a few weeks ago. At just 1.3 miles total with only a few small inclines (inclines that would totally make my arms fall off if I were in a wheelchair, btw), this hike amounts to a leisurely stroll if you’re a walking person. It also features plenty of benches and shaded structures with educational plaques to help pass the time.

West Valley: Black Rock Loop in White Tank Mountain Regional Park (Free admission on National Take a Hike Day!)

Flat. Short. Deserted. Easy. There’s not much holding you back from trying this trail out. And it has two options: The Long Loop at 1.2 miles and the Short Loop at 0.5 mile. Yes, you can take as much time as you want on this little-known trail that simply walks through the flat desert around a couple large black rocks. Your biggest challenge will be avoiding the cholla that surrounds the trail.

Central Valley: Mohave Trail 200 in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Okay, so if you haven’t been to the gym lately (And why would you? Too many judgmental eyes!), this one might be a little tough. But who cares when you can openly curse your burning lungs and take as many breaks as you wish because there’s no one around to silently mock you? I’ve hiked Mohave five or six times and I think I’ve seen one other person on the trail. I assume it’s because everyone else is busy killing themselves by hiking up the neighboring Piestewa Peak. Mohave is only 0.6 mile up a mere 300 feet to a tiny perch that offers a spectacular view to South Mountain and the city below. After soaking up the scenery, you make an easy descent back to the trail head to total a scant 1.2 mile.

Blevins is so beautiful, it's CRAY.

Blevins is so beautiful, it’s CRAY.

East Valley: Blevins to Cat Peaks Loop in Usery Mountain Regional Park (Free admission on National Take a Hike Day!)

I recently took my sister-in-law on this hike in the east valley to prove to her that I wouldn’t force her into anything too hard-core. It worked. We enjoyed a breezy, 3-mile walk on the flat terrain of this desert trail that is off the radar for hikers. If you can walk across a parking lot, you can easily manage this trail. The only human contact you’ll have is with the locals who choose to enjoy this trail on horseback. So even if you’re working up a sweat, there’s no shame. At least you’re not making an animal do the heavy lifting.

North Valley: Sears-Kay Ruin Loop in Tonto National Forest

This one requires a bit of a drive. But consider the distance your insurance policy against the peering eyes of health elitists who might cruelly judge your muffin top (jerks!). At just 1 mile total, this little loop is one of my all-time favorites. You’re out in the middle of nowhere, climbing a small hill, and touring the ruins of a 900-year-old Hohokam village. With plenty of informational plaques, you’ll have all the excuses you need to take breaks between breaths (this one’s great for kids, too).

Have a happy National Take a Hike Day, everyone!