Maternity Hiking: Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Things get super pretty right away on the Marcus Landslide Trail.

Things get super pretty right away on the Marcus Landslide Trail.

On the heels of my recent hiking accomplishment to Tom’s Thumb, we made another visit to the area to explore a decidedly less challenging, less popular, and just as beautiful trail called the Marcus Landslide Trail.

This interpretive 4-mile jaunt was stunning. With only 575 feet in elevation gain spread over 4 miles, it feels flat for most of the trail. We looked at rock formations, read the educational signs about the landscape, and enjoyed a clear-shot view to Four Peaks during the entire hike.

No snakes, no wind, and no fear-filled fantasies this time around. Just good hikin’ and good conversation. Bring a friend or a kid on this hike to really enjoy it. You won’t meet many other people on this one!

Shrooms.

Shrooms.

Marcus Landslide Trail

Distance: 4 miles

Elevation Gain: 575 feet

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

Location: Tom’s Thumb Trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

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

Easy enough, eh?

Easy enough, eh?

Description:

From the Tom’s Thumb trailhead and parking lot, enter the trail system at the signed Marcus Landslide trail, located on the southeast end of the parking lot (before you reach the shaded structure with the bathrooms).

Follow the trail east as it traces a wide, flat path. The many trail signs along the way will keep you on the right path as you pass Caballo and Feldspar Trails in the first half mile. At about 0.5 mile, the trail will veer right (southeast) and continue this direction until it bumps into the McDowell Mountain Regional Park border.

Simply stay the course and follow the signs for Marcus Landslide Trail heading south until 1.7 miles when you reach the Marcus Landslide Loop Trail. Trace the loop for about half a mile and it spits you right back out onto the Marcus Landslide Trail where you can begin your return leg.

You’ll encounter a few spurs here and there where you will discover informative signs like the one pictured below. Soak it up. Education is a good thing.

Excellent question.

Excellent question.

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

Maternity Hike: Apache Wash Loop in Sonoran Preserve

So pretty!

How could I forget YOU?!?!

Good Lord.

I’ve been kicking myself for weeks because my blog has been very heavy with hikes in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.

Lo and behold, as I was sifting through my EveryTrail site, I discovered that I hiked in the Sonoran Preserve over a month ago and I completely forgot to write about it. They say pregnant women are more forgetful but geez, I had no idea.

The Sonoran Preserve is in the super north Phoenix area close to Anthem. Part one of the trail system opened in 2012 — just in time for me to include it in Take a Hike Phoenix. The remainder of the preserve has since been developed into a connecting trail system so we recently headed north to check it out.

My adorable husband. Dang, he is CUTE!

My adorable husband. Dang, he is CUTE!

I’d just like to add that if we had done this prior to pregnancy, I believe I would have planned a luscious, 8-10 mile hike that traversed as much of the new park as humanly possible.

But since I’m all sorts of knocked up, we opted for a 2 mile loop starting from the Apache Wash trailhead that makes a quick lap around the Apache Vista peak.

Just a teensy little walk in the beautiful desert.

Just a teensy little walk in the beautiful desert.

Apache Wash Loop (Ocotillo Trail to Apache Wash Trail to Sidewinder Trail)

Distance: 2 miles

Elevation Gain: 150 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Pregnancy Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Location: Apache Wash Trailhead in Sonoran Preserve

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

Description:

To begin the hike, enter the trail system from the northeast corner of the parking lot (past the restrooms). See the signs for the Ocotillo Trail to the left and follow the trail heading northwest. After just 0.4 mile, turn right to follow the Apache Wash Trail as it heads north.

At 0.7 mile total, this small trail ends at an intersection with the Sidewinder Trail. Veer right to follow the Sidewinder Trail heading northwest and to start the main climb of the day. Ignore the turnoff to the Apache Vista Trail (unless you’re feeling ambitious — this short spur will take you to the summit of this small peak). Soon enough, the climbing is over and you continue along the Sidewinder Trail as it curls south and ends at the Apache Wash Trailhead, completing the loop.

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: Clay Mine Trail in Cave Creek Regional Park

Here I am. You can sorta see my belly in this shot. I took that unborn child into a mine.

Many told me I had a baby bump in this photo. There was more than just a baby in there (if you catch my drift). Pregnancy is fun!

I saw a photo on my Instagram stream the other day of a lady who hiked 10 miles at 24 weeks pregnant.

Needless to say, it made me feel totally inadequate because I wouldn’t dream of 10 miles right now. Ugh, and I’m the girl who wrote a hiking book! Dammit, I feel shamed.

I did feel proud, however, when I hiked a short trail to bravely explore the Clay Mine in Cave Creek Regional Park. So there, I guess.

Looking up from inside the mine. Sunlight is wonderful in tight spaces!

Looking up from inside the mine. Sunlight is wonderful in tight spaces!

I didn’t know it at the onset of this hike, but exploring the Clay Mine didn’t require much bravery. Of course we were following a park ranger into the mine (don’t explore mines or caves on your own because that’s very bad) that was a measly 25-foot tunnel into a large room. The large room had an opening at the top so the whole place was drenched in beautiful daylight. I still imagined cave-ins, bat bites, and other horrors (because I’m nuts) but I’m sure anyone else would simply enjoy this unique place.

Old-timey tools were used. Only back then, they weren't old-timey they were just regular.

Old-timey tools were used. Only back then, they weren’t old-timey they were just regular.

So about the mine…it was developed during the Great Depression and excavated with primitive tools (picks, shovels, buckets, ladders, etc.). They mined the clay here that was then shipped to California and manufactured for medicinal purposes. The owner of the mine cliamed that it healed just about everything. After the mine was left by its original developers, other mining companies passed it up since it was determined that the amount of remaining product was too small. The tour includes additional history and fun facts (that I’ve forgotten already) told by the park ranger tour guide. You might also get to see the resident bat fly by if you’re lucky.

Clay Mine Trail

Distance: 1.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 300 feet

Difficulty: Super Easy

Pregnancy Difficulty: Easy

Location: Cave Creek Regional Park — Find the next Clay Mine tour in the events calendar, there’s also a park map on the site

Fee: $6 per vehicle

Online Map, Photos, Info, & Driving Directions (scroll to the lower right corner of the page)

Our brave companions. Faces pixelated to protect the innocent.

Our brave companions. Faces pixelated to protect the innocent.

Description:

After entering the gate to the park, follow signs to the Nature Center parking lot. Find the Overton Trailhead west of the Nature Center and follow the Overton Trail north. When it forks after just a few feet, turn left to head northwest, still following the Overton Trail. In no time (just 0.3 mile) you’ll find the clearly-signed turn for the Clay Mine Trail. Take a left to follow the Clay Mine Trail south and continue as it curves west. At about 1 mile, you’ll notice the clay Mine to your left. Wait for instructions from the park ranger to join the tour. If it’s a non-tour day, um, don’t go in the mine.

From the mine, turn around and retrace your steps back to the Overton Trailhead. This trail is nice and pretty but I recommend going on a Clay Mine tour day to make it worth your while. We had a whole gaggle of boy scouts and other children in the group so it seems it’s a fine trail for the family.

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: Deem Hills Circumference and Basalt Loop

Deem Hill is located in the north valley near Happy Valley Road (ish) and 51st Avenue. Also, Deem Hills is pretty.

Deem Hills is located in the north valley near Happy Valley Road (ish) and 51st Avenue. Also, Deem Hills is pretty.

Well, here I am at week 11 and rejoicing each day I get closer to shedding the total hell that has been the first trimester.

They say it gets better at trimester #2. I’m choosing to believe that they are absolutely right.

And when I recently hiked in Deem Hills, I found that my cardio was stronger, the climbing went well, and I powered through almost three miles! Sure, I don’t have the I’m-not-pregnant-and-I’m-writing-a-hiking-book stamina that I enjoyed a year ago. But, things are getting better! #littleedie

Now let’s get to this hike, shall we?

Deem Hills Circumference and Basalt Loop

Distance: 2.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 400 feet

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Pregnancy Difficulty: Moderate…maybe strenuous for the first mile

Location: Deem Hills

This hike is featured as an option in my book, Take a Hike Phoenix, on page 230.

This hike is featured as an option in my book, Take a Hike Phoenix, on page 230. Follow the yellow arrows seen here!

This loop follows the newly-popular Deem Hills Circumference Trail from the 51st Avenue side of the park. Expect a challenging climb of about 300 feet in the first mile then a relaxing walk for the remainder of the hike.

Oh, and you don’t have to be knocked up to do this hike. In fact, I hiked this trail with three non-pregnant companions and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Start the hike from the southeast side of the parking lot. Find a wide, dirt access road to follow at first, then join the Circumference Trail at the trail marker to your left. Take a right turn at the fork to head east (still on the Circumference Trail) and begin the big climb of the day. Though challenging, it lets up after about a mile and ends as you approach intersections in the trail. Read the trail signs and hop off the Circumference Trail to follow the Basalt/Ridgeline Trail. The trail is shared for just a few feet until the Ridgeline Trail breaks away to the left (it’s the one that climbs the hill…you don’t want that one). The Basalt Trail also splits at this juncture in two directions. Follow the Basalt Trail that heads straight (north) and ignore the trail that veers right. Descend along a series of short switchbacks that last for a quick 0.1 mile until you come upon a trail sign for the Circumference Trail. Hang a left turn heading west. As the Circumference Trail veers north, pass by the Ridgeline Trail (this is the other end of the climb you wisely elected to skip) and continue on the Circumference Trail for the rest of the hike as it traces the other side of the hill and spills into the parking lot. That’s all there is to it. (You can follow my hike and see photos here — scroll to the lower right of the page to get driving directions.)

Like this? Want more? Buy my book!

Obligatory disclaimer for the pregnant ladies: 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!

Dixie Mine Trail in McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Well, gosh, I guess I could write a straight trail review for once, eh?

This hike is filled with quite little desert places.

This hike is filled with quite little desert places.

Dixie Mine Trail in McDowell Regional Park

Distance: 5.4 miles out & back

Cumulative Elevation Gain: 600 feet (or so)

Time: 2 hours-ish

The McDowell Mountains does it again!

This is just the latest trail in the McDowell Mountains that I’ve fallen for. This beautiful hike starts in a private neighborhood, strolls through the foothills of the McDowell Mountain range, and ends at the Dixie Mine. The hike is located on the southwest corner of the McDowell Mountain Regional Park and is accessed via a small park entrance. The trailhead is a small parking lot (with bathrooms) in a quiet neighborhood.

This trail is awesome!

This trail is awesome!

Start the hike by following the well-marked sidewalk path through the neighborhood for the first half mile or so. This idea turned me off at first but don’t let it sway you! It’s a nice little walk and the hike is totally worth it.

See? It's not so bad.

See? It’s not so bad.

After following signs and crossing a residential street, enter the desert and pay the $2 fee at the kiosk to enter the park. Be sure to grab a map. Then simply follow the Dixie Mine Trail for the next 2+ miles. The trail is easy to follow with frequent trail signs.

This is what the mine looks like. Pass by it then take the dirt road up to the top.

This is what the mine looks like. Pass by it then take the dirt road up to the top.

When you encounter a wide service dirt road at about 2.4 miles, turn right to continue along the Dixie Mine Trail.* You’ll pass a large pile of rock and sand marking the site of the mine. Keep an eye out for a sharp left turn to follow another service dirt road up to the mine itself which is a deep hole in the rock floor covered by a metal grate.

(We accidentally followed a shortcut [oops] that was trailblazed which I feel TERRIBLE about so please avoid that small trail and look for the dirt road.)

That’s it! When ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

That's Kristina. Mine-ing her own business.

That’s Kristina. Mine-ing her own business.

This trail is NOT featured in my book, Take a Hike Phoenix, but is a strong contender for the book’s 2nd edition which will be released sometime in the next 4 years or so.

Get an interactive map and more details on my everytrail.com review. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and use the Google map tool for driving directions.

*Optional directions that make this hike 10x more awesome (but aren’t shown on the map above)

Wow, it really pays to have friends on the trail. My darling hiking buddy recently contacted me to describe an alternate route that leads to the mine entrance, petroglyphs, caves, and a waterfall (if it’s been raining). Whatever!

Here’s how to do it: Follow the trail as described above. After making a right turn on the service road to follow Dixie Mine Trail, look to the left for a small trail that enters a canyon and travels under a canopy of riparian-area trees (can’t miss them — it’s the only leafy vegetation for miles). Follow the trail along the canyon floor. Look to the right for the signed entrance to Dixie Mine. Continue and see petroglyphs (and some graffiti…grrr) to your left. You’ll see caves speckled throughout your walk. Though the trail continues, my pal ended her adventure when she reached a sheer rock wall that may or may not be a waterfall depending on recent weather. All of this happens in about 1/2 mile from the turn into the canyon.

Your body is a riparian wonderland.

Your body is a riparian wonderland.

That's a fine friend right there.

That’s a fine friend right there.

Clearly, adding this option is a must-do…and it’s a great excuse for me to revisit this hike!

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!