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2018 Spring Break hiking, and extended hours on Pikes Peak Highway? 

click to enlarge Some towering Saguaro Cactus and wildflowers along the Overton Trail - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Some towering Saguaro Cactus and wildflowers along the Overton Trail
It's March, and spring is around the corner. As mild as this winter has been, the transition from winter to spring will probably be almost unnoticeable. Nonetheless, it's spring break time — the kids are out of school and families are headed on vacation.

If you're one of the many Coloradans who take your spring break in Arizona (spring training baseball, anyone?), I have some suggestions for hiking while away from home. (You can also see my previous spring break suggestions here, here and here.)

Maricopa County's Cave Creek Regional Park, located north of Phoenix near the towns of Cave Creek and Carefree, offers some great trails. My favorites are the Go John and Overton trails, both loop trails that start at or near the visitors center. The Go John trail, at a about 6.27-miles, is the longer and slightly more difficult of the two but it's still a moderate hike. The more moderate Overton trail, at 4.8-miles, is just west of the Go John trail, and joins the Go John trail about 2.5 miles from the start at the visitors center (when going clockwise). Both trails can be done individually, as one big loop, or in a figure eight. If you start on the Overton Trail at the visitors center, I suggest doing the trail clockwise. If you start at the Go John Trail from the parking lot just past the visitors center, I suggest taking it counter-clockwise.

click to enlarge Overton and Go John Trails in Cave Creek Regional Park - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Overton and Go John Trails in Cave Creek Regional Park

South and west of the Cave Creek Regional Park is Phoenix's Sonoran Preserve, a vast, 18,000-acre open space that's the epitome of desert recreation. The area is wide open with plenty of saguaro and cholla cactus, which are often still in bloom in March and the beginning of April. I recommend the Dixie Mountain Loop Trail which is accessible by first taking the Hawks Nest Trail from the Desert Vista Trailhead. The total distance is about 5.44-miles, which also includes the short but steep side trail to the top of Dixie Mountain. The views from the summit are very nice, as is the entire loop, and well worth the time.

click to enlarge BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
Don't forget that, though, by March it's already pretty hot in Phoenix, with a relentless sun beating down on you. Plan your trip for cooler parts of the day and make sure you bring plenty of water.

Longer Hours on the Pikes Peak Highway?

The City parks department is exploring having the Pikes Peak Highway open earlier in the day, for longer hours, and possibly even open all the time, a request made by local residents and relayed by City Councilor Jill Gaebler.

Currently, the highway gates open at 9:00am in the winter and 7:30am in the summer, with long lines stretching from the gate down to Highway 24 during summer months. In an email to Karen Palus, director of city parks and recreation, Gaebler says she believes opening earlier, or by having 24/7 access would allow more access to the forest, which is somewhat cutoff by the nightly closures of the highway.

There has yet to be any formal steps taken by the city, but if you'd like to weigh in, email your thoughts to Councilor Gaebler at jgaebler@springsgov.com.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.


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