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Hiking Bob: Spring Break in Phoenix? Keep hiking! 

Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring, the weather recently has teased us with sunny, warm days, and local schools will soon be starting their spring break. And, while there is still plenty of time for skiing and snowboarding, spring fever is in the air, with many of us heading for warmer climes, even if if only for a few days.

UPDATE: As of the afternoon of March 12, all spring training games have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. If you're already in Arizona, and want something to do, and for future trips, keep reading.

The Phoenix, Arizona area is a popular destination for spring breakers, not only because it's warm and sunny, but also because of Cactus League spring training baseball. Throngs of people from across the country descend on metro Phoenix, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars on their favorite teams, and to get primed for another baseball season. There was a time, in the not-too-distant-past, when spring training baseball game tickets were reasonably priced, and entire families could attend games without breaking the bank.  Not so much any longer. Spring training ticket prices have exploded, and are often on par, or even more expensive, than regular season games. It's kind of insane.
click to enlarge COLORADOROCKIES.COM
  • Coloradorockies.com

Obviously, there is more to do on your spring break trip to Arizona than watching baseball, and with the high cost of tickets possibly limiting how many games you attend, you can make more time to devote to outdoor recreation. I've written about this in the past, and you can find those articles here, here, here, and here.

Today, a few more suggestions.

In Maricopa County's Usery Mountain Regional Park, the Pass Mountain loop trail is both relatively uncrowded and a bit challenging.  At about 7.75 miles round-trip, it is also the longest hike in the park. After starting at the parks trailhead staging area, I suggest doing the loop in a clockwise direction. The trail gently climbs over the next 4.5 miles until reaching a saddle on the east side of the mountain, where it starts downhill. This is the most challenging part of the hike, as it descends steeply through some rocky switchbacks, before getting down to the base of the mountain and the final stretch to the trailhead.
click to enlarge A view from the Pass Mt trail in Usery Mountain Park. Bring your pooch, but keep it on leash. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • A view from the Pass Mt trail in Usery Mountain Park. Bring your pooch, but keep it on leash.

On the opposite end of the Phoenix metro area, in the town of Goodyear, the Estrella Mountain Regional Park is a sprawling park with many back-country trails of varying lengths and difficulty.  On a recent trip there, I did a loop consisting of the Toothaker and Rainbow Valley trails, for a distance of just under 6.5 miles. A side bonus of Estrella Mountain is that it's only a few minutes from the Goodyear ballpark, spring training home of the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, making it easy to get in a hike and America's Pastime in one trip. If you can afford tickets to the game, that is.

Entry fees do apply to Maricopa County Parks. Leashed dogs are allowed on trails. Rattlesnakes have already been spotted on trails in the Phoenix area, so use caution.

Be Good. Do Good Things.

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for almost 28 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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