A wonderful hiking area are the trails of the Usery Mountains in Arizona's East Valley. Situated roughly between Fountain Hills to the north and Mesa to the south, they offer panaromic views of their surroundings from nearly 30 miles of hiking trails. Above, Pass Mountain is a landmark for Usery Mountain Park from miles away.
the wandering chick
...Maricopa County Regional Parks
Saguaro cactus
a great way to experience the Sonora Desert
Saguaro cactus
The Saguaros stand tall out here in this part of the Sonora Desert. There are no two alike, and they are the symbol of the southwest.
wild burros
wild burros
Wild donkeys (or to use the Spanish name as they do out here: Burros) can be very elusive. Shy and timid, they graze on the shrub and usually travel in small herds. On this particular day, there were 8 of them grazing about.
Saguaro cactus
Usery Mountains
The Pipeline Canyon Trail in Lake Pleasant Regional Park is one of the best in the park. It's a nearly 4-mile roundtrip hike, a little up, a little down, over the bridge and through the canyon. You'll see lots of wildflowers in the spring, views of the lake always and the occasional burro. There are restrooms and waterfountains at both ends.
Usery Mtn
the Saguaro cactus
The Sonoran Desert
Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Lake Pleasant from the regional park
The Teddybear Cholla
Lake Pleasant is a 10,000-acre lake in this area north of Phoenix. It sits within the Lake Pleasant Regional Park, which itself is almost 24,000 acres. It has numerous boat ramps, a marina, hiking trails, campgrounds, a visitor center, restaurant and gorgeous views.
The Teddybear Cholla is another common desert cactus. The name is deceiving. It may look soft and cuddly, but those are SPIKES you're looking at, and I hear they are very painful to remove.
Coots can be found on most bodies of water in Arizona. These two pictures were taken on the lake near here, Lake Pleasant.
coot in Lake Pleasant
coots on Lake Pleasant
saguaro cactus
Saguaro Cactus near Pleasant Harbor RV Resort
close up of a saguaro cactus
Yikes! Spikes! of a Saguaro cactus.
a common desert iguana
a burro in Lake Pleasant Regional Park
I'll have to check, but I think this guy is a common desert iguana. To me, it just looks like an ordinary lizard. Both normally have longer tails, but this poor guy got his chopped off. Not to worry, they grow back in time.
saguaro cactus

Feel free to visit my other Arizona locations by returning to the Arizona home page.

off Highway 74, near Lake Pleasant

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spent blooms of a teddybear cholla
You never know what (or who!) awaits you in the desert. These are the spent blooms of a Teddybear Cholla.
a black-throated sparrow
A Black-throated Sparrow drinks from a fountain at the Cave Creek Recreation Area north of Phoenix, off the Carefree Highway (Highway 74).
dead cholla plant
Sometimes the 'corpse' of a plant is as interesting as the plant itself. This is the remains of a dead Cholla plant. Go ahead - free your imagination. Do you see what I see?
Cave Creek Regional Park, Go John Trail
saguaro cactus
A hike at the Cave Creek Regional Park put me on the Overton/Go John Trail where this picture was taken. I like this shot because it gives perspective on how tall the Saguaros actually get out here.
bird's nest in Saguaro cactus
The surrounding mountains of Cave Creek Regional Park
It's usually a Cactus Wren that builds its nest in a Saguaro.
Tallest of Saguaros
saguaro dead
The Saguaros have a very shallow root system, perhaps 3 feet deep. But they have one main root that is as long as the height of the plant. This root wraps itself around rocks and other underground roots, acting as an anchor to the plant.
A decaying or dying Saguaro is not a pretty sight. Diseased or picked to bad health by birds, it can take years before one succumbs. And when they do, the skeleton (above) takes on a character of its own. I've seen Saguaro skeletons being sold at outdoor antique/garden stores for pretty hefty prices. The plant is strictly protected by law in Arizona, and a permit is needed to remove the Saguaro, dead or alive.
dying Saguaro
The Overton Go John Trail at Cave Creek Regional Park
The Overton GoJohn Trail at Cave Creek Regional Park
The Overton Trail, which connects to the Go John Trail, is a three-mile loop at the Cave Creek Regional Park, north of Phoenix.
globe mallow at lake pleasant regional park
globe mallow at lake pleasant regional park
a saguaro skeleton
The surrounding shots were taken at the Lake Pleasant Regional Park in Maricopa County, Arizona.
a saguaro skeleton
a burro shows a little less interest in me than i do in him
The Waterfall Trail at White Tank Mtns
saguaro arm's beginning
All living things begin as babies. Here's the beginning of a saguaro's arm. The saguaros don't begin to grow arms until they're at least 65 years old.
waterfall trail at White Tank Mtns

White Tank Mountain Regional Park, at 30,000 acres, is Maricopa County's largest. Most of the grounds are made up of the rugged White Tank Mountains, and its highest peak reaches 4000 feet. Heavy rains and flashfloods pour over the white granite stone causing depressions or tanks, thus the name White Tank Mountain. The park is located in the west valley, west of Peoria. Olive Avenue leads directly into the park.

saguaros near bloomtime
The waterfall trail at White Tank Mtns
saguaro flowers near bloom time
Above and to the left are photos of the Saguaros just before the flowers blossom. Most of the Saguaros are still in this stage, but if I see a really cool blooming shot before I leave the area in a few days, I'll add it here. Check back.
saguaros in bloom
saguaro cactus in bloom
prickly pear bud
This is the growth of a new pad, or leaf, of a prickly pear cactus.
One of the easier trails in the White Tank Montains is the Waterfall Trail. It leads to this very small pocket where water collects after a hard rain or spring melt.
Usery Mtns

Arizona's Maricopa County Regional Parks System is one of the largest in the United States. It comprises 10 regional parks over 120,000 acres that surround the Phoenix metropolitan area and include the very heart of the Sonora Desert.

A survivor of recent budget cuts throughout Arizona, the parks offer wonderful recreational activities including hiking, biking, camping, boating and picnicing as well as educational events and programs.

Four of the parks that I have visited are Lake Pleasant (which, lucky for me, is adjacent to the land where I winter vacation), White Tank Mountains, Usery Mountains and Cave Creek Regional Park, and pictures here are of these areas. Enjoy!

Usery Mtns
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
Pipeliine Canyon Trail
A floating bridge spans a small part of Lake Pleasant to connect the north and south sides of Lake Pleasant Park.
Saguaro cactus
burros
burro
Scorpion Bay, Dillion's
saguaro  with many arms
Dillon's Restaurant at Scorpion Bay at Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a scenic spot to have a nice lunch or dinner. There's both indoor and outdoor seating and a full menu.
The Yavapai Trail at the Maricopa County Regioinal Park on Lake Pleasant has opened since my last visit on the Pipeline Canyon Trail. It was a nice change, and finding this comical saguaro made it even more interesting.
saguaro  with many arms
saguaro  with many arms
This and the remaining cactus shots are of the same saguaro. It was a fun one to shoot from various angles.
saguaro  with many arms
saguaro  with many arms
Floating bridge on the Pipeline Canyon Trail
Lake Pleasant from the Yavapai Trail
A view of Lake Pleasant from the Yavapai Trail