Dixie Mountain Loop - Phoenix Sonoran Preserve


I didn't get a season pass for the ski resort this year and I've been feeling cooped up and wanting to go to the desert to hike. Part of me hates traveling a couple of hours just to hike in an urban area but honestly Phoenix has some of the best hiking in North America. It's just that there are too many people.

I selected the Dixie Mountain Loop in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. This is near my recent stroll after Christmas shopping. It's only accessible from other trails so I chose a route that added on an extra mile roundtrip. I also planned to visit a local restaurant to make the trip more worth the drive.

There is a nest in the saguaro if you look closely, cradled in the "arms." I wonder is this the literal hawk's nest on the Hawk's Nest Trail? But another hiker said it was most recently an owl's nest.

I started with the air temps around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, much better than the wintery conditions we've seen in Flagstaff over the last few weeks! After a half-mile on the Hawk's Nest trail, during which I saw a literal nest, the trail joins up with the Dixie Mountain Loop. I chose to hike in the counterclockwise direction as it seemed to get the worst of the elevation change over with quickly. The trail passes through typical and beautiful Sonoran desert ecology, and the views across the Basin and Range region are spectacular.

I saw several rabbits. Most were too fast to get a good photo. They were concentrated in grassy areas like this. The desert has received plenty of rain this year and everything is green. I also saw a bunch of bird species but the only one I could identify was Gambel's Quail.

There were plenty of birds flapping around and rustling through the brush. This time of year is cold in most of the temperate zone, but the Sonoran desert is green and full of life. I noted a lack of insects, which seemed strange, though there was a sign marking an active bee area. I have heard that nearly all honey bees in Arizona are africanized. Kind of makes you think, yet attacks have been rare. There were a few signs of mud and even a few puddles here and there from recent area rains. Usually rain brings insects so I'm not sure why there were so few. 

Typical Basin and Range landscape - with a snow cap on the Four Peaks!

The trails of the Sonoran Preserve wind over and around a small mountain range, and from it you can see other ranges in the distance. Some of these were tall enough to feature a snow cap, particularly the distant Four Peaks in the Mazatzal range, and the Bradshaw Mountains. I'm too cheap to buy the Peak Finder app, but I believe I identified the blocky front of the Superstition Mountains at one point.

Cholla and what? I'm not good at identifying cacti. Maybe buckhorn and some more distant saguaro.

There is a summit trail. I decided not to take it, somewhat because I don't trust my performance right now. I've been having some more health issues and I'm overmedicated (in my opinion, though not my doctor's) so I decided not to push things. I think I'm getting things worked out, and this hike turned out to be a good test without the summit. I enjoyed this hike so much that I think I might be willing to go back later and try the summit, and perhaps link in some new trail.

My only negative comments about the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve would be that there are too many people, numerous airplane flights overhead, and you can nearly always see neighborhoods and roads. Otherwise it was a beautiful day and my spirits were lifted by my time in the warm sun. The Dixie Mountain Loop is a great easy to moderate trail and I recommend it for anyone looking for hikes in North Phoenix.

In a dry wash. This was situated such that somebody tried to drive up the mountains at some point. The vehicle broke down and they just left it. It's now making it's way back downhill slowly. I've seen a handful of relics like this in my years of hiking. They represent excess ambition.


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