Ford Canyon in the White Tank Mountains is loaded with natural wonders


If you’re in search of a hike with amazing natural wonders that’s not too far from Phoenix, Ford Canyon Trail in the White Tank Mountains might be just what you’re looking for. Below are some pics from my hike there and a wonderful description of the hike from Cody over at the Hiking in Arizona blog. Enjoy!

Located about 20 miles west of downtown Phoenix, the White Tank Mountains provide a wonderful desert environment, that seemed far richer in both vegetation and wildlife than any area of the Superstitions I’ve yet explored.

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The first 3-miles of this trail are an easy stroll along a very well-developed path, with little to no incline; this segment of the Ford Canyon Trail is quite popular and likely to be somewhat crowded with both hikers and mountain bikers. However, just after the 3-mile point, the trail narrows and begins working it’s way into the mountain’s white granite cliffs; the increased difficulty discourages most other hikers and almost all bikers, so the trail will now pretty much clears out and provides long-awaited solitude.

After entering Ford Canyon, the trail quickly climbs the canyon’s wall – above brilliant pools of water in the white granite of the canyon floor. While walking this, one can’t help wish the trail were just a hundred feet lower so that that crystal clear water would be within reach; fortunately, the trail soon dips and returns back to the canyon bottom, winding its way around the many deep pools and large boulders. For the next couple miles, the trail continues along the semi-dry wash of the Ford Canyon floor. This segment of the trail can be somewhat difficult to follow due to the lack of developed path; however, the trail generally continues through the wash and can be found by merely following the numerous footprints in the wash’s sand.

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fern plants along a desert hiking trail
Go figure: ferns in the desert. All they need is shady conditions and moist soil. They have both in this spot.

 

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pools of rainwater trapped in rocks
Rocks and pools like this dominate the trail for the last mile or so up to a man-made dam that appears to have been constructed to slow down water flow.

Eventually, the trail leaves the wash and returns to an establish path. The majority of this trail’s elevation is gained in the miles immediately after the wash. Climbing through a series of steep switchbacks, the trail slowly leads up one peak and then quickly descends again. From this first descent, a spectacular view of the Phoenix Valley (with the Superstitions Mountains and Four Peaks Mountain) can be seen between the rugged peaks before you. Unfortunately, the decent is short-lived, and the trail soon begins another steep climb towards the trails highest point.

FYI: this trail is in the White Tanks Regional Park – one of 12 managed by Maricopa County. There is an entrance station there that charges visitors to enter. There was a fee of $6 when I went in 2018. Do your research ahead of time so you don’t get turned away at the gate.

Tap the map to find your way:

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