Approximately 30,000 acres in size, the White Tank Mountain Regional Park was a great place to kick off our Phoenix Getaway last November. The mountain range rises sharply to over 4000 ft at its peak and has many deep ridges and canyons to explore. Heavy rains from infrequent storms can cause flash floods to run through the canyon and out onto the plain. These torrential flows pour off ledges and have cut deep depressions, or tanks, into the white granite base which gives the mountains their name.
On our visit we were greeted not with torrential rains, but with beautiful sunny skies and absolutely perfect temperatures for our hike on the Waterfall Canyon Trail. One of the most popular trails in the park, the Waterfall Canyon Trail leads to a pool of water in a narrow box canyon. To see the waterfall in action you really need to visit after a good rain- which must not have been the case for us as there was only a little pool for us to see. All total the hike is about two miles round trip and was an easy walk as there is a path the whole way.
Besides the scenery in the park, we also visited to get a look at the petroglyphs we had read about. On the trail, about halfway to the waterfall, is Petroglyph Plaza which is the site of various images and interpretive signs to explain them. The petroglyphs in the park come from a few cultures over time. Many of them are from a prehistoric culture called ‘Hohokam’ that inhabited the Salt River Valley and surrounding area between AD 100 and 1450. Prior to them were an Archaic culture that were nomadic and roamed the area looking for plants and animals. They left their mark prior to AD 100. And finally a third group called the Western Yavapai controlled the area after the Hohokam. The petroglyphs make for very interesting stops along the trail, but hopefully you won’t run into people climbing these artifacts just for a selfie like we did.
One of the best conserved natural areas in the metropolitan area of Phoenix, the White Tank Mountains are a natural barrier to the city’s continued expansion and a wonderful natural and cultural resource. Although we didn’t see any on our visit, the park is inhabited by a herd of mule deer, some mountain lions (OK I’m glad we didn’t see these!), and javelinas. Instead we enjoyed the walk, the weather, and the beautiful vegetation. This is definitely a must-do if you are ever in the Phoenix area.
To follow along on our adventures on our Phoenix, AZ Getaway, please feel free to check out these posts: