|Table Top Trail at Sonoran Desert NM (Photo courtesy, Blair McLaughlin)|
Located 63 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona, this monument gives "wide-open spaces" real meaning. Its 496,337 acres encompass three mountain ranges (with elevations ranging from 2,000 to 4,373 feet), several wilderness areas, wide valleys, and portions of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Mormon Battalion Trail, and the Butterfield Overland Stage Route.
You'll need a four-wheel drive to reach some trailheads and explore primitive backroads dotted with prehistoric rock art, ancient campsites, grazing cattle, and active mining operations; mountain bikes and horses are other options for getting around. The monument boasts 26 miles of trails and nine trailheads. Hikes on Table Top and the Lava Flow trails will get you into forests of ironwood and saguaro, cholla, and prickly pear cacti, and take you to sweeping vistas of mountains and plains. You may see bighorn sheep, javelinas, mule deer, perhaps even a bobcat or mountain lion. The six-mile Brittlebrush and nine-mile Margie's Cove trails are virtually flat walks into the North Maricopa Mountains, but are recommended only for experienced hikers due to their wilderness characteristics. Limited camping is available at Table Top and East Margie's trailheads.
Although the cool months are September to April, always bring plenty of water and don't forget to locate current trail maps. Be prepared for heat and flash floods, too. Then grab a partner and discover America's most biologically diverse desert.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication