If you are a hiker, you have probably spent far too many hours driving to find a great trail. But did you know that some of the best hiking in the state can be found right in our backyard in Mesa?
Usery Mountain Regional Park is a gem in northeast Mesa. Part of the Maricopa County parks system, the park is situated at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains and is adjacent to the Tonto National Forest.
The park covers 3,500 acres with elevations ranging from 1,700 feet to 2,750 feet. Included in the park are a 73-site campground, an archery range and picnic facilities. The highlight of the park, though, is the 22 hiking trails, some which can accommodate horses and mountain bikes.
Trails differ in length and degree of difficulty. The most popular is Wind Cave, a 3.2-mile (round trip) trail which is almost entirely in the national forest.
Wind Cave offers a trek on the flank of Pass Mountain nearly to the top. The trail ends at a small cave. It begins with a half mile of flat terrain. Then a series of switchbacks gradually bring hikers up the mountain to the cave, which really is merely an indentation in sandstone. Be careful around the cave, as bees have made a home nearby.
In all, Wind Cave has an 800-foot vertical climb. It is rated as moderately difficult. There are lots of loose pebbles along the trail, sometimes making footing a bit slippery. Also, stay away from the numerous cholla which line the trail.
Randy and Paula Peterson, their 8-year-old son, Julieon, and baby, Sage, enjoyed a hike on Wind Cave trail over the weekend. They recently moved to Mesa from Massachusetts and live less than a mile from Usery Park.
"This is great here," said Randy, who hiked all the way to the Wind Cave with Sage strapped on his back.
Paula said all the hiking opportunities in Arizona made the move here attractive.
"That was pretty much in the top of our minds," said Paula.
There is a $5 per vehicle fee to enter the park. There are restrooms, plenty of signs and the facility is well maintained.
By the way, the park’s name derives from a 19th century stagecoach robber and horse thief — King Usery.