Wind Cave receives a fair amount of chit chat regarding the disagreeable trail name. The cave is more of a notch or shallow alcove at best. Bathrooms, several Pepsi machines and a water fountain are all located at the trailhead.
Within the first few minutes you enter Tonto National Forest. Saguaro roots cross the trail soon after. Gradually ascend the first half mile. Well built and maintained the trail itself is more of a highlight than the destination.
Desert cacti and palo verde dominate the landscape. Heavy concentrations of Saguaros pack the area. Continue the steep trek up and across the face of Pass Mountain. The trail proved to be more of a huffer than expected. Valley views just get better as you go up. The cave isn't anything to get excited about. A few hanging plants cling to the roof and that's about it. Just past the Wind Cave sign is another sign indicating non-maintained trail ahead. Someone has scratched off the "non" part. Views to the south are just around the corner but be careful.
Forest Tonto Pass is a forest wide permit for recreational sites and campgrounds. Typically not for trailheads.
To Usery Wind Cave Trailhead Directions to Usery Park: From the west on the 202 (Red Mountain Freeway) continue on PAST the FIRST McKellips exit ~10 mi, past Power Rd and take the SECOND McKellips exit. At the top continue on to your left around the round-about over the 202 and continue east on McKellips Rd. About 3 miles east of the 202 you come to Ellsworth Rd. Turn LEFT on Ellsworth and go north about 2 miles, turning right into Usery Mountain Regional Park just past the sign.
From the south on the 202, take the McKellips exit and head east, continuing to Ellsworth as above.
From the west on US 60 take the Ellsworth exit and head north on Ellsworth which eventually becomes Usery Pass Road north of McKellips. Continue past McKellips about 2 miles, turning right into Usery Mountain Regional Park just past the sign.
Directions to the Wind Cave trail head: Once in the park, continue on past the new (Spring 2010) Nature Center building to the information/entrance building where you either purchase a one-day pass or purchase an annual pass (good in all Maricopa Parks except Lake Pleasant) for seniors. If it's your first visit, be sure to ask for a map including information of the all 29 miles of trails in the park. After setting your pass receipt on your dash, continue on the road as it curves around toward the east. Continue past the four-way intersection until Wind Cave Drive on your left. Turn up the drive and follow it until you find a suitable parking place. If it's busy just continue on around the one-way loop until you find an empty spot along the road. The trail head itself is immediately to your right when looking at the Wind Cave facilities building.
Alternate Longer Access: For $2 per-person access turn right (east) off Ellsworth Road at McKellips road and drive about a mile until it ends at Crismon Rd. There is a parking on the SW corner. Entrance to the park is on the NE corner, there are maps and a payment box. The trail that heads north is loose and hard to walk, go east 1/2 mile to trail then head north 1 mile to horse staging area. Starting from this point adds about 5 miles to your round-trip hike to the Wind Cave Trailhead. Also about 150 feet in gain.
From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 34.8 mi - about 43 mins (up to 1 hour 10 mins in traffic) From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 128 mi - about 2 hours 0 mins From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 173 mi - about 2 hours 45 mins
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
Warning: heat kills!
Avoid 8am to 5pm over 90 degrees. Prehydrate & stay hydrated. Avoid Heat Illness - do NOT hike when temps exceed 100 degrees, period.