When Wickenburg gets unbearably boring...
The Vulture Mountains, although a relatively small mountain range just a stones throw away from Wickenburg, offer beauty and feelings of remoteness and solitude that are difficult to find in even some of the larger mountain ranges near Phoenix. There are several roads and primitive campsites winding through these mountains, mostly occupied with large RV's and vans, but the rewards found in hiking the trails still exist. One such trail leads to Dana's Arch. My source for this trail was "Wickenburg Adventures
" by Christine Maxa. If you're interested in some of the desert northwest of Phoenix, it is a very worthy purchase.
The trail is unsigned and begins on an old jeep track that drops steeply from the parking area into a wash, and then climbs back up the other side. After about 100 yards the road forks- take the left fork. In another hundred yards the trail to the arch branches out on the left, and is marked with small cairns on either side. Keep your eye out for these cairns or you'll miss it!
The trail is narrow, yet well-traveled, and the vegetation is up-close and personal on either side. Watch out for prickly pear and cholla sticking out over the trail. This stretch gently gains elevation, following a wash to the left. Soon the trail tops out at a low saddle. Not far past the saddle, at about 0.6 mile, is another fork in the trail- take the left fork again. This fork is cairned. If you take the right fork you will switchback steeply up the side of a hill. If you find yourself doing this, you are on the wrong trail! The route to Dana's Arch never gets steep at all. After turning left, the trail contours around a small hill with volcanic tuffs rising to the left before gradually descending off the hill and connecting with the bottom of a wash. When you start walking on the bed of the wash, you are just about to the arch. Keep your eye out for another small cairn on the left directing you out of the wash. When you climb out, the trail quickly disappears, and you can see the arch on the ridge immediately to the east (left).
It is quite easy to hike up to the arch. If you take a direct route to it, you will have to do a bit of climbing, but it's super fun. If you don't want to climb, then head up to the saddle to the north (left) of the rock formations that form the arch. This will involve some bushwhacking, but it's a very easy walk. Once up the saddle, the ridgeline to the right (south) is flat, and it's a quick stroll to the arch.
Enjoy the view of Vulture Peak from up here, as it's a different angle than what people usually see of this Wickenburg landmark. Once you're done, either return the way you came or, if you have a map, form an off-trail loop of sorts. Enjoy! - Feb 18 2009 azpride