http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoe ... s1117.html
Ahwatukee Foothills residents and a few adventurous hikers and mountain bikers from other parts of the Valley are buzzing about two scenic and challenging new trails at the western edge of South Mountain Park.
Known as the South Mountain 620's Trail One and Trail Two, they are too new to have signs or a formal trailhead. Neither are included on official Phoenix parks maps.
Even though the trails were completed with city funds in May, the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department has yet to make an official announcement that they are open.
But that isn't stopping runners, mountain bikers and seasoned hikers from enjoying them after learning about the trails by word of mouth from enjoying them. They are the first to be constructed in a new Phoenix park area bounded by Pecos Road, Chandler Boulevard, and 19th and 27th avenues.
'It's nice to finally have (developed) trails in this area," said Lisa Warner, who lives in a subdivision nearby. "My husband is out there at least once a week. I haven't quite made it to the top yet but it's gorgeous out there. And it's a challenge."
Ahwatukee long-distance runner Amy Caron said she used to train up and down Telegraph Pass, a 1.5-mile trail that gives hikers who make it to the top a view of the entire Valley. It's about 4 miles from the 620. Now, on weekends she heads to Trail Two of the 620.
"It is fantastic," said Caron, who runs with her husband, Rich. "It's quiet and really gives you the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the desert."
Taylor Lindeen, who lives near the South Mountain 620 and works at an Ahwatukee bicycle shop called South Mountain Cycles, said word about the trails is spreading among mountain bikers, who now often drop into the shop for directions.
"Bikers call one of the trails (Trail Two) 'the bees knees' because of the smooth ride," he said. "They really did a great job building them."
Possibly the biggest challenge for a hiker or mountain biker who is unfamiliar with the southwestern end of South Mountain Park is finding the start of the trails from Ahwatukee. Only a small pile of rocks was left by workers to mark the trailhead in a raw and rocky desert about 1,000 feet west of Chandler Boulevard and 19th Avenue.
While some area residents find the trails by walking cross country through the desert from their subdivisions, the safest and most straightforward way to start a hike in the 620 is to walk west past the large yellow sign that marks the end of Chandler Boulevard at 19th Avenue and onto a gravel road.
Follow the gravel road about 1,000 feet to a desert wash. Then turn north and walk through the wash for approximately another 1,000 feet. The trails start in a clearing to the west.
From there, Trail One and Trail Two converge as they run north and then east through a quarter-mile of flat scenic desert.
After that, Trail Two continues north, then winds west over a mountain ridge with a view of an old mining road and a saguaro filled-valley. Trail One runs south, then east and then north up a ridge that is so steep workers had to add switchbacks to the route.
Both eventually connect to South Mountain Park's National Trail.
Lindeen said that allows Ahwatukee hikers and bikers to more easily travel "coast to coast" - from one end of the park to the other.
The trails are simple to follow once a hiker or biker finds them. Deputy Parks Director Kathryn Reichert said the Parks Department did not intentionally make trails hard to find.
Eventually, she said, there will be a parking lot, a fire station, a library, a playground and a more formal entrance to the trails system at Chandler Boulevard and 19th Avenue.
But the city is not expected to have funds for any of that for at least several years, she said.
Reichert said parks officials decided that the best initial investment would be $182,000 for professional trail building.
She said even before the city purchased the park land in April 2009, hikers and mountain bikers were carving out their own trails through the area's fragile ecosystem. But such "rogue trails" can be dangerous to the desert, she said.
"We wanted to get the trails in first so people didn't overrun the area and damage it," she said. "People don't realize the damage they do. In the desert it takes years for vegetation to come back."
The two trails, which are each longer than 2 miles, were completed last May by a Tempe-based non-profit group, Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona, that Phoenix hired for the project. VOAZ used 82 volunteers and five paid workers to build the trails, organization director Michael Baker said.
"These are very special trails," said Baker, whose organization does trail building and desert-habitat preservation all over Arizona. "It was a great project. They go up very high and are spectacular in that regard."
The next step Reichart is working on is better parking for the area.
Because the trails lack signs, Reichart suggests that, right now, only experienced hikers and mountain bikers venture out on them. But Baker notes that the first mile or so of each trail is relatively flat. In the future, when they are marked, they will be an easy walk or ride for hikers and bikers of all levels.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoe ... z15Q34uM4w