Coach Whip Trail - Thunderbird, AZ | HikeArizona

Coach Whip Trail - Thunderbird, AZ

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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 4.75 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,339 feet
Elevation Gain 190 feet
Accumulated Gain 450 feet
Avg Time One Way 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.25
 Backpack No
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Page 1,  2,  3,  4
author avatar Guides 14
Routes 9
Photos 1,371
Trips 286 map ( 1,559 miles )
Age 59 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Associated Areas
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Phoenix Region
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Preferred Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:55am - 6:27pm
Official Route
18 Alternative
Nearby Area Water
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Fauna  Nearby
Flora  Nearby
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Milquetoast Special
by Barrett

The Thunderbird Conservation Park located along Pinnacle Peak west of 55th Avenue is named after a WWII Fighter plane training facility that used to be located 4 miles south of the park. Its trails wander up and around the Hedgepeth Hills, named for the Hedgepeth Ranch that used to be at the site.
Formerly known as H-1. Travels from the horse staging area just inside the 67th Ave park entrance over to its terminus at the intersection of 55th Ave and Potter. The new name is apt, as the trail is in the shape of a whip, forming a hairpin along with several lesser bends. It also connects with several other trails and is rarely hiked from end to end as it is impossible to loop. I'll refer to it as H1, as that's what the trail signs still read.

Starting at the horse staging area, the trail heads south across a flat section with sparse vegetation and 2 connections leading left Sunrise Trail, followed by 2 on the right (unnamed, they lead to 67th Ave). The trail then gains some elevation and heads east along the southern slope until it reaches the H4 intersection on your left at 0.5 miles. The next 0.6 miles will drop you down into a small wash and up some switchbacks, topping out for some nice views of the park and Phoenix in the distance before dropping you down into the center of Thunderbird Park proper. There you will find restrooms, water, a large amphitheater, ramadas, stone barbecues, even a rotisserie big enough for a pig roast (call 602-344-6940 for ramada reservations, beer permits, and the lock code for the rotisserie).

It's about 0.2 miles to cross the park and pick up H1 as it climbs up to the H3 Cholla Trail junction on your left, where you continue east towards the pedestrian bridge that is a shortcut across the Coachwhip hairpin. If you continue straight, you will cross the intersection of 55th Ave/Pinnacle Peak, reaching the eastern trailhead after 0.7 miles (no facilities). Following H1 west, now on the south side of Pinnacle Peak, you'll notice the vegetation difference between the north and south-facing slopes. The sun-drenched slope north of Pinnacle Peak has Brittlebush, Creosote, Palo Verde, along with Saguaro, Barrel, Cholla, and Buckhorn Cactus. The south side is primarily Brittlebush, with just a few Palo Verdes in contrast.

0.7 miles from the road crossing you will reach the pedestrian bridge again, and a few ramadas as well, from there the trail turns south and descends some switchbacks to the sedimentation basin where you will find three sets of viewing blinds to check out the 50+ species of birds that frequent the area. Bring binoculars or a high-power lens though - the blinds are set far back from the pond so as not to disturb the wildlife.

1.5 miles from the bridge you will cross another paved road at the entrance to Arrowhead Manor Estates, a gated community of exactly 3 houses (?). From there you can enjoy the views of people's backyards and the sounds of barking dogs for another 0.5 miles until you reach the trail's end at the intersection of 55th Ave and Potter.

The least challenging and scenic of the Thunderbird Park trails, H1 is nonetheless convenient for those who live near its trailheads or use it in connection with other trails to form loops. The geology is mostly volcanic tuft, with a few outcroppings darkened with desert varnish. Birdwatchers will enjoy the viewing blinds, and the trail is smooth enough for trail-running over most of its course. In over 400 trips to the park, I have seen Coyotes, Rattlesnakes, Cottontails, and numerous lizards, but in general, it is an urban park with scarce wildlife beyond the sedimentation basin.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2013-06-23 Barrett
  • 2013 Map
    area related
    2013 Map
  • area related

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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.

 Permit $$

Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From the intersection of the 101 and I-17 freeways on the north side of Phoenix, proceed west along the 101 to the 67th Avenue exit. Turn right and head north 1.7 miles to the western entrance of Thunderbird Park. The H1 trail begins at the horse staging area.
page created by HAZ_Hikebot on Jun 23 2013 10:24 am

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