Best panorama view in Mesa!
This hike follows the Wind Cave Trail as far as Wind Cave, at which time you continue on past the sign warning the trail past that point is not maintained. For more details of the trip up as far as Wind Cave view the Wind Cave page.
Once past the warning sign you will first pass an area of sharp redish rocks. Due to the trail not being "maintained" past this point by park personnel, you may find a number of places where other hikers made their own way. In general it's better to follow the painted arrows but my directions (and GPS track) will skip an out-of-the-way loop for a more direct route. Passing the red rock area the trail drops slightly through an eroded section for a short distance before rising back up and continuing south along the western traverse of Pass Mountain. When you have travelled about 500' past the warning sign back at Wind Cave, you will pass Palo Verde tree on your left, which is where you will turn left and start climbing, first by walking being careful of the loose rock, then climbing hand-over-hand about 6' up. At first glance this section may give pause, but the rock is jagged enough with hand and foot holds it easy enough. Once up that short climb you will continue to your left again, now in a northerly direction. After steadily gaining elevation after about 250' you be almost directly above Wind Cave, at which time the trail will wind upward and to the right a couple times so you will be facing south as you climb some rocky steps. Immediately after the steps you will swing left 180 degrees and continue climbing toward the east. If you look back over your left shoulder (to the northwest) toward Fountain Hills and it's within 15 minutes after the hour, you may see the two hundred foot fountain in action. After steadily climbing about 450' you will come to a saddle. At this point you will encounter some great views, but don't stop here... the views are much better at the summit! From this point on it's just a matter of taking your time to step up one rock after another, wind around some large ones, and after about moving 350' southward you will reach the summit. Congratulations! Now it's time to drop your pack and pull out the camera. If you swing around clockwise to take in the whole panorama, starting from the view almost straight north alongside Pass Mountain itself where you can barely see Mt Peeley, next to the right is Mt Ord, then to the northeast come Four Peaks, east is the Goldfield Mountains, slightly southeast is the Superstition Mountains and Apache Junction, south you can look over East Mesa all the way out to the San Tan Mountains. Continue clockwise to take in the South Mountain range, over central Phoenix, Papago Buttes, Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak and the North Mountain range, the McDowell Mountains past Fountain Hills and you've just taken in a vast area of trails just waiting for you to hike.
Once you've taken in your fill of the scenery, eaten your lunch, taken your break (nap?) you simply retrace your footsteps the way you came. If you didn't stop at Wind Cave on the way up, it may be a good time to give your knees a break and stop for a quick break before heading back to the trail head.
Be sure to stop and visit the Nature Center if you didn't on the way in, it's well worth the stop. The new (Spring 2010) Nature Center has tons of information about the park, wildlife, flora, fauna, books, T-shirts and such to buy, as well as animal & snake displays.
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.