Alta - Bajada Loop, AZ | HikeArizona
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Alta - Bajada Loop, AZ

Guide 56 Triplogs  1 Topic
  3.1 of 5 
no permit
248 56 1
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 9.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,153 feet
Elevation Gain 1,390 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,996 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.38
 Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
2  2023-01-26 pseudalpine
4  2022-03-05
Alta Trail
3  2021-02-04 LindaAnn
9  2021-02-04 Daytripper
8  2020-01-18 astrobrewer
13  2018-06-03 DarthStiller
34  2018-03-03 tibber
5  2018-03-03 chumley
Page 1,  2,  3
author avatar Guides 7
Routes 54
Photos 13,163
Trips 577 map ( 6,628 miles )
Age 60 Female Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Phoenix Region
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar
Seasons   Early Winter to Late Spring
Sun  6:34am - 6:39pm
Official Route
2 Alternative

Rocky Rollercoaster with Poppy Power
by outdoor_lover

  Likely In-Season!
If you want to see some serious Flower Power, then do this loop in the Spring at the height of wildflower season. The scenery and vista views are good all year, but if we've had good winter precipitation then this area is amazing in the Spring. This Loop or a variation of it seems to be popular with hikers at the West End of the South Mountain range. It encompasses three trails. The Alta, Bajada, and then the National Trail complete the loop. It's a nice hike and can be done either clockwise or counterclockwise with different starting points. In this description, I will be summarizing the hike going clockwise, starting from the National TH on Estrella Road just East of 43rd Avenue. San Juan Lookout is only open and accessible the first weekend of every month, whereas the actual National TH is accessible 24/7. I will also post the statistics from the "Y" at the San Juan/Summit Road intersection and the Alta TH at the San Juan Lookout Location. This loop has a lot of diversity to it. You get your workout and full vista views from the Alta Trail while enjoying the valley between the Ma Ha Tauk and Gila Ranges. If we have a decent amount of precipitation in the winter months, this area explodes with wildflowers in the Spring. The views of the Estrella Range are also phenomenal from the valley. If you like loose, rocky trails, then this Loop is your dream come true. There are small to medium size rocks practically paving portions.

The National Trail TH is located on Estrella Road approximately 1/8 of a mile East of 43rd Avenue. Please see driving directions for details of this site. Even with limited parking, this is a great place to start the loop. After you park, go through the opening in the barbed wire fence and start hiking! The trail starts with a gradual ascent that steepens slightly as you approach a small saddle. This is a great warm-up for the ascent on the Alta Trail. When you reach the Saddle, it is bare rock and you need to turn right, follow the ridge and then pick up the trail going south along a small mountain. There is another trail that connects in this area and descends into the valley. Stay high and follow the trail around to the South and then descend slightly to the San Juan Lookout area. South of the parking lot is the National/Alta Junction. Take your pick. You can elect to get the uphill section out of the way now or wait until the last 1/2 of the hike. I recommend ascending Alta here and doing the loop clockwise.

The Alta Trail climbs a pretty steady clip. It is full of loose rock, some high steps, and light scrambling in a couple of areas on this northwest section. I have found that trails of this type are easier to go up than down. When the Alta goes over the top and descends the backside, there are a series of switchbacks. It isn't as rocky and steep, making for a smoother descent. Be forewarned, the trail going up on the front side is cut right into the side of the mountain and in spots, is very narrow with a steep drop to the deep ravine below. A fall here could be disastrous. You get a small sense of exposure. Another argument for going up this section, instead of down. You will hike uphill until you hit the ridgeline and the area of Maricopa Peak. Then as the Trail winds around the Peak, you start a descent so gradual that you hardly realize it. You end up a couple of hundred feet below the Ridgeline and then as you come hiking around a large point, reality hits and you are staring at another good uphill back up to the ridgeline. Once you get past this next ascent, you've got it made. You start hiking on the south side of the ridge, enjoying the vistas of the valley below and the Estrellas to the West. The descent is smooth. Some of the rock on the trail thins out and you are down in the valley in no time. San Juan Road runs the length of the valley right down the middle. Seeing and paralleling a paved road can be a turnoff for some, but this road is only open one weekend a month. The Valley typically stays quiet, with no car traffic to disrupt the solitude you will feel on this Hike.

After you cross the road, you will find the Alta/Bajada trail junction. Take the Bajada Trail south and west to meet up with the National again at the West end of the Valley. The Bajada climbs up and away from the road and runs along the foot of the Gila Range. Going the clockwise direction, you will, in the beginning, be hiking up and down quite a few ravines and drainages on the Bajada. There is a lot of loose rock on this trail so watch your footing. There are very few markers on this trail, but it is well defined and easy to pick up coming out of the ravines. The up and down continues for about 2/3 of the length of this trail and then you move further away from the base of the range. The trail begins to flatten out and does a very gradual descent. The vegetation and flora in the Bajada section of the loop are sparse. Yet quite the sight during wildflower season. Thick carpets of poppies and lupines blanket the valley floor. The sun setting over the Estrellas and the sharp late afternoon sunlight will light up both ranges and provide some wonderful lighting opportunities. You may see some javelina and coyotes in the valley as well. There seems to be a bunch of quail in this section too, I flushed several coveys in the ravines on my hike.

You descend back down to San Juan Road at the West end of the valley and arrive at the Bajada/National junction. Take the National Trail heading North across the road and follow it around the western edge of the Ma Ha Tauk Range. This trail is extremely rocky. It almost seems like they "poured" the rock down to help with erosion. Once around the corner you turn back to the East and arrive back at the San Juan Overlook. From here, turn left and head back up the hill and hike along the hill back to the first saddle and then down to the TH.

Stats for other Starting Points:
From San Juan Lookout: 8.50 Miles 1750 AEG
From "Y" Intersection of Summit and San Juan Roads: 9.50 Miles 1750 AEG

Water Sources


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2012-01-23 outdoor_lover
    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 West Valley, take I-10 to 51st Avenue. Go South on 51st Avenue to Estrella Road. Turn East on Estrella Road and follow it until it intersects with 43rd Avenue. From the East Valley, take I-10 to the I-17 Bypass (I-17 North). Take 1-17 North to the 19th Avenue Exit. Go South on 19th Avenue to Baseline Road. Take Baseline Road West to 35th Avenue. Turn South on 35th Avenue and follow it all the way down. It goes over a small hill South of Dobbins Road and then it turns towards the West becoming Carver Road. Continue West on Carver Road to 43rd Avenue. Turn South on 43rd Avenue to the Intersection with Estrella Road. This is not a true intersection, 43rd Avenue just turns West and becomes Estrella Road. Instead of making the turn West, turn East onto a Gravel Road that lines up with Estrella Road. This is an extension of Estrella Road and provides access to 43rd Avenue to the residents living along here. Follow this narrow Gravel Road for approximately 1/8 of a mile and you'll see a small widened area of the Road. This is the National TH. Parking is very limited as there are only a few wide spots in the road to pull over far enough to park, but I don't think this TH gets very heavy use. A Traffic Note on the Park. The Park has "Quiet Sundays" on roughly the 4th Sunday of every month, so all of the access roads into the Park are closed. San Juan Road is closed from the Summit Road intersection to the San Juan Overlook except for the 1st Weekend of every month. Check the Park's Website for more information and dates.
    page created by outdoor_lover on Jan 23 2012 6:14 pm

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