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White Tanks Western Cuestas, AZ

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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,768 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,200 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12
Interest Off-Trail Hiking & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
20  2015-02-12
White Tanks West Middlestuff
13  2015-01-30
White Tank West 1908'
11  2014-12-20
White Tank West Cuesta 1982'
Author Barrett
author avatar Guides 14
Routes 9
Photos 1,346
Trips 284 map ( 1,514 miles )
Age 57 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Jan, Dec, Nov → Early
Seasons   Early Winter to Spring
Sun  6:14am - 6:37pm
0 Alternative

Questing for a Cuesta Fiesta?
by Barrett

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If you're looking for wild geology untrammeled by crowds, loaded with alcoves, arches, and even a few tunnels and caves, you probably wouldn't think to look in the White Tank Mountains. That's what I thought until a Google Earth image lured me to venture behind the range, where a group of small formations that looked pretty bland from a distance revealed dizzying complexity up close.

Geologically, they are "cuestas," asymmetrical ridges with a gentle back slope (called a Dipslope), and a steep face or cliff formed by the erosion of tilted strata with a resistant capstone. The freeze-thaw cycle and other breakdown types often form alcoves in the cliff face, and here is no exception. The rock itself, ejected from a volcanic eruption somewhere between 5 and 33 million years ago, it's twisted molten form taking on fantastic shapes that make for a scramblers delight.

Access to the area starts with the Sun Valley Parkway, which will take you to a network of dirt roads that lead to a "North Camp" and "South Camp." Both act as "trailheads" for the off-trail options before you and have fire rings and campsite potential.

The 5 significant points of interest:

1982' - Most dramatic summit, largest cliff faces, 30' tunnel, 4 large alcoves - including the "Weeping Alcove," that due to a fissure in the cuesta above shows evidence of water flow over a significant period of time. Most features on north and east faces.

"Two - Tone" - 4 large alcoves ( 1 unexplored - rope protection suggested), 6 medium alcoves, 12 small, 6 small arches, 1 60' tunnel connecting the top of the cuesta with it's base. Most features on north, east, and south faces.

1861' - 6 medium alcoves, 12 small alcoves, 12 small arches. Features on all faces.

Baldy" - 1 medium alcove, 4 small alcoves. Features on south ridge.

1908' - 12 medium alcoves, 6 small arches, most intense molten forms. Features along ridge, as well as entire east face.

Flora is light, with a few areas of Cholla but very little catclaw.
In most areas, the rock is incredibly grippy and solid, but a few spots, particularly on 1982', are crumbly, so stay on your toes. As with any off-trail hike in terrain as unpredictable as this, exercise caution and stay within your comfort level.

The "Red Road" divides Buckeye from Phoenix, and the area is a combination of State Trust and BLM land, all of it outside the White Tank Mountain Park boundaries. Technically a State Trust permit would be handy, but I have seen no posting warning of this requirement.

In 4 trips to the area, I have only seen one other person and almost no trash. I hope to return with some HAZheads who want to further explore the alcoves and caves that were beyond my solo comfort level (a rope wouldn't hurt) - you never know what might be found until you look!

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2015-02-21 Barrett
    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 $$
    AZ State Recreational Land Permits
    For hiking, driving & sightseeing purposes, you seek the recreational permit.
    Under "Recreational Land Use" in the link above.
    2020 - $15.00 individual
    2020 - $20.00 family limited to two adults and children under the age of 18
    Plus $1 processing fee
    The permitting process quick, you will be emailed your permit instantly.

    Land Parcel Map

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    Access via the Sun Valley Parkway, either from the north or south. The turnoff for "Yellow Road" is at 33.559466 N -112.678459 W.
    If you are coming from the north you will cross under the power lines just past mile marker 113 and look for a turn around through the boulevard and turn back north for 0.5 miles to get to the gate on the east side.

    From the south just keep your eyes peeled after mile marker 115.
    The road starts at the southeast corner of the staging area, and if your vehicle can make it the first .5 miles, you should be fine all the way to 1982' via "Yellow" and then "Green" roads. The turnoff for "Green" is at 33.548089 N -112.662563 W, 1.1 miles from start at the staging area.
    page created by Barrett on Feb 21 2015 9:04 am
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