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Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North, AZ

no permit
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Guide 34 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
2.5 of 5 by 6
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 3.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,771 feet
Elevation Gain 127 feet
Avg Time One Way 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 3.82
Backpack No
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7  2019-08-17 DarthStiller
25  2019-04-23 NatureKopelli
7  2019-04-10
Esplanade Owlets
6  2019-03-14
Ridgeback Trail - Sonoran Preserve N
17  2019-02-09
Cliff Walk Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
2  2018-10-31
Badger Brawl Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
4  2018-05-26
Go John via Apache Wash TH
31  2018-01-28
Apache Wash/Esplanade Trails
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author AZWanderingBear
author avatar Guides 27
Routes 62
Photos 2,620
Trips 700 map ( 4,689 miles )
Age 63 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Nov, Jan, Mar
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:32pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Flat and Lonely
by AZWanderingBear

Esplanade: a level, open area; especially an area for walking or driving along a shore. The reason for the name becomes obvious as you stroll along the northwestern bank of the Cave Creek Wash as it crosses the Sonoran Preserve. The trail only gains 127 feet from it's southwestern intersection with the Apache Wash Trail and its terminus at the Carefree Highway. The gain is so gradual as to be imperceptible.

This description assumes you hike the trail southwest to northeast. Park at the Skunk Creek Trailhead off of Dove Valley/Sonoran Desert Parkway. While the Skunk Creek Trailhead has very nice bathrooms, it doesn't have potable water. You've been warned.

Head northeast along the well marked Apache Wash Trail. The Esplanade branches off to the right (ENE) approximately .8 miles into your hike. The intersection is well signed. The Sonoran Preserve used one or two letter identifiers for each of the trails. The Esplanade is designated with an E. How creative!

The first section of the Esplanade is flat and sparse, very unlike the verdant section of the Apache Wash Trail you just left behind. It is the flat desert of brittle brush, creosote, prickly pear and buckhorn cholla with a few scattered saguaro that dominates the Sonoran Desert at this elevation. Look straight ahead you'll see Black Mountain. Before long you'll cross and old fence line. This area was once grazed. You cross a small drainage with a few ironwood and palo verde trees.

After crossing an old jeep trail, you'll begin to parallel the Cave Creek Wash and the hike gets more interesting. On your left is a continuation of the desert you just hiked through, but on your right is a nice tangle of ironwood, palo verde, various shrubs and often a nice grove of saguaros along the edge of the wash. The wash is very wide here. Across the wash you can see where floods have cut into the slightly higher terrain leaving some nice cliffs.

A powerline appears and cuts across the trail. A sign marks a connecting trail across the wash to the Cliffwalk Trail.

Soon you will hear traffic noise from the Carefree Highway just north of you. The trail joins and old jeep trail. When you see the bridge across the wash you know you are nearing the end of the trail. There is a turnout for east bound Carefree Highway traffic just before the bridge offering limited parking and an alternate access point for the Esplanade Trail.

This trail gets very little foot or mountain bike traffic compared with the other portions of the Sonoran Preserve Trail complex. You will be reminded that you aren't far from civilization with the highway noise. And a flight school from the Deer Valley airport often uses the area for helicopter training.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2015-02-24 AZWanderingBear
  • Sonoran Preserve - North Map
    area related
    Sonoran Preserve - North Map
  • SPN - West Side Map
    area related
    SPN - West Side Map
  • SPN - East Side Map
    area related
    SPN - East Side Map

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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
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Apache Wash-Esplanade Loop
After my doctors appointed I decide to take Rowdy out and checkout some more Great Horned Owls Nest. And one out of three was occupied. So I guess 1 out 3 ain't bad. wow what a great name for a song.

It was pretty quiet out I did however discover a Hawknest. And the hawk was not happy to see me so I moved on.
I also got a nice view of a Cardinal but no picture maybe next time.
Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
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Esplanade-Cliff Walk Loop
Linda met me at my house from there we headed over to Apache Wash Trailhead. This was Linda's first time on this side of the preserve. The weather was really nice out today.
Once we started on the Apache Wash Loop I heard a Cardinal singing so we looked around and found it. As we got out to the Esplanade Trail it seemed like it got some much needed rain. Linda got to see the owls nest which she liked seeing. I did spot another bird sitting on a Saguaro that was pretty far from us. I really wasn't sure what it was until I uploaded it and realized it is a hawk.
As we traveled on the trail Linda got a surprised from a big Rattlesnake. We finally reach the bridge and went under it to the other side to check out the third owls nest. From here we jumped on the Cliff Walk Trail where we encounter another Rattlesnake which was larger than the first one. I was really hoping to get a better picture of it but wasn't able to convince Linda to grab its tail and pull it out.
Oh well it was really nice enjoyable hike and myself I love hiking after it rains as everything seems cleaner and I like the smell of rain.
Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
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Well I was glad to get this hike in today. I had another doctors appointment today and it took longer than I thought it would. I also had an 7pm appointment to see my granddaughter perform in the Wizard of Oz in Ahwatukee and it was great.
Anyway I started out on the Esplanade Trail and just started watching my time as I wanted to check out the Northside of Cave Creek Hwy. I had notice that Chris did some trails on the Northside but where he parked is posted no parking. As I hiked under the bridge and came out the other side I spotted my third Great Horned Owl Nest. I had just enough time to hike about a half mile out before I had to head back.
On my way back I did see a few signs that said trail but no name. And then I notice another sign to the left of me and checked it out and it read trail head parking. And really it looks like it has never been used so next week I'll have to check it out. I should be able to access Go John Trail from here and maybe make it a nice 10 mile hike or so without the $6.00 entrance fee.
All and all it was a really good hike with lots of cactus blooming. I just wish I had more time to explore.
Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
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Strung together a bunch of SPN trails to create a longer than normal workout. Swung back by the trailhead for lunch under the ramada, changed socks and shoes and took off again. Not much breeze, but intermittent cloud cover helped.

Saw two Western DBacks along the trails in the afternoon. The first was the largest and most polite -- a soft gentlemanly rattle at about 5 feet. The last one was smaller and far more agitated. Gave them both a wide enough berth and pressed on.

Nice day to be on the trails. Now off to soak the dogs. They are certainly tired.

Just the normal smattering of color.
Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
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Esplanade-Cliff Walk Loop
Used Widowmaker's track and ran it clockwise. I was looking for something today and this really fit the bill. For whatever reason I ended up with a NASTY blood blister on my pinky toe that was KILLING me for the last 4 miles! Hit the lot at 5:02 AM and there were already a couple of cars in the lot before me. Went all the way out to Carefree Hwy on Esplanade and came back on Cliff Walk trail. Lots of hot air balloons floating around and some military helicopters flew over. Saw my first saguaro cactus blossoms of the season, finally!

Saguaro, buckhorn, sunflower
Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
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Cliff Walk- Esplanade Trail Loop
:y: A very nice hike. I met a park ranger on my hike we talked for a little bit. He also gave me a map with the new trails listed on it. Rowdy seem a lit on the hot side today,extra breaks.
It was really great to see a couple of Great Horned Owls nesting on the trail and a Horned Lizard.
I did go to REI after our hike and bought Rowdy a swamp cooler dog vest and a new pair of boots. Tomorrow could really be interesting.
Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
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Cliff Walk/Badger Brawl/Apache/Esplanade Loop
Coolest afternoon in a while, so why not hike? Parked off Carefree Highway just west of the Cave Creek Wash bridge. Pulled out the phone and hit the HAZ Tracks app. My first hike using the app. Love it.

Hadn't hiked Cliff Walk yet, so that was new. The cloud cover made it possible to move fast, well fast for me. Not much color, just some bright hedgehogs, the yellow of the creosote blooms and the smallest globe mallow I've ever seen.

Hit the intersection with Badger Brawl quick enough. BTW, this name isn't just random. A couple of years ago I ran into two badgers up near the official trail head on Dove Valley Parkway. Had no idea there were actually badgers around here.

Turned onto Skunk Wash to link over to Esplanade. Up ahead a biker was waving wildly. Got close enough to hear him yelling rattlesnake. A 2-and-a-half foot Western was stretched across the trail between me and the biker who was a good 40 feet from the snake. Apparently the biker and the Dback had been engaged in a long range standoff for about 20 minutes. I am far less patient, but sympathetic to the biker. Rolled a rock or two at the snake thinking he'd move off the trail. No luck, he was gonna stand his ground. I took a photo and walked around the little bully. Discussed snakes a few minutes with the biker (no, the don't strike 3 times their length, nor are they as speedy as a horse). Headed on down the trail. I didn't look back to see if either had budged. My second rattler this year and both on this trail.

Got some very very light sprinkles on the way back to the Jeep. Just enough to make everything feel even better. Was nice to get some trail time.
Esplanade Trail - Sonoran Preserve North
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First time on this trail. Good to see that the northern section of the Sonoran Preserve is getting some more options. The section of this trail along the Cave Creek wash is pretty nice. Only one set of bike tracks and no footprints after yesterday's rain. Never saw anyone on the trail.

Thought I might have screwed up when I noticed some pretty dark clouds NW and moving my way. I just assumed with yesterday's rain that we were done with the wet stuff for a while. Didn't bother to pack any wet weather gear and there was a pretty good breeze. Could have made for a cold hike, but I lucked out and the rain never made to to me.

A few flowers here and there, but hopefully it won't be long before the desert gets seriously colorful this year.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Phoenix take the 101 east and exit on N Cave Creek Rd. Head north until you reach E Sonoran Desert Dr. Turn left. Drive about five miles and turn right on Apache Wash Trailhead. Restrooms at the trailhead but no potable water.
page created by AZWanderingBear on Feb 24 2015 5:59 pm
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