I was looking for a fairly easy trail with solitude and some nice scenery and came across the Walkin' Jim. I was also hoping to see some water, so the fact that it was right next to Lake Pleasant was a bonus. 31 years in Phoenix and I've never been to Lake Pleasant, so this was a good opportunity. I'd never heard of this trail until a couple days ago. We just did the Little Jim Loop, and we had the whole trail to ourselves today. Not bad for a weekend.
Getting to the trailhead was a nice drive...not a lot of traffic at all. The trailhead was full of trucks with empty boat trailers (even though it's on the opposite side of the road where the lake was...) so I wasn't sure at first this was the trailhead. It's not marked but it's the first big pullout on the left heading north on Castle Hot Springs Rd, and the CW and CCW trails start out right next to each other in the NW corner of the lot. We chose the CCW route.
Starting out you have nice views of the Hieroglyphic Mountains and you soon cross the creek bed. Completely dry, of course, but a nice shady spot with some big Cottonwoods. The trail winds around and crosses a few washes. This area seems to be thriving...definitely more scenic than your average desert trail. The trail is faint in some areas but it is well-cairned. These first couple miles are mostly flat, but it's a nice stroll. We passed under a low wire fence and curved down into another big wash. After leaving the wash we heard a burro up on the ridge to our left and spotted a group of 3 of them up there, observing us.
Getting on the Little Jim Trail you start to elevate, and this is most of the elevation for the trip. We started to feel the heat here with virtually no shade, but it's nothing too strenuous. You cross another big wash, and I was surprised to actually see a little water left here, with the water still trickling down slowly. Halfway through the Little Jim we saw another large group of 6 or 7 burros about 50 ft away in a wash, and a couple cattle hanging out under the shade of a large mesquite tree. The burros backed off as we went by and went up to the small ridge behind them and watched us walk on until we were out of sight. Pretty cool seeing such a large group of them.
Once getting back on the main trail it is fairly uneventful and you mainly parallel the trail you came from on the other side of the wash. There are a few more little ups and downs but again nothing too bad. Climbing up to a small high point you have the best views yet (on this small loop, at least) of the Hieroglyphic Mountains behind you. You also have a view of the lake in the distance for a bit. The deep blue waters of the lake really stand out in the desert.
This is a great area and a great hike. Loved the contrast in environments, and all the mesquite and cottonwood trees. Next time I'll try the whole Walkin' Jim Trail, and hopefully the whole Big Jim loop eventually.
After the hike we stopped by Lake Pleasant to take a dip in the water and cool off.