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Canals, fields, subdivisions, river crossing
This description starts at the northeast end of this segment in Scottsdale near the plaza at the corner of Indian Bend and Hayden Roads, and follows in a clockwise direction, southeast to Granite Reef, then southwest to the Park of the Canals in Mesa.
If you park at the southmost point in the parking lot plaza at Indian Bend and Hayden next to a dumpster, the canal is a short walk to the south. You can take the sidewalk to the canal or walk towards the golf course, where a cart path leads you to the canal.
The Maricopa Trail at the initial segment is actually a separate trail/path from the Arizona Canal Trail, which is on the north side of the canal. The MT parallels the ACT for a little over a half mile before it merges into it. It then continues on the north side of the canal until Pima Road, where it crosses the canal and then follows it on the south side of the trail until the Granite Reef Recreational Area.
Soon after Pima Road, the canal crosses under the 101 Pima Freeway. There’s quite a lot of room and open area under this crossing, but you might want to get through it quickly if you don’t want to lose your GPS signal.
For the next 5 miles, the MT and canal head southeast across the SRPMIC, passing by several farm fields various associated residences. Some schools and other community buildings are visible from the canal, mostly on the south side. During this section, there are very good views of the McDowell Mountains directly north. Distant views more to the east are visible of Four Peaks and Mt. Ord. Ahead is Red Mountain, which will soon be very close. To the south the San Tan Mountains are visible, and if you turn around, Camelback Mountain, Piestewa and the Estrellas are the most visible. The walking surface looks to be asphalt millings that have been recompacted after several years into near asphalt again. Walking on the edge of it, there is usually enough room to stay on the dirt.
Near the end of the farm fields, there is a dam structure in the canal with some fencing that you must pass through. After this, the walking surface is all dirt and much smoother to walk on. At this point, the canal routes its way along the north edge of the landfill by the Beeline Highway. The traffic from the Beeline is both visible and audible at this point, but it’s well over 2 miles before the canal crosses the highway. The north side of the canal has a lot of dense paloverde and mesquite trees, making for somewhat normal desert scenery. To the south, however, are views of the landfill. There really isn’t any trash visible, but plenty of vehicles, dumpsters, buildings, etc. Sawik Mountain is very prominent on the north side, and the canal passes near it. There are a couple of sections where there is actually some elevation gain as the berms rise and lower between the canal and landfill.
At the crossing with the Beeline Highway, stay on the south side of the canal. There is a set of bollards after the fencing with MT stickers on them, but it can be easy to miss. At this point, on either side of the canal is native desert vegetation. To the south, somewhere in the distance through the trees, is the dry riverbed. To the north, the canal berm and trees are higher so that glimpses are mainly available of Red Mountain.
During this entire segment, the sides of the canal are actually much steeper than most canals you usually see in the Phoenix area, and the water surface is sometimes a good 15 feet or more below. Use caution if you like to walk near the edge to see the water.
As you get closer to Granite Reef, Red Mountain comes into much greater focus. You will encounter two signs; one directs you straight to the pump house, the other left to the north residence, which is somewhat visible further back on the canal and is higher up near Red Mountain. Not long after this, an MT sign directs you to the right, off the canal berm, and onto a dirt road that enters the riverbed. Once down there, a short concrete section of the road crosses the river, which is normal reduced to a manageable trickle that easily passes through a series of small culverts under the road. The rest of the crossing is river rock, some of which have been cleared from the road.
After you cross the riverbed, the MT goes in two directions. One arrow points straight, but it will soon veer to the left and take you over to the Granite Reef Rec area, about 0.8 miles away. This follows a road that then crosses some kind of drainage basin and then heads into some dense tree cover by the shore of the Salt River. When you come out to another dirt road, take that to your right, heading out to the Bush Highway, which is where this spur ends.
The other arrow after the riverbed crossing points to the right and takes you along the north side of the South Canal. The first four miles along this canal mostly have more native desert trees on the right and a higher bank across the canal adjacent to that berm. Eventually, there are some views to the north of Red Mountain again and the McDowells. To the south are mostly distant commercial and industrial buildings. The canal then crosses Thomas Road and passes through more distant industrial infrastructure.
The trail/canal soon crosses under the 202 Red Mountain Freeway, but take the detour to the north (your right heading in this direction), which is a driveable road. The berm under the 202 is barely 6 feet high and not very comfortable to walk under. After the 202 are some farms with a lot of livestock visible from the canal, and then some citrus groves.
After the citrus groves is a rock quarry that’s pretty deep (CalPortland on GoogleMaps). The next mile is a large subdivision full of McMansions on the north side of the canal. Easily thousands of extremely large houses that stretch out for quite a ways. On the south side are also large and fancy-looking houses, but as they are much higher than the canal, all you can see are the ones right at the edge.
The trail then turns right off the berm and heads under McDowell Road. The tunnel under McDowell has some designs in the concrete and some very interesting bright colors, most of which are graffiti. Before you descend into the tunnel, on the south side of McDowell Road is Sheepherder’s Park in Mesa, which can be utilized as an unofficial trailhead for short sections of this trail.
Coming out of the tunnel, on your left, is a very large spillway that the canal flows across down to a lower elevation. The trail then continues for the next 2.7 miles, heading in a southwesterly direction. To the north are expansive views across the river valley, with Camelback Mountain prominent in the distance. To the south are more high money homes, which dwindled down to somewhat nicer, then more moderate homes. The farther you get, the denser the residential development becomes.
Just past the crossing with Horne Road is the Park of the Canals in Mesa, which is also designated as one of two official trailheads for this segment (the other being Granite Reef). This segment ends here, and the next segment that picks up is the East Valley segment. This entire segment also coincides with the same segment of the Sun Circle Trail.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.