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Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks, AZ

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Guide 241 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NW
3.7 of 5 by 60
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 7.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,615 feet
Elevation Gain 1,410 feet
Avg Time One Way 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 12.1
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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26  2019-05-20
Ford Canyon-Willows Canyon- Mesquite Loop
15  2019-02-24
Barry Goldwater Peak-Ford Cyn-Willow Spring
12  2019-02-02
Ford -Willow - Mesquite Loop
12  2019-02-02
Ford - Willow - Mesquite Loop & Waterfall
5  2019-01-16
Gray Fox Trail - White Tanks
14  2018-12-15
Mesquite Canyon - Waddell - Ford Canyon Loop
16  2018-12-09 aliqat
9  2018-11-23
Mesquite Canyon - Waddell - Ford Canyon Loop
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Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:18am - 6:27pm
Official Route
28 Alternative
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Triple Zoner
by joebartels

Page data reflects the entire trail from the horse staging area all the way to the Goat Trail. Few if any do this full stretch, adjust your distance accordingly when posting triplogs.

Here's a trail with many options. This summary reflects a one way 4.5mi/1140AEG trek. Starting at the middle Waddell Trailhead, looping counter clockwise to the junction with Mesquite Trail. See the map below for a better understanding. Choose one of the following options. Most hike 2.5 miles to the white granite slabs. Others loop back on the Mesquite Trail for a 7.7 mile journey. Any trek along this trail on a 70 degree day would be enjoyable.

From the Waddell trailhead you'll soon be heading north. To the left a good size mountain looms close. It's a good landmark to remember for those taking on the 7.7 mile loop. A big wash is crossed before the junction with Ford Canyon Trail. The first mile of the Ford Canyon Trail takes you through a beautiful stretch of desert. The trail makes it's way, dodging cacti along the way. If by chance, you get bored with the beautiful desert scenery, an ascent helps change the pace. As I hadn't read anything about the trail, my eyes searched for everything. I caught a glimpse, in the distance, of a dry waterfall. That became the drive. What was it all about? Did it come close to the trail? How tall was it? Surprisingly the trail came closer than expected. Only to turn and climb to the real gem of this trail. The canyon stream bed turns to white granite slabs. It's really white. Having hiked other trails in the White Tanks since, it's now apparent how the name came about. I could only imagine a summer swim in one of the many pools. I'm sure this is a very popular, day after monsoon rain, summer hike.

Not usually like myself, I forged on."The trail leaves the stream bed just after the 3 mile mark." A sign on the left bank leads you out and up. The trail switchbacks up the canyon slope. Your heading towards a saddle with Willow Canyon. The vegetation, now in a third stage, is light desert terrain. Surrounded completely by mountains, this is a very peaceful area. I nearly jumped (okay, I jumped) when two bucks or whatever they are ran by me. Ocotillos greet you coming to the first saddle. Cross over the saddle and now your looking into Willow Canyon. Radio towers can be seen in the distance. The trail goes down to the Mesquite Trail junction. The Ford Canyon Trail actually goes about another mile where it hooks up with the Goat Camp Trail. You could make this into one huge loop with the Goat Camp Trail. If you do, consider a short side trip to Willow Springs.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2001-02-02 joebartels
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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 of 53 deeper Triplog Reviews
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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Parked at Area 9 one of the Ford Canyon Trailheads. This was our third mini hike today with my friend who didn't want to hike "too many miles"

We headed out via Ford Cyn Trail then took a left onto Ironwood then followed it out to Gray Fox Trailhead, retraced our steps back up Gray Fox to Ironwood completing the Ironwood loop with Ford Cyn Trl.

This would be a really fun and easy mountain bike loop.
We saw Cali poppies all over. Such a perfect day for a little walk.
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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Willow Ford Loop
Adding to my list of all-time uniques, I made my first ever visit to White Tank Mountain Regional Park (the west side's very own South Mountain! :y: )

Quite a bit of diverse stuff out here, from very intriguing canyons to large swaths of drab boredom. I made good time which allowed me to hit up the Waterfall trail before the "no excuses" entrance gate closure at exactly 8pm. I feel that darkness is an excellent time to see this desert spectacle, especially when in it's naturally dry state.

Got to see all the 2018 wildflowers. Pretty sure it's prime peak right now.

I was pleasantly surprised on this trip, and it seems to have earned a return visit sometime.

* "substantial" as measured relative to the 2018 spring wildflower season.
Compared to a normal season somewhere between "none" and "isolated" ;)
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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This is a combination of the Ford Canyon Trail and Mesquite Trail in the Whitetanks Mountain Park. I hiked the trail counterclockwise going out on Ford Canyon trail then returning via the Mesquite trail. I have to say I was quite surprised by the trail. I thought it would be a straight-forward mountain loop of moderate difficulty, but turned out to be much more challenging with the boulder hoping and step inclines along Ford Canyon. Turned into a very nice hike. One other thing I noticed is for the most part the park visitors don't travel out on the trails very far. Maybe about 2-ish miles or so. After that, it was pretty much solitude out on the trail. Nice.
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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Ford Willow Loop
enjoyable hike in the white tanks with linda
this loop was plan b but turned out to be a good choice given weather conditions
haven't been out here in three years :o
waddell :next: ford canyon :next: willow canyon :next: mesquite
light rain for much of the hike, making the rocks in ford canyon a little slick
a few good pools of water in this section
a few mosquitos, too
chose willow canyon trail to check out the spring area
found a nasty pool with nothing flowing into it
finished the loop on mesquite
didn't quite hit double digits, so we drove over to hike a short loop that included ironwood trail as neither of us had done it
the sun was just starting to break out as we finished
good day for it if you don't mind a little rain
thanks for the idea and for driving, linda :)
nice to get back out that way
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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This was my first time to the White Tanks and I must say I came away pretty impressed. I was looking for a little end of the week hike to take advantage of the cooler afternoon, blow off some week day steam and get the dogs some exercise. I was expecting something more on the lines of South Mountain, or the preserve and instead we got a rather pleasant hike with ample water, wildflowers, varied scenery and great trails.

Ford Canyon was a great trail to kick off my first experiences in the White Tanks. After only a few miles in, we started to encounter water in the bedrock of the canyon and this continued for most of the hike through Ford. The couple mile stretch along the bedrock through Ford proved to be kind of fun and the dogs were happy with the ample and sometimes deep pools of water. Jackie was "seeing" glphys everywhere and we examined a few of her leads, but they all turned out to be duds, until she did spot a faint set right in the creek bed. The flowers through Ford were great as well and only got better and more varied as we climbed out. We ran into a couple at about five miles in and they asked if we were staying a night out there, because they said they never ran into anyone out that far, which made me kind of chuckle, as we were only completing a nine mile loop and I certainly did not think we were in what would qualify as the White Tanks "backcountry."

From Ford, it was on to Willow Canyon, which was a nice little area as well. We stopped at the spring briefly for the pups and then continued on to the intersection with Mesquite. This portion of the hike ended up being gold, as we got to enjoy the vibrant yellow of the brittle brush mixed in with some nice lighting, big clouds and a great sunset. Head lamp time for most of Mesquite Trail, a pretty quick downhill and then a quick hike across the well manicured trail and wide path back to where we began our loop at Waddell Trailhead.

I don't know if I will start planning weekend hiking around the White Tanks, but this hike certainly exceeded my expectations and beats most of the urban hikes near town. In terms of desert hiking, the White Tanks probably represent some of the nicer classic desert hiking within an hour of Phoenix in my opinion and now is a great time to hit this area.

I would say substantial, but I have heard brittle brush does not count as wildflowers and I don't want to offend the wildflower guild...
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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Sometimes you can't sleepy and borrow your sisters car to go somewhere pretty.
Parked in number 7 and headed up Mesquite Cyn trail pretty quick.
Saw a familiar junction and ended up bagging Barry Goldwater, I'm okay with that.
Went "down the other side" ran into 3 big puppies off leash so I went back the way I came to avoid the owners who I assume weren't far behind.
Back to Goat Camp jct then up Ford to make a loop out of it, came upon Waddell and opted to take that back to the parking lot.

Well. That was fun. Lots of birds out, redtails, a bat in the parking lot when I got there. Saw some fat quails, are they even supposed to be out when it's this cold?

Which by the way today was surprisingly warm. For January...

Fun loop, think I miss a trail connection in my links but forgot what it was
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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Took Austin & Paige on their first backpacking trip. Wanted to make if fairly easy so just went out to White Tanks and went up Ford Trail. Crazy how much the desert has greened up with last weekends rains. Made it out to a good spot, set up camp, cooked dinner, then the rain and wind came down hard. Rained pretty good most of the night. Even though it was bad weather, then had a great time so it was a win, plus they learned how to camp in bad weather.
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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This is a great hike for dogs and Rowdy loved it.
We did run into two large groups early on and they only hike to the danger sign and turned back.
The weather was just perfect and Rowdy love the cloud cover and the cooler temps as I did as well. Once we started up the Ford Canyon we only seen one group of four hikers and that was it for the rest of the hike :y:.
There is water in pools on all three canyons but no running water.
The hike was pretty nice and pleasant but lacked wildlife along the way. At least until we hit Mesquite when I was surprise as two deer ran right in front of me and head down to the bottom of the canyon. I got a few pics and was hoping to see more and I did. As I was walking along the trail I looked up the mountain and was surprised. First there were three then four and then eight and the numbers grew.
Just a great hike on a great day and I need to get out here more often.
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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Rick says lets go for a Hike ---- OK where ?? He says I'm thinking White Tanks Wednesday --- oh my !!! :o Must mean only one thing in that area to draw him over to that part of the Valley ---- :-k Firewood, he lives in AJ so they have no burning restrictions. Lindaagm gave me the tip and Widowmaker the route so I was ok with this idea :y: I think this is a go back area this fall and take Roger and Rick and do the big loop including Goat Camp :DANCE: Roger was all huddled up in his room due to heavy rain and lighting today, told him we were hiking over in White Tanks and was dry and Hot .. not knowing he asked if it was just hot or exciting hot ---- Well we just had a Cowgirl pass us ( see Rick's TL ) I told him Excitingly Hot, [-X made going up Ford seem a little easier :sorrry: I enjoyed the White Tanks and will be worth going back, enough variety of Trails to satisfy any level of experience !!
Ford Canyon Trail - White Tanks
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Willow-Ford Canyon Loop
I remembered liking this loop and my wife and out-of-town oldest son came along. I'd forgotten all the slick rock and "scrambling" there is in Ford Canyon but it's a lot of fun and we saw several 5 year-olds handling it with no problem.

When we eventually got to a section where keeping dry looked difficult I happened to notice someone 50' above us. "Is the trail up there?"..."Yep".

We walked the loop clockwise. Saw 6 deer a little below the intersection with the Ford Trail. Nice day out.

Permit $$
Maricopa Regional Parks - Fees more info

$7 per vehicle,$85 annual or trade your first born for the life pass

$2 walk, bike or horse ride into park

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From the 303 & Olive go west on Olive 4.5 miles to the park entrance. Olive turns into White Tank Mountain Rd. Continue 2.1 miles, turn right and it's 250 feet to to the Mesquite/Ford Trailhead

You get a map when you pay your entrance fee so that should help you figure it out if you have any concerns.
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