Time for a little trail-side "bingo!"
Arizona is at its "postcard best" right now: The weather is kind, the mountains are beautiful, critters are afoot and wildflowers are exploding almost everywhere. If you miss the trails in April and early May, you'll regret it June through September.
"It really is perfect weather for hiking," Charles Liu says, "and there are so many trails, very close by, that are well worth exploring." Liu, a Gilbert resident and lifelong hiker, wrote "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles" ($16.95, Menasha Ridge Press), an exhaustive, informative account of local treasures and how to reach them. So, what's the best hike out there? Liu says it depends on you.
"Everyone has a different feel for hiking," he explains. "My favorite hike might be entirely wrong for you. People are at different skill levels. They're interested in different types of terrain. Some hike for exercise. Some hike to relax and clear their mind. Some want to check out scenery, and some just want a walk with friends."
"60 Hikes Within 60 Miles" breaks trails down thematically, so mountain junkies, dog lovers and amateur archaeologists can follow their own selective bliss. But the sheer variety of options can confound first-timers, who don't know where to start.
Which brings us back to "bingo!"
Try a few of the trails listed on the card, above. (Don't recognize a hike? See the box on page A15.) Connect any row, vertically or horizontally, and you'll get bingo. Miss by a square or two, and you'll still get hours of breathtaking scenery under a gentle sun, a good workout and a chestful of bracing, clean air. This bingo is a win-win.
All you have to do is get outside.
BOULDER CANYON TRAIL: East on U.S. 60 to Idaho Road; north on Idaho to Apache Trail (state Route 88); northeast on Apache Trail, 14 miles, to Canyon Lake Marina. (602) 230-2273 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/wilderness/wilderness-superstition-index.shtml.
QUARTZ PEAK TRAIL: West on Interstate 10 to Estrella Parkway Exit; south on Estrella Parkway, 8.3 miles, to Elliot Road; right on Elliot, 2.6 miles, to Rainbow Valley Road; left on Rainbow Valley, 9.3 miles, to Riggs Road; left on Riggs, 4 miles, to Bullard Avenue; right on Bullard, then an immediate left onto the dirt road under the telephone poles. Follow the dirt road 5.3 miles until it ends. Turn right at “Trail” sign, 1.9 miles, following under the power lines. Left at the next “Trail” sign, 1.9 miles, to the trail head. (Dirt roads may require high-clearance vehicle.) (623) 580-5500 or www.blm.gov/az/outrec/hiking/qpeak.htm.
BUTCHER JONES TRAIL: East on U.S. 60 to Power Road; north on Power, 20 miles, until it becomes the Bush Highway; turn is 1 mile past the Saguaro Lake Marina entrance. Right at the Butcher Jones turnoff. (480) 610-3300 or www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto/recreation/rec-hiking-index.shtml.