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Hiking Arizona's Sonoran Desert: Exploring the Superstition Mountains

Program Number: 19723RJ
Start and End Dates:
1/24/2015 - 1/30/2015; 2/9/2015 - 2/15/2015; 2/21/2015 - 2/27/2015; 11/8/2015 - 11/14/2015;
Duration: 6 nights
Location: Mesa, Arizona
Price starting at: $897.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Walking/Hiking Activity Level: n (see description)
Meals: 17; 6 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 6 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Experience spectacular desert hiking during five days of exploration amid some of the most beautiful country in the Southwest. Trek through the south, north, and eastern sides of the Superstition Mountains while you make your way through the rugged, cactus-laden landscapes of the Superstition Wilderness, home of the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine and the mysterious Weaver’s Needle.




Highlights

• Spend five days hiking in the Sonoran Desert in the Superstition Wilderness area with wilderness experts.
• Explore facets of the varied geology, desert ecology and fascinating human history of the area as you cover its unique and varied terrain.
• Journey to the shores of Apache Lake and its resort on the north side where you spend two more days hiking in the Salt River Canyon.



Activity Particulars

Hike 5-10 miles on established trails and off-trail routes with uneven terrain, high steps, desert vegetation, rocky areas, some rock scrambling. Elevation changes up to 1,200 feet.



Itinerary Summary

Arrival Mesa/Phoenix, 3 nights; van to Superstition Mountains, 3 nights; return to starting hotel and/or Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for departures.



Coordinated by Northern Arizona University.




Superstition Mountains

This range of mountains is a hiking paradise virtually in the backyards of Phoenix residents. Located in the federally designated Superstition Wilderness Area, the mountains are crisscrossed by numerous hiking trails. On Superstition Mountain lies Lost Dutchman State Park, named for a miner who, legend has it, discovered a mother lode in the area.



Mesa

The Hohokam Indians settled what is now Mesa 2,000 years ago, constructing a canal system that exists to this day. Apaches, Spanish explorers and Mormon pioneers followed in the footsteps of the Hohokam. Currently, Mesa is the third-largest city in Arizona, and one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.



Accommodations
Mesa: Modern motel with swimming pool/spa; Superstition Mountains: Secluded motel with lake and mountain views from all rooms.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Mike Young

Mike Young has lived in Arizona for 40 years, and taught math and geology at Yavapai College prior to his work with Road Scholar. To convey the Arizona landscape, Mike uses a broad range of topics including botany, natural history and geomorphology. He has worked as a commercial boatman, designed and constructed his own home, and conducted field exercises throughout the intermountain west. He is an accomplished hike leader who challenges hikers of all skill levels.
 
Richard Stephens

Rich has been director of Northern Arizona University’s highly popular Road Scholar programs since 2001. He previously spent many years in the field as a program coordinator and group leader, where he honed his skills and learned the importance of detailed, pre-trip planning. Before making his home in Arizona’s spectacular red-rock country, Rich spent 10 years in Yosemite National Park and the Santa Cruz mountains as an environmental educator.
 
Mike Masek

Mike Masek is a wilderness skills instructor, herbalist and ethnobotanist living in Flagstaff, Ariz. In addition to his current work with Road Scholar, he is adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University where he teaches traditional uses of native plants and outdoor survival skills. He also teaches programs at the National Parks and Coconino Community College. He has spent a lifetime exploring the canyons and deserts of the American Southwest and loves to share these treasures with others.
 
Jeff Strang

Jeff Strang's knowledge of the environment stems from over 35 years of hiking, paddling, and photography in the outdoors, his extensive experience as a naturalist, as well as from his education at the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. In 1987, Jeff filed a precedent-setting lawsuit against Oregon polluters under the Clean Water Act. Jeff has been leading Road Scholar programs since 2002. In his free time, Jeff enjoys biking to work, hiking, kayaking, outdoor photography and studying geology.
 
Phil Rakoci

Naturalist and humorist Philip Rakoci has a passion and exuberance for all things prickly, pointy, venomous and desiccated. Arizona native "Wildman Phil" owns 120 live animals and passionately takes his "pets" on the road across the Southwest, explaining how vastly different animals' lives are interwoven and why desert animals are best adapted to eke a living from the parched land. He’ll occasionaly talk nonchalantly with an ornate tree lizard securely clamped to one of his earlobes while extolling the finer points of horned lizards, scorpions and rattlesnakes.
 
Meals and Lodgings
   Mesa West La Quinta Inn & Suites
  Mesa, AZ 3 nights
   Apache Lake Resort
  Superstition Mountains 3 nights
 Mesa West La Quinta Inn & Suites
Type: Hotel
  Description: Seven floor hotel close to restaurants, Fiesta Mall and golf courses.
  Contact info: 902 W Grove Ave
Mesa, AZ 85210-4930 USA
phone: 480-844-8747
web: www.lq.com
  Room amenities: Cable TV, individually controlled air conditioning, coffee maker, hair dryer, iron / board, alarm clock, free high speed internet access, dataport phones.
  Facility amenities: Outdoor pool, fitness center, local shuttle available, laundry services, continental breakfast, hot tub, free local calls.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: Seasonal Call hotel for rates in effect during your dates of stay.
  Check in time: 1:00 PM

 Apache Lake Resort
Type: Lodge
  Description: Beautiful remote and scenic lodging site overlooking Apache Lake in the heart of Salt River Canyon. Quick and easy access into the adjacent Superstition Mountains.
  Contact info: AZ 88 about 13 miles northeast of Tortilla Flat
Tortilla Flat, AZ 85290 USA
phone: 928-467-2511
web: www.apachelake.com
  Room amenities: Air conditioning; cable TV.
  Facility amenities: Lake swimming; restaurant; full-service marina.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Additional nights after: Call for rates Call for rates and availability, Apache Lake Marina and Resort (928) 467-2511.
  Check out time: 10:00 AM


Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Sponsored by Northern Arizona University. On site brief program registration in the hotel meeting area between 4:30-5:15 PM. You will be staying at Mesa West La Quinta Inn & Suites that night.
  End of Program:
Depart program from Apache Lake Resort after breakfast with a drop off at the Phoenix Airport by 10:30 AM followed by a stop at the starting hotel. You will be staying at Apache Lake Resort the night before.
  Required documents:
The Road Scholar Health & Safety Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Parking is free for the duration of the program.
Transportation
To Start of Program
  Location:  Mesa, AZ
  Nearest city or town:  Phoenix, AZ's downtown is 18 miles west.
  Nearest highway: Loop 202 (I-10) and I-60 border Mesa, access to I-17.
  Nearest airport:  Phoenix Sky Harbor Intl Airport is 12 miles west of Mesa.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Departures
Travel Details
 

Apache Lake Resort to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

 

To Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
NAU Road Scholar Vans
phone: 928-523-2359

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

Included in program costs
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

2 Hours to Phoenix Airport 

 

Distance:

 

70 miles to Phoenix Airport

   

NAU Road Scholar vans depart from Apache Lake Resort after breakfast with a drop off at the Phoenix Airport by 10:30 AM followed by a stop at the starting hotel.

 

Mesa, AZ to/from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

 

From Airport

 
 

Service:

 

Commercial Van/Shuttle
Super Shuttle
phone: 800-258-3826

 

Per Person/One Way:

 

Approx $19.00, Less with Road Scholar discount
Prices are subject to change.

 

Travel Time:

 

20 minutes 

 

Distance:

 

16 miles

   

After claiming your bags, Go to the outdoor curb marked "Shared Ride Van Service". Look for a "Super Shuttle" sign or representative who is stationed at each terminal. They will direct you to the appropriate van to get on. $19/person/one way. No advance reservation required from Airport to La Quinta. Reservation required 24 hours in advance for La Quinta to airport. Cash or credit card only to hotel; Credit card in advance to airport. Road Scholar Discount (code "E3BBF") available if you prepay.

 
Driving Directions
  Mesa, AZ La Quinta West from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Exit north from the Sky Harbor Airport to Loop 202 east. Continue on loop 202 to exit 9, junction with loop 101 south. Continue south a little over 2 miles to US 60 junction, east (Globe). Once on US 60, quickly take exit 178 on Alma School Rd. Turn left at the light and merge into the right lane. Continue for less than half a mile and turn right at the traffic signal at Grove Ave. La Quinta is on your left in one block.
Elevation Note: 4,500 to 5,000 feet first 4 days; under 3,500 feet next 2 days.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.


Daily Schedule

Day 1: Orientation and Introductions
(Monday, February 9)
   
 Afternoon: Participants check in to La Quinta Mesa West after 3:00 PM. Program registration in hotel meeting room anytime between 4:30-5:15 PM.
 Dinner: Dinner at a nearby restaurant.
 Evening: Introductions and orientation in the motel meeting room following dinner. This program is Activity Level "Challenging". Come prepared to hike with proper equipment and in good physical shape through regular aerobic exercise. Hikes will be on both established trails and “off trail” routes with uneven terrain, high steps, desert vegetation and rocky areas. Hikes are usually conducted as one group with a hike leader and a sweep. See the Daily Schedule for more detailed information. NOTE: Each day's destination is dependent on the current weather and/or road conditions and/or participants abilities, and may change to other days of the week or alternative destinations.
   
Accommodations: Mesa West La Quinta Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: Hike in the Superstition Mountains/ Evening program on the area.
(Tuesday, February 10)

Note: 7.4 miles loop with 1020 feet of elevation gain.



   
 Breakfast: Enjoy a continental breakfast at the hotel including waffles, hot and cold cereal, bread and muffins, fresh fruit, all-you-can-drink coffee and juice, milk, hard boiled eggs, oatmeal, and yogurt.
 Morning: Each day's destination is dependent on the current weather and/or road conditions and/or participants abilities, and may change to other days of the week or alternative destinations. Typical hiking distances are 6-10 miles with 600-1500 feet of elevation change. Pass Mountain Trail: We start off the week with a hike outside of the Superstition Mountains at the Usery Mountain Regional Park on the outskirts of town. The Pass Mountain Trail provides a good introduction to the Sonoran Desert and great views of the Superstitions in the distance. This trail is a 7.4 miles loop with 1020 feet of elevation gain. You'll see a variety of plants adapted to desert conditions including the stately Saguaro cactus, chainfruit and teddy bear cholla cacti, Palo Verde trees and seasonal wild flowers.
 Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.
 Afternoon: Continue hike, return to the La Quinta in late afternoon.
 Dinner: Dinner at a nearby restaurant.
 Evening: Evening program on the Geology, Human History or Natural History of the Superstition Mountains and the surrounding area.
   
Accommodations: Mesa West La Quinta Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Hiking in the Sonoran Desert in the Southern Superstition Mountains.
(Wednesday, February 11)

Note: 6 miles and 1400 feet.



   
 Breakfast: Enjoy a breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: Peralta Cave Trail Loop: The trail starts out in the relatively lush riparian foliage along the wash. As you climb towards Fremont Saddle out of the wash, the vegetation thins and become more desert like, with a lot of bare rock. The view of Weaver's Needle from the Saddle is good, but with a short walk out the Weavers Needle Overlook Ridge the view gets even better with views down into the labyrinth of needles guarding the needle. The hike returns on the Cave Trail for 6 miles and 1400 feet. This off the beaten track route takes us down a ridgeline with magnificent views past brilliantly colored lichen on walls of volcanic tuff and some steep sections where you will learn to trust your boots. NOTE: Each day's destination is dependent on the current weather and/or road conditions and/or participants abilities, and may change to other days of the week or alternative destinations.
 Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.
 Afternoon: Continue hike, return to the hotel in late afternoon.
 Dinner: Dinner at a nearby restaurant.
 Evening: Evening program on the Geology, Human History or Natural History of the Superstition Mountains and the surrounding area.
   
Accommodations: Mesa West La Quinta Inn & Suites
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Hike Hieroglyphics Trail in the southern Superstition Mountains/Drive to the Apache Lake Resort
(Thursday, February 12)

Note: 3 miles and about 600 feet.



   
 Breakfast: Enjoy a breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: Hieroglyphics Trail After Breakfast, pack up. Load luggage into the vans, then we depart for an easier hike. Hieroglyphics Trail starts out in fields of Saguaro Cacti, Jumping Cholla Cacti, Palo Verde, Creosote, and other desert plants. The trail climbs to Hieroglyphics Canyon, and follows the drainage up to the rock art which is more accurately called petroglyphs. The hike is about 3 miles round trip with about 600 feet in elevation. Then we are off for the exciting ride to the Apache Lake Resort. NOTE: Each day's destination is dependent on the current weather and/or road conditions and/or participants abilities, and may change to other days of the week or alternative destinations.
 Lunch: Sack lunches along the way.
 Afternoon: After lunch, continue our hike and check in to Apache Lake Resort.
 Dinner: Dinner at Apache Lake Resort
 Evening: Free Evening.
   
Accommodations: Apache Lake Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Hiking in the Sonoran Desert in the northern Superstition Mountains.
(Friday, February 13)

Note: 7.5 miles and 1600 vertical feet.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at Apache Lake Resort
 Morning: First Water Trailhead/Canyon Lake Trailhead Keypass Hike: Today, half the group parks at each trailhead and hikes towards the other, trading keys in the middle. From the First Water Trailhead, we hike towards Garden Valley starting in a usually dry wash, leading to a mesquite and chainfruit cholla "forest". Near the trail you will see Ruins of an ancient house with pot sherds and stone metates used for grinding corn. As the trail descends down to Boulder Canyon, it is steeper but still fairly easy. From the Canyon Lake trailhead we climb up a hill with views of the Canyon Lake area, levels off for a while, then descends down into the Boulder Canyon drainage. Somewhere near the Indian Paint Mine, where they extracted red lay for paints and pottery, you’ll meet the other half and trade van keys. NOTE: Each day's destination is dependent on the current weather and/or road conditions and/or participants abilities, and may change to other days of the week or alternative destinations.
 Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.
 Afternoon: Continue hike, returning to hotel in mid to late afternoon.
 Dinner: Dinner at Apache Lake Resort
 Evening: Evening program on desert wildlife, or another program of interest.
   
Accommodations: Apache Lake Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Hiking in the Sonoran Desert in the northern Superstition Mountains.
(Saturday, February 14)

Note: Windy Pass is a hike of 12 miles and 1500 vertical feet, while turning around at the shoulder is 9 miles and 1000 vertical feet.



   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at Apache Lake Resort.
 Morning: Reavis Mountain Trail: Today's hike starts with a spectacular view above Apache Lake, It begins its ascent on a moderately graded former road bed through grassy rolling hills towards Castle Dome. The trail is mostly smooth but an occasional Rocky section keeps you on your toes. After a rest below Castle Dome We go around the north side to Windy Pass. Windy Pass is a hike of 12 miles and 1500 vertical feet, while turning around at the shoulder is 9 miles and 1000 vertical feet. NOTE: Each day's destination is dependent on the current weather and/or road conditions and/or participants abilities, and may change to other days of the week or alternative destinations.
 Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.
 Afternoon: Continue hike, returning to hotel in mid to late afternoon.
 Dinner: Dinner at Apache Lake Resort.
 Evening: Program wrap-up and farewells.
   
Accommodations: Apache Lake Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Depart to Phoenix Airport and starting hotel for program conclusion
(Sunday, February 15)
   
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the Apache Lake Resort.
 Morning: NAU Road Scholar vans depart from Apache Lake Resort after breakfast with a drop off at the Phoenix Airport by 10:30 AM followed by a stop at the starting hotel.
   
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
 
  Mesa, AZ Botanical gardens
Boyce Thompson Arboretum The Boyce Thompson Arboretum brings together plants from the Earth's many and varied deserts and dry lands. Approximately 3,200 different desert plants can be found within the arboretum, and most of them can be seen along the 1.5 mile main trail. During wildflower season, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is especially beautiful, displaying all the wonderful colors of the desert. Are you a bird lover? More than 250 species of birds have been recorded at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Desert Botanical Garden The Desert Botanical Garden has one of the world’s finest collections of desert plants. It is one of only 44 botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums. At the Desert Botanical Garden you will find 50 acres of beautiful outdoor exhibits. Home to 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species from around the world, there is no finer place to enjoy desert beauty than the Desert Botanical Garden. The Garden is located in Papago Park in Central Phoenix.
  Golfing
With so many golf courses to choose from, the best bet for information and bookings is to go to: teetimes@azcentral.com or: golfnow.com
  Heard Museum
Heard Museum** Every major city, and most minor ones, have museums. The Heard Museum is unique, however, not only in the exhibits that are displayed, but the style and grace with which it displays them. I never tire of visiting the Heard Museum, with its more than 32,000 pieces of cultural and fine art. There are permanent exhibits, like the famous Barry Goldwater collection of Kachina Dolls, as well as special exhibit year-round.
  Scottsdale Fashion Square
Scottsdale is known for many things, and shopping is one of them. A list like this would not be complete without a recommendation for a shopping destination. There are newer malls in the greater Phoenix area, but none are as appealing as Scottsdale Fashion Square. In a city that's not known for haute couture, you'll be able to satisfy that urge here. When the rich and famous, locals and visitors, need an upscale mall, this is where they go!
  South Mountain Regional Park
South Mountain Park At over 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve often is considered the largest municipal park in the country. There are more than 50 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking. Dobbins Lookout, at 2,330 feet, is the highest point in the park accessible by trail. If you aren't into hiking, biking or riding, you can simply drive to Dobbins Point to get a fantastic view of the Valley of the Sun. It's just over 5 miles from Central Avenue to Dobbins Lookout.
  Taliessen West
A few miles northeast of Scottsdale, Arizona there is a living memorial to a great American architect. Nestled in the foothills of the rugged McDowell Mountains and surrounded by the spectacular Sonoran Desert lays a sprawling 600-acre complex called Taliesin West. It was designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Taliesin West today houses The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, The Frank Lloyd Wright Memorial Foundation, and The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. The Taliesin Association of Artists, a group of architects dedicated to the spirit of the founder, is also onsite at Taliesin West. To get the full impact and understanding of the project and the man, I recommend you take the tour.
  art walk
Scottsdale Art Walk** There are more than 100 art galleries in Scottsdale. You can enjoy Scottsdale ArtWalks every Thursday evening, year-round (except Thanksgiving) from 7 - 9 p.m. Each week, Scottsdale Gallery Association members host special exhibits - many with artist receptions - and join together for an informal come-and-go “open house” throughout the district.
  Scottsdale, AZ Taliesin West
Frank Lloyd Wright began building this desert masterpiece in 1937 as his personal winter home, studio, and architectural campus. Located on the beautiful Sonoran desert in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale, the site offers a broad range of guided public tours. Visitors experience firsthand Wright’s brilliant ability to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces. For additional information, visit www.franklloydwright.org
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List


A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert


Author: Patricia Wentworth Comus (Editor)


Description: "Once in a generation, a guide to understanding a major North American landscape comes along. This book is such a touchstone, sure to become a classic. The emphasis here is on biodiversity, mutualism, co-evolution, and, especially, ethno-relationships—the long history of connection between desert peoples and their homeland, on both sides of the border.



Arizona: A Cavalcade of History


Author: Trimble, Marshall


Description: During America's first 100 years as a nation, pioneers moved ever-westward to new frontiers. When it became too crowded or the soil was mined out, they moved on to virgin land. Those days are gone forever. We have to learn to live with the problems we create. The knowledge gained from studying the mistakes of the past can help provide a better future. Will Rogers said it best: "The Indians never got lost because they were always looking back to see where they'd been." 368pp



Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water


Author: Reisner, Marc


Description: The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecologic and economic disaster. In Cadillac Desert Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city's growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the competition to transform the West. Based on more than a decade of research, Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic, intriguing history of the creation of an Eden--and Eden that may be only a mirage. 608pp



The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons


Author: Powell, John Wesley


Description: Full text of Powell's 1,000-mile expedition down the fabled Colorado in 1869. Superb account of terrain, geology, vegetation, Indians, famine, mutiny, treacherous rapids, mighty canyons. 240 illustrations. 432pp



The Southwest


Author: Lavender, David


Description: A historical and cultural overview, including discussions of present-day racial, conservation, and economic problems. Easy reading, fascinating history. 364pp





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