San Tan Mountain Regional Park
ElevationAscent: 1,058' 323 m
Descent: -1,058' -323 m
High: 1,905' 581 m
Low: 1,577' 481 m
GradeAvg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 18% (10°)
Current trail conditions
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“After the initial climb, smooth flowing cross-country trails through lush Sonoran desert.”— C R John
A lot of older online trail reviews speak rather disdainfully of trails at San Tan because of all the sand. The key is to avoid the trails that are routed along the wash bottoms. As the park is popular with equestrians, a few trails have sustained sections in the washes. Trail maps are usually available at the trailheads indicating which trails to avoid, specifically Malpais and Rock Peak.
A little over halfway up, you'll be able to see across the valley to the west to San Tan Mountain, which is actually not part of the park. After cresting the summit, you descend past a set of signed switchbacks. There are some fun twists and turns as you pedal along in and out of some washes and eventually connect with San Tan Trail. At this intersection you can choose either direction. Taking a left making a clockwise loop makes for a great run down Hedgehog Trail; taking a right doing the loop counter-clockwise gives the best flow on Stargazer and Moonlight Trail. I tend go counter-clockwise most often, as it seems to put more of the sandy-bottomed wash crossings on the downhill, allowing my momentum to carry me through the sand.
Taking a right onto San Tan Trail, the first section is quite wide, as at times it is part of the park service vehicle access road. Once past the intersection with Moonlight Trail, San Tan Trail becomes a great flowy singletrack, with several small climbs and descents as you work your way south and the rocky Malpais Hills come into view. The flora becomes a more lush Sonoran desert as picturesque saguaro, mesquite, and creosote forests mingle with cholla, barrel, ocotillo, and hedgehog cacti.
You'll come to an intersection with Malpais Trail that looks inviting, but dont be tempted, as it will turn into a sandy-bottomed wash. (Apparently there are plans for adding a bike-friendly route along Malpais trail, while keeping the wash for the equestrians.) Continuing on you'll soon come to an intersection with Hedgehog Trail. Follow the bike tracks as they turn left and start a gentle climb up Hedgehog. There will be some fun twists as the trail follows the contour lines, offering some choice views behind you of Rock Peak, Yellow Peak, and Malpais Hills.
At the top of the hill, you can see down into San Tan Valley and the main park entrance. You can bomb down the rest of Hedgehog Trail, and then take a left heading north once you meet up with San Tan Trail again.
You'll only be on San Tan a short distance before you come to the cutoff for Stargazer Trail on your left. Dont let the sandy wash crossing at the start of Stargazer discourage you, but cross and continue a very gentle climb. The trail will level out and follow the hill contour on a ripping descent down to Moonlight trail. Taking a right and heading east on Moonlight is a very gentle downhill to the main entrance parking lot. Watch out for hikers and horses, particularly on any of the trails coming directly out from the main parking lot.
From the parking lot, take Little Leaf, Goldmine, and San Tan Trail to complete the loop back to the intersection with Dynamite. This section of trail is a little rockier and takes steeper angles through the washes. Re-trace your path back along the Dynamite Trail. Once you crest the top of the hill it is smooth sailing back to the Goldmine Trailhead parking lot, just be courteous to the hikers as this is another popular section on weekends.
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