Park Itinerary


Maricopa County's regional park system attracts thousands of visitors each year. With over 120,000 acres in the park system, there is plenty to see and explore. However, sometimes visiting a new place can be a little overwhelming when you don’t know what’s available. To make sure your visit to the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area is a pleasant experience, we’ve pulled together a couple of basic itineraries to get you started on your journey.

I have this much time available              Here's what I can experience
1 - 2 hour visit:
  • During the cool season, enjoy a hike along the Metate/Towhee Trail loop. This hike takes you across the creek and back. The creek flows from about January through May in this part of the conservation area. At approximately one-mile, these trails are rated as easy in difficulty level and will take roughly one hour to hike.
  • Some say one of the most beautiful areas found near the conservation area is the Jewel of the Creek Preserve. If you have around two hours, enjoy a hike through the Jewel of the Creek Preserve and down along the newest trail in the Spur Cross system, the lower Dragonfly Trail. On this moderate 2-mile hike you will see a beautiful section of riparian habitat on Cave Creek. The creek flows year-round through this part of the conservation area. To access this trail, park in the Jewel of the Creek Preserve parking area.
  • Feeling a little more adventurous? Why not explore the Metate/Spur Cross Trail Loop? The Metate Trail is a short, but spectacular, trail that weaves through the mesquite bosque past the former site of the Spur Cross Dude Ranch, solar oasis and an outstanding bedrock metate. This loop hike is rated as easy in difficulty level and the hike should take about an hour and a half.
2-3 hour visit:
  • If you have between two and three hours to spend in the conservation area, the Tortuga/Spur Cross Trail Loop makes for a fun experience. The Spur Cross Trail follows along an old jeep road that winds through the pristine desert past ruins of the Spur Cross Ranch barn. Once on the Tortuga Trail, you are rewarded with panoramic views of the area. This loop is a little over 3-miles in length and is rated moderate in level of difficulty. The trails are for both hikers and equestrians so please remember that hikers yield to equestrians if you should cross paths.
  • Enjoy a hike along the Dragonfly/Spur Cross Trail Loop. This loop is approximately 3.5-miles in length and features some of the largest saguaros in the conservation area. Combined, these trails are approximately 3.5-miles long and are rated moderate in difficulty. To learn more about the area, attend one of the many Exploring the Dragonfly Trail guided hikes offered by the interpretive ranger - check event schedule for dates and times.
4-5 hour visit:
  • For those seeking a rigorous workout, the Elephant Mountain Loop, which is approximately 7-miles roundtrip, is just the trail! This trail weaves through the backcountry and past one of the premier archaeological sites in the conservation area, the Elephant Mountain Fortress. Hikers are strongly encouraged to bring at least one liter of water, hats and additional layers of clothing. This trail is rated extremely difficult and is NOT recommended for small children or pets as trail is rather primitive in spots.
  • The Spur Cross/252 Trail Loop is the perfect hike for those looking to explore various types of terrain in the park and Tonto National Forest. Upon reaching the 252 Trail (Limestone Trail), hikers will notice that the trails become rather rocky and lightly traveled as they follow the ridge and enjoy the spectacular views. The 252 Trail is rated extremely difficult and is not recommended for novice hikers, small children or pets.
Ranger Picks:
  • Join the Interpretive Ranger for one of the many Hohokam Houses - The Ruins of Spur Cross programs. This program features a 2.5-mile hike and introduces you to the rich archaeological history of the area. Along the trail you will see evidence of prehistoric Hohokam dwellings and learn about the Hohokam culture as you enjoy a trek up to a one of their mesa-top compounds.
  • The Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area is home to more than 25 species of dragonflies. How many can you identify? Join the Interpretive Ranger for one of the many exploration hikes in the conservation area and learn about the dragonflies, butterflies and aquatic insects that call this area home.
  • The conservation area is a different world when seen by the light of the moon. Join the interpretive ranger for one of the monthly Moonlight Hikes and don't forget to bring a flashlight!


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