San Tan Mountain Regional Park, AZ

This is the final article in a 5-part series on Maricopa County Regional Parks.

San Tan Mountain Regional Park, one of ten Maricopa County Regional Parks, consists of 10,200 acres in the southeast Valley.

Located in the Southeast Valley (of the Sun), San Tan Mountain Regional Park is a hikers' delight. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located just south of the Maricopa/Pinal County line near the Town of Queen Creek, the San Tan Mountain Regional Park has been used for decades for various recreation activities such as hiking, equestrian riding, and wildlife photography. The park is rich with unique historical, cultural, and biological resources.

This oasis of natural beauty is characterized by dramatic cliffs and rugged hills, meandering washes, and rolling bajada; and ranges in elevation from about 1,400 feet to over 2,500 feet.

Goldmine Mountain dominates the northern section of the park, and a spectacular San Tan Mountain escarpment cuts across the southwestern corner.

The vegetation changes from creosote flats to dense saguaro forest. In places, chain-fruit cholla stands higher than your head. Elsewhere, clumps of teddy bear cholla glow in the sunlight, looking almost soft enough to pet. (But don’t try it.)

Since the park is relatively undeveloped, your chances of seeing wildlife are good. Along with a variety of birds and lizards, you may spot chipmunks, rabbits, coyotes, and a snake or two.

The newly developed San Tan Mountain Regional Park is a great place for a picnic. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This park is actually in Pinal County but is under the jurisdiction of Maricopa County Parks because Pinal County has not had the population to provide a tax base for park improvements. For many years this park area has had many horse trails, jeep roads, and unimproved trail routes.

The park lies just northeast of the large Gila Indian reservation. Much of the western area of the San Tan mountains is in the reservation and permission is required to hike in that area. However the actual park area has been set aside for future development.

Due to the two county involvement and the lack of funds (not surprising), delays in the planning and park work have slowed its development.

The history of the area is really the Gila Indians area before this was designated as a city park.

San Tan Mountain Regional Park has a Visitor’s Center. Here visitors can pick up information about the park, purchase souvenir items, visit with park staff, and see the wildlife exhibits or tortoise habitat.

Restroom facilities are available.

The park is slated for future development.

For San Tan Mountain Regional Park map, chick here.

Hiking
With about 45 miles of trail throughout the park, there are plenty of options, including trails that are less than three years old. The San Tan, Goldmine, and Moonlight trails opened in mid-2007; each is about 4 miles long. Winding south, the San Tan Trail offers a gentle walk as you travel gradually higher. After winding southwest past views of the San Tan Mountains, you’ll spot Camelback Mountain to the north and may catch a silhouette of downtown Phoenix.

Ample hiking trails amid the desert flora at San Tan Mountain. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another visitor favorite is the Malpais Hills Trail as it displays a unique perspective of Rock Peak and the Malpais Hills.

For a little more of a challenge, hike the Goldmine Trail along the lowest flanks of Goldmine Mountain. The up-and-down trail connects with Moonlight and San Tan trails after about 2.5 miles. From this point Moonlight Trail which takes you east about 1.2 miles to the trailhead for a 3.7-mile loop.

All trails are multi-use unless otherwise designated.

Always remember to carry plenty of water and let someone know where you are going.

For San Tan Mountain Regional Park trail map, click here.

Camping is prohibited. San Tan Mountain Regional Park is Day Use only.

Location and directions
6533 West Phillips Road, Queen Creek Arizona 85242

From Mesa travel south on Ellsworth Road, which eventually turns into the Hunt Highway going East. Take the Hunt Highway, turning right onto Thompson Road. From Thompson Road, turn left on Phillips Road and park in the designated parking area. The turn-offs to Thompson Road and Phillips Road are both signed for the San Tan Mountain Regional Park.

From Florence/Coolidge take Hunt Highway north, turning left onto Thompson Road From Thompson Road, turn left on Phillips Road and park in the designated parking area.

For map, click here.

Worth Pondering…
North America is laced with nooks and crannies, good places that go undiscovered by many mainstream travelers.

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