Usery Mountain Regional Park: Beautiful Cacti & Mountain Views in Mesa
Usery Mountain is a gorgeous option for your scenic Phoenix hiking adventure. Whether you are looking to get in a light morning walk, an intense hill workout, or an all out cardio workout, you’ll find plenty of fantastic options at Usery Mountain. When traveling to the Phoenix metro area, you have your choice amongst hundreds of miles of quality trails. Usery Mountain in Mesa is a nice option as it is located within easy driving distance to the majority of the Phoenix metro area.
Desert beauty at its’ finest
The beautiful desert landscapes are spectacular enough to warrant the small $7 per car entry fee. No matter which hiking trail you choose, you will get an up close view of the many varieties of cacti that make up the gorgeous Sonoran desert, including views of the Saguaro, which happens to be the largest in the world. You will notice that there are no shortage of Saguaro cacti at Usery mountain.
Pictured below is a side by side view of what it looks like to stand next to a Saguaro. Some of these incredible plants are 40-60 feet tall!
Also seen along the way are the Prickly Pear cactus and many other attractive species of cacti.
The mountain views are also terrific, especially those of the Phoenix mountain. Along the trails you will have many opportunities to take beautiful photos.
The Merkle Trail – Short & Scenic
One particularly scenic trail with great views of both the mountains, in addition to numerous opportunities for cactus photography, is the Merkle trail. This just shy of a mile 0.9 mile loop is perfect for those limited on time and/or seeking a short summer hike before the intense afternoon 100+ degree heat rolls in. It should not take more than 30 minutes or so to complete this easy, flat yet very scenic, hike.
Aside from the amazing scenery, the Usery Mountain area is incredibly peaceful. It’s quite a solitary experience for the nature enthusiast. You may see a handful of hikers during the early morning hours, but never enough that it feels busy. However, if you visit early enough you may just luck out and see some wildlife!
Keep your distance from the cacti!
Be sure to stay on the trail as you can very easily get stung if you venture too close to the cactuses. Unfortunately, they can also blow over and stick to your shoes on a windy day. After having the very unpleasant experience of being stung by a cactus, I recommend dressing appropriately and not rubbing your feet against your legs just in case anything is stuck to your gym shoes. Getting stung by a cactus and having to pull the needles out leads to a pretty intense pain for much of the day – trust me!
Summer hiking safety
Hiking in the summer months is not a good idea. It’s best to save all hiking for the cooler months. If you do venture out, keep it short, stay hydrated, and hike before the sun reaches full intensity. The picturesque desert scenery combined with the short distance & flat terrain make the Merkle trail the perfect choice for the hotter seasons.
Take advantage of the quiet summer season and get out there early (5am-7am) for a beautiful hike through Arizona’s one and only Sonoran desert. Enjoy the views and be sure to get your picture standing next to the amazing Saguaro cactus: the ultimate free souvenir!
Usery Mountain is conveniently located in Mesa, an easy drive from anywhere in the Phoenix metro area.
Be sure to keep the following tips in mind before venturing out on your hike.
*Drink lots of water on any hike, even those that are short in distance. In Arizona’s extremely dry climate, you will need to drink much more water that you are accustomed to especially when engaging in any type of physical activity. Bring extra water bottles in a backpack or wear a camel bakpack to ensure you are staying properly hydrated.
*Pick up a trail map at the Visitor’s center. Inside you will find a ranking guide for each trail including the difficulty level and total distance of the hike.
*Pack snacks and extra water for longer hikes.
*Wear proper footwear – gym shoes, not sandals. Even if it’s hot outside and sandals feel more comfortable, it’s much safer to wear gym shoes.
*Plan a sunrise or sunset hike for the coolest temperatures and to increase your chances of seeing wildlife. As always, view wildlife from a safe distance and take caution with any snakes seen on the trail.
Have you ever hiked at Usery Mountain? What are some of your favorite hikes in the Phoenix area?