Wind Cave Hiking Trail
★★★☆☆ Moderate / Phoenix Area:
A sky-high cave perches atop this desert trail and opens onto prime city views. Wind Cave Hiking Trail zig zags up Pass Mountain’s arid slopes to this shaded veranda. Here gentle breezes and epic panoramas reward those who nail the short, rocky climb. Views of bright green Saguaro, Ocotillo and Cholla peek up from below. While downtown Phoenix sparkles in the background.
TRAILHEAD: 3939 N Usery Pass Rd, Mesa • DIFFICULTY: MODERATE • DISTANCE: 1.5 MILES (3 miles RT) • APPROX. TIME: 1.5-2.5 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 800 FEET (57 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 450-510 RT • BEST TIME OF YEAR: OCT. – APRIL • PETS: Yes • KID FRIENDLY: 10 AND OLDER • FACILITIES: YES • FEES: $7 day use (or annual MARICOPA parks pass)
Pass Mountain’s bright-yellow-green band makes it a cinch to ID from miles around. Its wacky stripe results from a mutual attraction between the mountain’s exposed granite cliffs and the Lichen that grows there. Wind Cave is a cooly shaded hideaway tucked into the upper reaches of this neon expanse.
Starting on the desert floor, the Wind Cave Hiking Trail meanders up and down shallow arroyos before ascending the mountainside. Along the trail, ancient Saguaro and spindly Ocotillo point rigidly upwards towards the area’s neon-green stripe.
As the trail begins to climb, the Wind Cave Hiking Trail becomes progressively rockier. Under the full blaze of the sun, it zig zags upwards to where it meets, and then moves along the base of the sky-high cliffs. Here, the world is oddly green. Spiky Cholla push up between Lichen covered stones. And willowy Palo Verde branches crisscross the sky.
Shallow nooks and crannies poke into the soaring rock faces. Many are perfect to sit in and rest, or as a backdrop for a quick selfie. After traversing the base of a few cliffs the Wind Cave finally comes into view – a white canopy nestled atop the southernmost chartreuse tower.
From inside the Wind Cave lengthy views of Mesa and Phoenix span for miles ahead. A mild buzz is faintly audible, as the current generation of docile bees wiz in and out of the cave’s porous ceiling. Their work keeps them oblivious to the hikers hanging out in their penthouse suite, taking advantage of its perfect shade spectacular views.
Pass Mountain’s cliffs look a bit like someone dropped a huge bucket of neon-green paint. These dry “splatters” are really lichen: a form of algae considered to be one of earth’s oldest living things.The chartreuse surface uses photosynthesis to draw energy from Arizona’s bright sun.
Directions From North: From the east arm of AZ 101 take exit 51 onto the northern arm of AZ 202 (heading east towards Mesa). Drive 15.35 miles on AZ 202 to exit 24 / McKellips Road. Turn left / east on McKellips Road and continue for 2.25 miles to Usery Pass Road. Turn left / north onto Usery Pass Road and drive for 2.7 miles to the entrance for Usery Park, on the right. Once in park drive for approximately 0.5 miles to the labeled parking area for the Wind Cave Hiking Trail.
From South: From the intersection of I-10 and the southern arm of AZ 202, take AZ 202 for 27.2 miles (heading east towards Mesa). Take exit 27 / University Drive and continue 0.22 miles then merge onto Red Mountain Drive. Continue for 0.14 miles on Red Mountain Drive. Take the first right onto East University Drive. Drive 0.17 mile on East University Drive to North Ellsworth Road. Drive 5.3 miles on North Ellsworth Road (which becomes Usery Pass Road) to the Park Entrance. Once in park drive for approximately 0.5 miles to the labeled parking area for the Wind Cave Hiking Trail.
- Cave, Cliffs, Dayhike, Desert, Family Friendly, Moderate, Views
- November 7, 2015