Estrella Mountain Regional Park is seldom talked about when mentioning outdoor areas in the Phoenix Valley. Few people seem to know of its existence. While it may not have the highlights of the Superstitions or the great views of the McDowell Mountains, it is certainly worth a trek for anyone who enjoys a good hike. The desert here is in pristine condition. No development has marred its surface. It is in the same condition now as it was when the Hohokam Indians inhibited the area 1,000 years ago. The park itself is fairly small, roughly about 120,000 acres. It does contain around 40 miles of hiking trails with an additional 15 for competitive mountain biking tracks. While a little confusing, the park does not actually contain the Estrella Mountains for which it is named. Those are located to the South and are mostly inaccessible due to their location on Native American land and having no maintained access roads.
However, Estrella Mountain Regional Park is easily accessible and its trails are well maintained. In addition to the park’s trails, it also contains a small nature center, several ramadas and picnic areas, and an arena for rodeo events. After paying the park entrance fee, I parked in the gravel lot at the rodeo arena and set out on the trail. I decided on a moderate 8 mile loop using the Butterfield, Gadsden, and Toothaker trails. For being in the foothills, the trails were mostly flat. Any incline or decline was modest and it made for some great trail running. The hardest parts were the dry ravines filled with deep sand. Anyone who’s walked in sand knows how this can be difficult! After getting around the small hills in the beginning, I was rewarded with some great views of the Estrella Mountains. Standing at 4,500 feet, these are among the tallest in the valley. They certainly looked formidable. Continuing on my loop, the trail approached the larger mountains for a time before abruptly turning West. I enjoyed the desert scenery. It is always beautiful this time of the year. The Palo Verde are blooming, turning a bright color yellow, while smaller cacti bloom flowers of red and purple. Even the saguaro are beginning to flower! I finished up my loop and made it back to the car my mid-afternoon. It was a beautiful day to be outside and I was glad I found another area of the valley to enjoy.
For hikers and trail runners alike, Estrella Mountain Regional Park is a quick and easy day trip and a great way to enjoy an afternoon in solitude.
How to get there:
The park is located in Goodyear. Take I-10 West of downtown Phoenix. Get off on Exit 126, Estrella Parkway. Head South (aka turn left) and continue for a few miles to Vineyard Ave. By then you will see signs for Estrella Mountain Regional Park.
It costs $6/car to get into the park. If you are close enough to walk or bike, the cost is reduced to $2/person.
While they do give you one at the entrance, you can also print off your own here.