Steep, rugged, challenging trails in remote terrain have their place, but plenty of hikers prefer paths that are short, flat, easy, nearby, and still rich in natural desert beauty.
A new network of trails at Arthur Pack Regional Park northwest of Tucson fills that bill beautifully.
Eleven trails, totaling about five miles, take walkers, cyclists and horseback riders through classic Sonoran Desert terrain where cactus flowers and blooming palo verde trees are adding colorful touches this spring.
The main paths pass through the Maeveen Behan Desert Sanctuary, named for a lawyer and visionary environmental planner who played a leading role in developing Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan. Behan died of cancer in 2009 at age 48.
The sanctuary was dedicated last November, and final trail work was completed at the beginning of this year.
NOT EXACTLY WILDERNESS
Those who travel the trails will be reminded here and there that this expanse of desert is essentially surrounded by urban development — including a golf course, sports fields and city streets.
But a trek this week on the two-mile Maeveen Behan Trail in the sanctuary revealed that the area has plentiful bird life, signs of the passage of other animals and even a sense of solitude along some stretches of the route.
The network of trails is “surprisingly scenic for what appears to be a flat, nondescript desert area,” said Mark Flint, an expert trail designer who guided construction of the trails for Pima County with help from volunteers. “It has some stands of impressive saguaro, and the numerous washes provide a variety of vegetation and cover for wildlife. People who visit and hike or bike the trails frequently comment on the unexpected beauty of the area.”
Flint said the trails are especially valuable to time-pressed city dwellers because they offer “an easily accessible respite from the built environment.”
“They are popular with runners, dog walkers and local cyclists, especially parents who want to introduce their children to off-road bicycling,” he said.