An eMagazine about wheelchair-accessible events, sports & locations in Arizona

Usery Park – Merkle Trail


It’s March and mid 80’s in Phoenix. Perfect for exploring Arizona. Usery Park is located in the far east valley. It features all kinds of outdoor activities such as horseback riding and a shooting range. Amongst it’s many trails is the Merkle Trail which offers wheelchair access.

The trail head has about 5 parking spots and is somewhat unassuming. Merkle Trail could actually be called the Merkle Circle. It’s a 1-1/2 mile long trail around a small mountain. Visitors should come well prepared for desert travel as there is virtually no shade along the trail for a wheeler to pull under, and no water stops. The trail surface is a course gravel, and is is nicely laid out with not too much slope from side to side. The trail climbs maybe 50-100′ in elevation, so with a manual chair there is some uphill pushing required. The trail on the east side of the mountain is a more gradual incline. Almost anybody should be able to push their way up. I left the trail head going around the west side, and you immediately run into a pretty steep slope. Coming back, on the east side, I coasted down the trail braking slightly. (Note: I currently am using a set of eMotion power-assist rear wheels. They often don’t seem to get fully charged and leave me stranded, but today they really did the job. I made it all the way around and was very pleased at their performance.)

I like the trail, and it’s great for exercise, but it’s not my favorite in terms of overall experience. I enjoyed the view but the trail doesn’t really get you up close with any cool rock formations or canyon walls. And the lack of shade was pretty noticeable even in March. If you are in the east valley and have the time, visiting the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum offers far more of a total desert experience. Like Boyce, Usery Park allows dogs so that is always a big plus in my book.

Fellow AZ traveler, Laurie Zentner has also visited User Park and offers these comments;

We hiked the Merkle Trail, Usery’s barrier-free trail, last weekend. Merkle Trail is no lazy nature trail. It is a 1-mile, hard-packed gravel loop around the base of a steep, rocky hill, with amazing views of Usery Pass Mountain and the Superstition Mountains. The trail is well designed with the trailhead at the lowest point of the loop, so the uphill is first, and downhill on the way back. There are also small benches at intervals (especially useful if the camera tripod gets forgotten!). At the base of the south face of the hill, we encountered a couple watching a Gila monster 200 ft up the hill, and were able to see a rare desert reptile. The Merkle trailhead parking includes a picnic area and a playground for kids.

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2 Responses »

  1. Loren – looks like a pleasant enough trail. You are right, though, Boyce Thompson is real gem, and it’s time for us to visit it again soon.

  2. Hello Phoenix Travelers with disabilities:

    We just got the Email that has us (Wheels On Trails Org. ) at the National Trails Symposium in April in Phoenix. We are a group of trail users with disabilities and/or health limits that has a goal of ‘Universal Trails for All”, from Duluth, Minnesota. We end up sponsoring 6 to 8 Events (Trails, camping, fishing) each summer, and would like to sponsor a ‘trail ride’ in the Phoenix area on an accessible trail.

    We think it would be the ultimate to give our talk at the Symposium, and then actually take some of the people out on a trail ‘EVENT”. We are just getting started on the research, but found your site and it was very helpful. Take a look at our site ( as that should give you and idea where we are coming from. Is there a group in the Phoenix area of people with disabilities that we could contact? Do you have any suggestions for the trail event (1 – 2 Miles) on a loop that would be representative of Phoenix?
    Dwight Morrison, co-chair of Wheels On Trials Organization

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Accessing Arizona is primarily designed for people who are looking for wheelchair accessible events, locations and activities. If you have paralysis (paraplegic or quadriplegic), Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Bifida, or if you are an amputee, Accessing Arizona has information about an active lifestyle.
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