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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