Estrella Mountain Regional Park is in the southwestern corner of the Phoenix-metro area in Arizona, USA. It is an expansive area that connects people to and protects the Sonoran Desert of the Estrella Mountain Foothills. While this does not include the challenging and massive Quartz Peak, this park has beautiful trails for all skill levels. There are also amazing amenities for families, and horseback riders, as well as a beautiful nature center and green park. Overall, this is a great Sonoran Desert park that is near Phoenix-metro, developed for access, and has a little something for everyone.
Why Visit Estrella Mountain Regional Park
Estrella Mountain Regional Park, despite being a part of the very impressive Estrella Mountain range, is a fairly tame park in terms of elevation gain. So, I think that this is an ideal park for people looking to get started hiking. Alternatively, if you want to get in some miles without needing to scale mountains, this regional park is a great option.
Furthermore, if you are looking for a park that is on the west-side of Phoenix-metro and is a little less busy than the White Tanks, Estrella Regional Park is a great option.
Estrella Mountain Regional Park also has a lot of amenities, which makes it a great place for families. This includes a nature center, very large green park area, and horse-back riding facilities.
That all being said, you should note that Quartz Peak IS NOT located in this park and cannot be accessed from here.
Need to Know Information
Address: 14805 W. Vineyard Ave., Goodyear, AZ 85338
Contact: (602) 506-2930 ext. 6
Entry Fees: $7.00 per vehicle
Bathroom facilities: Yes
4WD necessary? No
*Reminder: This is a Maricopa County park, so national and state annual passes are not valid here. If you live in Maricopa and your hike a lot, you might consider purchasing the Maricopa annual pass which is $88.
The Baseline Loop is your Estrella Mountain Regional Park option for a shorter, easier loop. This trail is a lollipop that is about 2.6 miles (depending on where you start). The elevation gain is also minimal at 370 ft (for reference, the summit trail for Piestewa Peak has 1,100+ ft elevation gain).
Basically, you can park on the south side of the green park, and then take the trails from there up to the loop. After climbing up from where you park, you will circle a small mountain for some wonderful views of the Sonoran Desert and the city in the distance.
If you are in the park with some kids, this is a great option, because it isn’t too long, but offers things for adults to enjoy and adventurous elements for the kids.
Rainbow Valley Trail and Butterfield Trail
While the Rainbow Valley Trail and Butterfield Trail loop does not have a ton of elevation gain overall, it is far harder than the Baseline Trail. That is primarily because this loop ends up being nearly 10 miles in length. For reference, this took me about 3.5 hours to complete, hiking as fast as I generally can go (a little under 3 mph). Consider that I hiked 500 miles in 2021, and you might get a sense for how your time might compare. If you aren’t used to hiking, I would generally plan for 2 miles per hour, just to be safe.
In any case, that may give you an idea for the kind of challenge that this hike will provide based on its length. There is a little bit of elevation gain in three places, but I don’t think any of these instances was more challenging than the length itself.
I would not suggest this trail in the summer, it is too long, and in the winter, I would still advocate for an early start just to make sure you have time to complete it before it gets dark.
On the Trail
Bring a map with you so you can track your progress. Maricopa County parks have very good signage. So you can figure out exactly where you are based on the other trails that you run into on your way. Further, if you decide that you need to head back early, the map will help you figure out the right trails to turn down.
I followed this loop in a counter clockwise direction. With this, you will start by walking through or around the rodeo area. From there, you will start climbing up a bit, heading west. The first leg of the trail will give you views of the White Tank Mountains and the city of Buckeye. For the most part, this is the most that you will see of civilization while on this trail.
After this, you will start losing elevation and heading south, into the wilderness. For a while, you will travel through some washes, along the bottom of the valley floor. Then you will find the trail starts heading east, and you will start climbing into the hills again. When you get to the top of the saddles here, be sure to take in exceptional views of the larger Estrella Mountains in the distance.
Take a final trip down, through more washes, and then make a last short climb when the trail turns north again.
As mentioned above, there are a lot of great facilities at Estrella Mountain Regional Park besides the lovely trails here.
If you would like to stop in to chat with someone about the right trail for you, and learn more about the nature of the park, of course, the Nature Center should be your first stop. Maricopa County staffs its nature centers with volunteers and rangers, so there are experts to chat with about the park. There are also flushing bathrooms here. Most of the rest of the bathrooms near the trailheads are out-house style.
For fans of picnics and ball games with friends and family, this is the park for you. There is a big, green field in the middle of the regional park, with picnic tables ringing the grass. There are also bathrooms and trees for shade. It’s a great place to retire after a nice hike or for non-hikers to enjoy while other group members explore the desert.
There is a small rodeo stadium in Estrella Mountain Regional Park, and plenty of room for horse staging. I can’t say that I have experience with either. But this is one of the few places that I have seen people riding horses near the city in recent memory. So, I do think this is a great park for people looking to take their horses out.
Trail running and Mountain Biking
I am a hiker, not a trail runner or mountain biker, however, I can tell from other people that I have seen on the trail, that Estrella Mountain Regional Park is a good place for both. The trails aren’t horrifically difficult for mountain bikers, and there is just enough elevation change to make for some challenging ascents and fun descents. Likewise, with such long and relatively level trails, the park offers trail runners a nice mix of challenges and training opportunities.
There are also events at Estrella Regional Mountain Park for both of these sports. So, keep your eyes peeled on the calendar if you enjoy these kinds of things.
Remember, your safety is your responsibility. This guide does not guarantee your safety and I always advocate that you avoid the trail if you have any hesitations. Further, the above list is not exhaustive. Be prepared, and put your own safety first.
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