If you’ve ever done one of the shorter trails in the White Tank Mountains, and you wondered what it would be like to explore the depths of the mountains, Goat Camp Trail is one great (but long) option for really seeing what the White Tanks are all about. If you are a visitor to Phoenix, and you are looking for a long, challenging hike that showcases the Sonoran Desert, and includes exceptional views of the Western part of the city, this is a great option. It is along with the other long hikes in the White Tank Mountains, such as Ford Canyon.
At about 11.5 miles, this trek does require a shuttle to avoid walking along the road. But the trail will take you up into the mountains, close to the towers that you can make out from the city. After pushing up into near-summit areas of the White Tanks, you will come back down through the boulder strewn Mesquite Canyon. It’s an all-around challenging and rewarding route.
Keep reading if you’d like the low-down on this hike, or you just want to see what this exceptional place looks like.
Why You Will (And Won’t) Love Goat Camp Trail
Goat Camp Trail is a long, challenging and beautiful trail that will take you up into the heights of the White Tank Mountains. There are almost endless amazing views of the Sonoran Desert and the Phoenix-metro area here.
If you are looking for a route among the long hikes in the White Tank Mountains, but you want something less technical than Ford Canyon, this is the one for you. The loop described here is more than 11 miles long, with lots of elevation gain (and loss). But it doesn’t have any scrambling.
And if you are looking for a quiet route, this is also a great option. With the exception of the trailheads, there aren’t many people who choose to do this entire trail. So, along with the challenge you will get some solitude.
Although it is lovely, and makes for an exceptional day-hike, this trail isn’t for everyone. 11+ miles is a very long way to go, and going up and down in the mountains is very tiring. In short, this is not an easy romp and you will need to be in shape to have fun and stay safe on this trail.
I would also say that between Ford Canyon and Goat Camp, Goat Camp is the less exceptional of the two. While the mountains and landscape change throughout your hike on this route, Ford Canyon will take you along the bottom of a canyon, and then up in the grassy mountains. Goat Camp Trail, on the other hand, is mostly going to take you across the shrubby hills for most of its length.
The other thing about this trail that might not be ideal for you, is that it is hard to do solo. Unless you want to add some miles hiking on the road, you will need a friend to help you shuttle.
All this said, this is still a great trail and some of the best hiking in Buckeye, AZ!
Need to Know Information
Trail Length: 11.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,740 ft
Difficulty Level: Hard: Requires high stamina and some hiking skill to navigate more hazardous sections of the trail.
Entrance Fee: $7 per vehicle or $85 for a Maricopa County Annual pass
Bathrooms at the Trailhead? Depending on where you park, yes.
4WD Required for Access? No; access roads for this route has paved roads.
For this route, we started at the Goat Camp Trailhead, and walked up into the mountains. We hiked Goat Camp until it ended, and then followed Mesquite Canyon down. We then shuttled from Picnic #7 back to the Goat Camp Trailhead.
For this route, I would suggest planning on a shuttle from one end of the trail to the other. This trail could be a loop, but for that you will have to walk on the road for several miles. And it is already quite a long hike. Additionally, the roads in this park can be very busy with traffic.
If you aren’t familiar with what a shuttle is. What I mean is that you come to the trail with a friend, and you each drive separately. This is so that one of you can park at one trailhead, and one can park at the other. That way, when you come out, you can take one of the cars back to your starting place.
When we shuttled, we left one car at the Picnic #7, and then drove down to the Goat Camp Trail trailhead.
If you are looking for an option among the long hikes in the White Tank Mountains that doesn’t require a shuttle, check out Ford Canyon Trail.
Goat Camp Trail
The longest section of this trail is the Goat Camp Trail, which will take you up into the mountains. A large section of this trail is marked by Maricopa County as a double diamond (very challenging) and notes that it is “Rough section – 1.5 miles; Narrow spots; loose rock; steep uphill.”
Personally, I thought that the most challenging thing about this trail was the steady uphill climb. I don’t think it is for beginners due to this, and the length of the trek. But for experienced hikers, I don’t think the conditions on this trail will be surprising.
What I love most about this section of the Goat Camp trail was traversing the grassy hills of the southern White Tanks. It is quite unlike the riparian trek of Ford Canyon. Even if you just did parts of this trail, it would still be one of the best hikes in Buckeye, AZ.
Mesquite Canyon Trail
The Mesquite Canyon Trail is the route that we took down from the mountains. It is distinct from Goat Camp Trail, and offers the same exceptional views of the mountains and city as Willow Canyon. This trail has a steep and steady downhill that will definitely tire you out when coupled with the miles of uphill hiking from the first part of your trek. At least part of this trail is utilized for both of the long hikes in the White Tank Mountains.
Safety on the Trail
As always, your safety on the trail is up to you. This guide is not a guarantee of your safety, and this reminder is not comprehensive. Do your research and take care of yourself.
Goat Camp Trail is one of the long hikes in the White Tank Mountains, and that means that you need to be prepared to be out in the elements for many hours in order to do this hike. You will need to be careful about bringing enough water and food for this trek. And you will want to consider how the weather conditions will change throughout the day. You may also need to pack clothes for a variety of temperatures and the potential for inclement weather (although you should avoid hiking during storms).
Planning a Trip to Arizona?
If you will be visiting or live in the Phoenix-metro area, and you are interested in exploring more of the White Tank Mountains, I have recently published two other guides on trails in the White Tanks. The first covers short trails in the White Tank Mountains; these trails are well suited for folks low on time, just getting into hiking, and/or people traveling with kids. You can experience some of the wild beauty of the White Tank Mountains from these trails without many miles or too much elevation gain.
Alternatively, if you are looking for another option among the long hikes in the White Tank Mountains, I have a recent guide to Ford Canyon Trail. In fact, while I think Goat Camp Trail is one of the best hikes in Buckeye, AZ, Ford Canyon is my favorite of the two.
For everything else Arizona, check out our Guide to Arizona. After 30+ years living in Arizona, we’ve got lots of tips for exploring this desert state.
Want to Save This for Later? Consider Pinning it!