Cave Creek Regional Park in Arizona

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February 15, 2011

Cave Creek Regional Park, one of Maricopa County’s parks, is a 2,922 acre preserve of lush desert foothills located north of Phoenix, just off the Carefree Highway. It’s a beautiful preserve with hills to climb for valley views, a new visitor’s center, and easy flatlander trails for equestrians, hikers, and bikers alike. Ranger-led educational tours and events are also available.

The steep and very rocky slopes offer excellent habitat for a variety of desert plants. The sparse soil is very well drained, retaining little moisture. Yet the steep slopes provide profuse runoff when it does rain. The result is exceptionally beautiful desert scenery, including spectacular spring wildflower displays following rainy winters like this year.

The saguaro is the largest cactus of the Sonoran Desert and its best known feature. It is actually a rather finicky plant and thrives only in particular conditions such as those found at this park.

When thinking about Arizona and deserts, almost all non-desert dwelling people immediately visualize forests of multi-armed saguaros, expansive landscapes, and spectacular sunsets. All can still be experienced here.

Watch out for the small, shiny cactus known as the teddy-bear, or “jumping” cholla. It propagates by dropping spiny links off its arms. If you brush against one while hiking, a loose piece may “jump” into your leg! Not only is this painful, but they can be difficult to remove. Look for the green-barked palo verde, Arizona’s state tree. It blossoms a brilliant yellow in the spring. Also, you’ll recognize the ocotillo during springtime by the flaming red flowers on the tips of its branches.

Wildlife is common at the park. Birdlife is especially abundant, ranging from tiny hummingbirds to cactus wrens and hawks.

Beware of rattlesnakes while on the trail! They are not common in the winter but may be out sunning themselves on cool spring mornings. They are not aggressive if you simply give them a wide berth.

The park and surrounding area have a long history of mineral exploration. Prospectors worked the area from the 1870s, discovering minor deposits of copper, gold, silver, lead, and tungsten. Today, abandoned mines can be observed along several of the park trails.

There are 11 miles of multi-use trails.

You can bring your own horse as there is a horse staging area or rent a horse from Cave Creek Trail Rides located at the park.

The Go John Trail loops around a mountain to provide the illusion of being miles away from civilization.

The park’s modern campground is excellent for RVs of all sizes. Although we found over half of the 38 sites too short or unlevel for our needs, numerous sites including several pull-throughs were more than adequate for large rigs. We opted for Site 23, a mostly level back-in site with adequate space for our 40-foot motorhome. All sites are paved and have water and 50/30-amp electric service.

Other facilities include modern washrooms with flush toilets and hot showers, and a dump station. All sites are first-come, first served. In the event that the campground is full when you arrive, the park has an overflow area where you can park until a space becomes available.

Nightly camping fee is currently $25.00 including tax.

Day use fee is $6.00.

Maricopa County parks new reservation system is almost here! The Parks and Recreation Department are in the final stages of completing their new Online Reservation System! Once completed, this system will allow you to make reservations for all our camping and ramada areas, as well as the ability to view various facilities, classrooms, outdoor meeting and group areas.

Location and directions
37019 N. Lava Lane, Cave Creek, AZ 85331

The park is roughly fifteen minutes from two major freeways—I-17 and Loop 101.
From I-17 exit east on Carefree Highway for 7 miles to 32nd Street and north (left) to the park entrance.
From Loop 101 exit north on 32nd Street to the park entrance.

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  1. Jon

    I can tell you those cactus sure do hurt when they go in your leg! They are very difficult to get out. Be sure you know what to look for and stay as far away as possible from them! It still hurts just thinking about them.

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