White Tank Mountain Regional Park, AZ

The foothills that surround Phoenix are home to a number Maracopia County parks. White Tank Mountain is one we’ve not explored before. It’s located in the west valley of Phoenix in Surprise nestled in the foothills of the White Tank Mountains.

Site 28

As we drove through massive development throughout the west valley we wondered about our park choice. We came for the extensive mountain biking and hiking trails and we were not disappointed.

The Ironwood Trail
The Maricopa Trail
Hiking the Black Canyon Loop during the golden hour
Hiking up the Mule Deer Trail
A view from the Mule Deer Trail

The west valley had long been an agricultural area, where cotton and flowers were cultivated. This part of Phoenix is experiencing explosive growth with fields being replaced by new housing and massive warehouses.

A field of rose bushes and a warehouse six miles from the park entrance
A few of the graders and earth movers that are scraping the fields for development

As an antidote to the developing sprawl of the west valley we traveled 70 miles north of Phoenix to visit the experimental town of Arcosanti.

The architect Paolo Soleri proposed a concept based on the integration of architecture and ecology in the 1970’s. He named the concept arcology. He wanted to demonstrate that urban conditions could improve while minimizing the destructive impact of development.

The buildings are constructed of concrete made from materials found on site. The concrete panels were cast in a bed of silt acquired from the surrounding area and give the concrete a unique color and texture.

The Cafe

Beautiful architectural details can be found around every corner.

The community’s main source of income comes from the sale of bells, both ceramic and cast bronze.

One of the many ceramic bells on display
And bronze bells can be found throughout

White Tank Mountain Park provides a buffer to all the development. For the time being it is a natural oasis that provides a welcome respite. The picnic areas, hiking and biking trails are magnets for the people of Phoenix. We stuck close to camp to maximize our time on the trails during our stay.

On the Waterfall Trail

The waterfall that the trail is named after is seasonal. We didn’t expect to see water so we were surprised to see a pool of water at the base of the falls.

The white granite rocks where water pools during the rainy season is how the mountains got their name, White Tank.

The trail also features numerous petroglyphs created by the Hohokam people who populated the mountains 1000 years ago.

The trails are rocky but still very doable with a mountain bike.

The Ford Canyon Trail
There’s even a competitive track to challenge your riding skills
The Technical Segment of the Competitive Track is recommended for Experts only

Most of the trails in the park are multipurpose, available to hikers, bikers and equestrians. Our preference is biking but some of the trails are beyond our skill level.

Too rocky and steep for a bike

We decided to hike into the mountains to check out three canyons: the Mesquite, Ford and Willow. The eight mile hike took us into the backcountry. We took our time.

We were treated to some great canyon views.

The west valley from the Willow Trail

Spring in Arizona is not far away. Wildflowers are beginning to make their presence known.

California Poppy
Trailing Four O’Clock

On our last day in the park we drove to the Musical Instrument Museum(MIM). This is one of our favorite museums. If you find yourself in the Phoenix area don’t pass this museum by. There are permanent exhibits and every country of the world has a display featuring its native instruments and music. In addition they have rotating special exhibits, Treasures: Legendary Musical Instruments is currently on display.

Our favorite treasure was Eric Dolphy’s 1949 Selmer Balanced Action

The permanent exhibits also feature some very unusual instruments.

Trumpet Call Harmonica

The museum also has a wonderful 350 seat concert hall with amazing acoustics. We stuck around to hear Leo Kottke and Dave King. This unusual pairing was remarkable and a pleasant way to end our time at White Tank Mountain Park.

7 thoughts on “White Tank Mountain Regional Park, AZ”

  1. I’ve been to see the falls and the petroglyphs at White Tank, but Arcosanti and the music museum are definitely on The List for next time!

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  2. Arcosanti and the surrounding area are a fascinating concept! And the Museum of Musical Instruments is reminiscent of the Museum of Making Music in Carlsbad, CA (just above the Flower Fields, and below Legoland), perhaps sponsored by the same musical society.

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  3. What a challenging area in many ways: esp. development and rugged trails

    Beautiful vistas and the MIM sound (pun intended)really fascinating.

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  4. Love Leo Kottke! Great you got to see him! As always gorgeous trails and photos… keep on trucking!
    On our way Sunday to the ADK to xctry ski (we hope, some rain has washed snow around, but we are hopeful and have a great old quaint cabin with woodturner for hanging out in if not). Take care, Joanne

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