Best Hike in the Heat Phoenix 2011 - Brown's Cave at Apache Lake
Heat exhaustion is never too far away during summer hikes in the Sonoran Desert, but we're not the type to sit at home for five months out of the year. On most local hikes, the only relief from the oven we call the outdoors comes in a bottle (we're talking ice water, not dehydrating booze). But the trek we're here to tell you about features not only a lake perfect for a post-hike dip, but a Shangri-La-esque waterfall to stand under. The one thing it doesn't have is an actual cave, though (Brown's Cave is just an overhang). There are two ways to get there: Go to Apache Lake, launch a boat, and find the mouth of Alder Creek, on the north shore near the west end of the lake. (Depending on the lake water level, this area also provides a fantastic sandy beach for camping or hanging out.) Hike up the rugged canyon about a half-mile to the waterfall; the overhang is a bit farther. The second option requires knowledge of dirt roads that spur off the Four Peaks turnoff from Highway 87 north of Mesa, which is Forest Road 143. Check the Internet or a hiking guide to find the six-mile-long 4 x 4 road that goes to the Cane Spring Trailhead and Alder Trail. The latter takes you to the "cave," waterfall, and Apache Lake. Splashdown.