It's hard to pay for hiking, but sometimes it's unavoidable (and totally worth it).
Such is the case with Cave Creek Recreation Area, home to a number of moderate to easy trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, a nature center, and a ton of plants and animals.
I picked the longest trail, Go John, a 5.8-mile loop trail that overlaps the shorter, but more popular Overton Trail.
The woman at the entrance of the recreation area (where you have to pay $6 to enter) told me that I should travel counter-clockwise -- the steepest part's at the beginning and I'd be going up instead of down.
I didn't take her advice.
The "steep part" is actually a gradual climb that only lasts about a mile. Once you reach the top, you make a big circle around several small ridges. There are about three other steep parts along the way.
The trail stays on the desert floor most of the time, and hikers are surrounded by trees and bushes on both sides as they cross several washes.
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Go John is a medium, meandering trail that busy only when it overlaps Overton, which hosts many horserides and mountain bikers. It's moderately difficult due only to the length; it took about two hours to complete the loop.
To get to Go John Trail, take Cave Creek Rd. north and turn left on Carefree Highway. Turn right onto 32nd St. and after entering the area, access the trail by making the last left into the parking lot.
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