This week's hiking lesson: The $6 entrance fee to see the Wind Cave Trail at Usery Mountain Recreation Area is totally worth it.
The 1.6-mile trail is fairly easy; it's the most popular hike in the area. There are few rough spots where you have to navigate over some big rocks, but the gentle grade (only 820 feet) and long switchbacks make, at least the first half, a big piece of $6 cake.
The second half begins to climb up the rock's face toward the cave. (In the morning it's almost completely in the shade, which is a nice refresher.)
Along the way, you're accompanied by the soothing sounds of nature -- the wind rolling over the desert floor, bees buzzing, birds chirping ... the occasional round of gun shots. (There's nothing like communing with nature next to a shooting range.)
The wind cave itself is a little disappointing. It's just a cut-out in the rock! But it is home to cool hanging plants and tiny chipmunks, which we'd pay $6 and hike for an hour to see any day.
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To get to Wind Cave Trail take the 60 East to Ellsworth Rd. Head north for just over six miles and turn into the Usery Mountain Recreation Area entrance. From the pay station, follow the road until you hit Wind Cave Rd. Turn, park and enjoy.
Check out our other recent hiking news/reviews:
Desert Foothills/Telegraph Pass/National East
Lost Camp Loop
Go John Trail
Hawes Trail No. 52
Alta Trail at South Mountain
Sunrise Trail at McDowell Mountains
Climbing Sven Slab: McDowell Mountains
South Mountain: Mormon Trail
Phoenix Summit Challenge
Dreamy Draw Trails
North Mountain Summit Trail
Parking Fees to be Enforced at Local Trails