Phoenix-area residents and lucky visitors love to take to the trails when the weather is beautiful. Whether to enjoy a casual stroll through the desert landscape or take a more purposeful hike to explore the many mountain ranges, park options abound. One such option is San Tan Mountain Regional Park. Located in Queen Creek in Pinal County, the park is just west of San Tan Valley and 50 minutes southeast of downtown Phoenix. The park facilities are well maintained, and be sure to stop by the San Tan Visitor Center.
History of San Tan Mountain Regional Park
Open for decades, San Tan Mountain Regional Park consists of 10,200 acres of Sonoran Desert. The park ranges in elevation from about 1,400 feet to over 2,500 feet. Guests will see many sights native to the Sonoran Desert like saguaro forest and wildflowers (rain and season permitting). Various types of wildlife, like coyotes, reptiles, javelinas, small mammals, and birds, can also be seen.
The northern portion of the park includes Goldmine Mountain, while the southern part contains the San Tan Mountain escarpment. Multiuse trails for biking, horseback riding, and hiking can be found throughout. Note that the park doesn’t allow camping and has no lakes for fishing or boating.
Things to Do in San Tan Mountain Regional Park
- Hiking: San Tan Mountain Regional Park has over eight miles of hiking trails. Options range both in length and difficulty. Trail lengths vary from just over one mile to over five miles and range in difficulty from easy to difficult. Moonlight Trail is best for beginners, and San Tan Trail is a more advanced option. Be sure to consult a trail map before setting out on your own journey.
- Biking: The same trails in use for hikers are also available for biking. A popular option is the Malpais Hills Trail, which has beautiful views of Rock Peak and the Malpais Hills. Again, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and be courteous to those on foot.
- Horseback Riding: All trails within San Tan Mountain Regional Park are for multiuse unless otherwise labeled. When on horseback, the park urges caution around washes, soft soil, or steep rocky slopes. A visit to the San Tan Visitor Center and a chat with a ranger will allow you to choose the trails best suited for horseback riding.
- Stargazing: Most Maricopa County Parks offer stargazing programs on Saturday nights starting at 7:30 p.m. San Tan Mountain Regional Park occasionally takes part in these programs. Check out the schedule on the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation page to check availability.
- San Tan Visitor Center: Restroom facilities, water, and information are available at the San Tan Visitor Center. If it’s your first time to the park, it might be wise to stop in for any last-minute info or essentials. You can also purchase souvenirs and check-out various wildlife exhibits and a tortoise habitat.
Tips for Visiting San Tan Mountain Regional Park
Hours of Admission
San Tan Mountain Regional Park is open Sunday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days a year. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the summer months and Sunday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter months.
Park Entry Fees
Vehicle entry fees into the San Tan Mountain Regional Park run $7 and a hike/bike/horseback entry fee is $2. Be sure to bring cash. If you frequently visit Maricopa County parks, you might consider purchasing an annual pass, which start at $85. These passes grant you day-use access to more than 120,000 acres of parkland. Also, 100 percent of the proceeds from pass sales go toward park improvement and visitor services.
Trail Ratings and Tips
All trails within Maricopa County parks are rated according to a system. You can access the trail ratings on the parks’ website. If you’re unfamiliar with desert hiking or multiuse trails, there are also some must-know tips about topics such as how much water to bring and general trail etiquette.
Best Time to Visit
The Sonoran Desert is known for its natural beauty, but also for extreme temperatures. Be sure to time your visit according to moderate temperatures and avoid storm activity in case of flash floods. The winter months are great in terms of moderate—and even cold—temperatures, and the springtime is best for viewing wildflowers (rain permitting). Keep in mind that peak temperatures in the desert are mid-afternoon, so if you’re visiting San Tan Mountain Regional Park during the summer, be sure to get an early start.
If you want to do more than explore on your own, Maricopa County and San Tan Mountain Regional Park do offer events. They vary in number depending on the season, so visit the Maricopa County Parks events page to see upcoming events.
How to Get to San Tan Mountain Regional Park
San Tan Mountain Regional Park is 50 minutes southeast of downtown Phoenix, and south of Hunt Highway in Pinal County. Roads and signage are easily navigable and well-maintained.