San Tan Regional Park

I have been talking about Arizona and the fiscal problems with our state park system of late.  I was starting to feel hypocritical because not only do I own an RV, but I hadn’t gotten off my ass and enjoyed the things I was claiming to love.  It made me do some reflecting and I will be attempting to take the RV out one time a month and get to a regional park every weekend I can to explore Arizona.

I took the kids to San Tan Regional Park just south of where I live in Queen Creek, AZ on New Years Eve.  They absolutely LOVED being outside and hiking.  They begged to do it again.  So the very next day, I figured lets start the New Year off right!  Before I knew it they had invited more friends than would fit in the car.  It was like they were handing out passes to Disneyland.  Every kid in the neighborhood wanted to go.  I definitely feel that Gangplank JR has hiking in it’s future.

When we pulled in this time instead of paying the day fee, I purchased the annual pass.  It just felt good supporting the regional park system.  I hope to purchase both a state and national pass this year as well.  We were off to the races and put in a 5 mile hike.  Our guest hikers begged to come with us the next time we returned.  I woke up the following day with very sore legs.  5 miles was too much, but well worth it.  I am excited to get out and enjoy Arizona more.  I am quickly reminded why I love this place so much.  Did I mention it’s 70 degrees outside and its the beginning of January!


  1. Does San Tan now have a developed trail network? I remember when it was first added to the county park system a few years ago and it had virtually no amenities. I might need to check it out again.

  2. David,

    It definitely has several miles of marked trail and the trail system connects to the great maricopa county trail system that connects regional parks. Horses, bikes and hikers allowed on the trails. Some benches and picnic tables are even sprinkled through out the park.

    It has a long way to go, but is much more developed than when it first opened.

  3. Glad to hear it. Thanks for the update. I will put it on my list of places to visit. As I mentioned in response to a prior post, I need to get back in the habit of buying an annual pass for the county parks.

  4. Haven’t been to the San Tans, I’ve also been confused as to whether or not it had a trail system. Kudos on the park pass. I have a friend who’s a part-time interpretative ranger for the county parks (mostly White Tanks and Cave Creek), and they’ve basically told her she shouldn’t plan on showing up anymore. She had a few hikes still scheduled, so she’s showing up as a volunteer to make sure they happen in spite of the budget. It’s hard to not support a park system that has dedicated folks like her involved. I just purchased the 2010 America the Beautiful pass last week, even though it didn’t make financial sense to do so until my next trip in the summer. I’d have to look back, but I’ve bought it (or its predecessor the National Parks pass) every year since 2000 or 2001.

  5. This post illustrates why AZ State Parks are in trouble. There are so many good county, municipal and national parks in the state that satisfy most Arizonans recreational needs. This is name all the more acute by the fact that there are no State Parks in Maricopa County or within an hour drive of 80% of AZ’s population.

  6. Yuri, I think that’s a pretty limited view of the purpose and value of parks.

    Most public lands are *not* within the same county or an hour’s drive of 80% of a state’s population. Does that mean we shouldn’t adequately fund places or continue to protect places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Sequoia, Glacier, Carlsbad Caverns, Acadia, Denali, Arches, Mesa Verde, Badlands, Zion, Crater Lake (should I continue)? Of course not. Those places are part of the core fabric of what it means to be an American; they are integral to maintaining our natural and cultural heritage. It doesn’t matter than none of them are close to a major population center.

    I’ve been to more than half (190/348) of the national park units in the continental US – basically everything west of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon line, and I can tell you emphatically that the value of those parks lies not in the immediate recreational value they provide to local residents. Many visitors we encounter (sometimes most at some units) are out of state and certainly not locals. Their value is in preserving a landscape, a watershed, a culture, a historical event, a wildlife population.

    Now, there may be plenty of other great places to visit in the state, but that doesn’t mean that Arizona shouldn’t be a player in protecting its own land. After wandering through many state lands as a site steward (I’m in a volunteer program, run by state parks, that regularly monitors sensitive archaeological sites for vandalism…a task land managers do not have the resources to accomplish on their own), I can personally attest that there are many other suitable lands that *should* be protected as state parks. In fact, in many other states, they would be.

    And not just protected for their own intrinsic value, which is enough for me, but also for their economic value. Rural communities depend on these places, and the state does too. We invest so little in them and they deliver so much in return; they are what any half-witted businessperson would call “a great deal.” A no brainer, really.

    They should have a statewide constituency, just as national parks in rural places still have a national constituency. That’s a failure of our politicians, the public, and yes, even State Parks and its nonprofit partners. It’s not because they are not valuable, among Arizona’s many other great places, or worthy of protection. It’s a question of inadequate vision and bad politics.

  7. SanTan park is very nice. I’ve been on a guided hike and hiked with family several times. If you like the pure desert landscape along with peace and quit then this is much better than South mountain (in my opinion). There are also nice trails in the Superstitions that aren’t too far.

    Derek, you should upload your pictures and description to one of the sites that catalog AZ trails. It would be great to get the trails in this area cataloged. I’m bringing a youth group hikiing Saturday. I will definitely take pictures and post the description.

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