Keep an eye out for Salt River wild horses on this Mesa-area hike

The Sonoran Desert Trail System in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest has more than 20 miles of interconnected paths between Usery Pass Road and Bush Highway just south of the Salt River Recreation Area. The northernmost route in the system is the Wild Horse Trail, which is also part of the Valley-circumnavigating Maricopa Trail. As its name suggests, the trail passes through the domain of wild horses.

The elegant and sometimes controversial beasts can be spotted wading in the river, poking around in the riparian corridors and grazing in the surrounding foothills. Regardless of where you might see them, it’s smart to keep your distance and enjoy the herds from afar.

The Wild Horse/Maricopa Trail escapes the din of the crowds and is high enough in the hills to afford inspiring vistas of the Salt River valley, Four Peaks, Red Mountain and the Usery Mountains.

Starting from the trailhead on Usery Pass Road, the trail starts out through wide washes and scoured gullies. You’ll cross an old pit where rusting bullet casings, broken glass and other relics of target-shooting activities remain in the sandy, buffered depression.

The green band of the Salt River snakes through a chiseled landscape to the north, then arches south where it wends around Red Mountain in the Granite Reef Dam area.

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