The Pass Mountain Trail is beautiful 7.5-mile trail that loops entirely around Pass Mountain, located primarily in the Tonto National Monument in Mesa, Arizona.
|Elevation at Trailhead||2,000 feet|
|Net elevation gain||731 feet|
|Distance Full Loop||7.5 miles|
|Trail grade||Well groomed, level sandy dirt path.|
|Facilities||Toilets, water, picnic tables|
There are four access points to the Pass Mountain Trail, two of which are located within the adjacent Maricopa County managed Usery Mountain Regional Park. All Maricopa County Parks, including Usery Mountain Regional Park (MRP), charge a vehicle entry fee of $6.00.
The first of the two access points within Usery MRP is at the south west corner of the loop at the “Trailhead Staging Area.” There is ample parking at this spot, as well as picnic and restroom facilities.
The Early Rise Hikers started from the Windgate Cave parking lot. The parking lot is smaller, but there are restrooms, and this spot has the advantage of being right next to the Wind Cave Trail which is a nice additional excursion.
You can avoid paying the fee to enter the MRP by starting the trail at one of two alternative points. One of these access points lies to the south east of the trail loop at the end of Meridian Road. There is a small parking area at this trailhead, but no facilities.
Finally, you can add a bit to your total hiking distance and access the Pass Mountain Trail via the Bulldog Trailhead of the Maricopa Trail. The Bulldog Trailhead is north of the Usery Mountain Regional Park on Usery Pass Road – trailhead is on the east side of the road. You meet the north end of the Pass Mountain Loop after hiking 1.4 miles south east. Again, there is a small parking area, but no facilities.
I found that this map of the area best lays out the trail, access points, and trail statistics, as well as making the unusual land management situation more clear.
Looking at the map you can see that a portion, not quite 1.8 miles of the Mountain Pass trail on the west side of the loop, is within the Usery Mountain Regional Park. The remainder is in Tonto National Monument.
The trail itself is a well-groomed sandy dirt path. We took the trail from the trailhead straight north – toward the “Viewpoint” marked on the map. There are nice views from that trail towards the Usery Mountains to the north west, and you’ve climbed a gradual 400 feet to the viewpoint, which sits at about 2400 feet.
From here you continue to navigate around Pass Mountain and climb a further 200 feet before reaching the saddle, where again, you’re treated to beautiful views, this time towards the east.
Right after the saddle is probably the trickiest part of the trail. There’s a short section where it’s a bit difficult to determine exactly where the trail is. It can be a bit steep if you accidently step off trail, and it’s worth watching your step.
Beyond this point it’s easy sailing, and the views are continuously rewarding. It’s easy to see why this is a very popular family hike!