June 7, 2013

Usery Mountain Regional Park (Mesa, Arizona) – Kid-friendly travel


Usery Mountain Regional Park

Last April we went and visited my grandma in Mesa, Arizona. Let me start by saying that the first week of April turned out to be an amazing time to visit Arizona. The weather was in the 80’s with a nice cool breeze. Flowers were blooming everywhere (thanks to some spring showers) and the “snow birds” are starting to head home so things are quieter in town.

One of the ways we like to save money while on vacation is visiting state or local parks. Often times admission is free or minimal and you can explore lots of amazing areas this way. On the last day of our vacation we went to Usery Mountain Regional Park. Owned by the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department, Usery Mountain Regional Park is AWESOME and incredibly kid-friendly. I think it cost us $2 or $3 for us to park our car inside the park. An absolute steal if you ask me.


Usery Mountain Regional Park has lots of walking paths and hiking trails. In fact they have more than 29 miles of hiking and walking trails. I stopped into the vistor center and they gave me advice on the best paths for kids. It’s recommended that you wear tennis shoes or hiking boots – since there are snakes in the area (um, like in all of Arizona).


They have lots of well established paths, wide enough to walk and hold kids hands (yes, I’m the crazy overprotective mom).


We saw lizards EVERYWHERE. We went early in the day and there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic yet, so we caught glimpses of lots of lizards. The kids loved it – we don’t have these little critters up in Washington!


From what I gather, these little lizards are completely harmless and they ALWAYS ran the opposite direction of us, so I never felt unsafe.


Two of the hikes that were recommended to us (with kids) were the Merkle Trail and the Vista Trail. The Merkle Trail goes in a big loop – super easy and flat. Half way around the loop you can cut across a little mountain on the Vista Trail. You have amazing views from this easy hike.


We started up the Vista Trail. It was more narrow and curvy – much more like a hiking trail than a walking path. We weren’t on the path but a few minutes and I got freaked out and turned around. The path was so narrow, with lots of bushes hanging over the walk way and after seeing many lizards and a big Gila lizard (at near eye level on a huge rock) in the first few minutes I got nervous and had to turn around. If it had just been my husband and I, we would have walked it no problem – I would have LOVED it. But kids are unpredictable and they kept running into bushes – and I had no idea what was in the bushes! And it was difficult to hold hands and navigate the narrow path. So I admit it, I chickened out and we scurried back down.  (Remember I grew up in Alaska – where we don’t have anything poisonous, slimy, slithery or tiny. I’ll take mosquitos over scorpions and snakes any day!)


But this didn’t end our fun at Usery Mountain Regional Park – we headed down the hill and played at the covered playground! They have multiple covered playgrounds, which you can drive to or walk to. 


There is one right off of the Merkle trail, so we just meandered over to that and the kids had fun.  The views are amazing. And I loved that the play areas are covered – my kids fair Northwest complexions appreciated them too.


The kids loved the play area. We wanted them to burn off energy as we were flying out of Mesa that evening. It was a beautiful setting – if we go back in the future, I’d plan a picnic for one of these covered areas (they have picnic tables).


There were so many beautiful flowers in bloom and I got to take lots of photos around the play area.


I would definitely recommend  Usery Mountain Regional Park if you’re looking for a fun place to visit with kids. There were miles and miles of areas that we didn’t even get to see. Maybe next time we go back we’ll check those out. They have some amazing kid-focused activities such as story time, movie nights, or educational classes. Usery Mountain Regional Park for a complete schedule of activities.

If you’re heading to a state park in Arizona:

  • Sunblock
  • Hat/clothing or covers with SPF
  • Water
  • Good sturdy closed-toed shoes
  • Camera
  • What else would you pack?

I’m obviously not an expert on Arizona travel, so I’d love to hear from you! What are your favorite activities in the Phoenix area? What destinations would you recommend to someone traveling to Arizona?

This is just one of the many travel features I hope to do this summer. I have more posts I want to share about Arizona, plus lots of other places that we’ve enjoyed visiting in the past! 

Fodors-Arizona-Travel-2013 Fodor’s Arizona & the Grand Canyon 2013 (Full-color Travel Guide)

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