Feel like taking a quick ride at a relatively closely location? Then Watson Rd. may be the place for you. While it’s not a designated OHV Area, this wide open area constitutes the title. In the White Tank Mountains, the series of trails in this area provide a variety of terrain including sand dunes, rocky creek bottoms, and nice dirt trails.
There are some things to be aware of before you hit this trail: 1) This area is susceptible to closures when the dust levels are too high 2) Most of the trails are on state trust land and require either a Stand Land Trust permit or OHV License plate and decal 3) Due to the nearby housing developments, large groups of riders that are causing disturbances may be asked to leave by local authorities.
How to get there: Begin by heading west on I-10 from Arizona Loop 101. After 16 miles, take exit 117 (Watson Rd.) and turn right. Continue for 1.3 miles on the dirt road and then turn right. After 0.2 miles, stay left for the main parking/dune area.
The trail: Because of the massive amount of trails in this region, the main dune area will be used as the central hub for the rest of the trails. Below is a list of the several different trails you can take along with a brief description of them (Please note – not all the trails in the area are described, just the major ones):
1) North & East Loop : from the dunes, head northeast uphill. After 0.6 miles, you’ll have a nice vantage point of the surrounding area. Head downhill as the trail heads east. At 1.3 mile, you’ll come to a T. If you were to head left, the trail would head north through the mountains and then emerge near the old Caterpillar Proving Ground. You can take this way or head right to loop back to the dune area. At 2.0 miles, you’ll reach McDowell Rd. Again, you have a choice here – you can go right to return to the staging area or turn left for more trails. If you do go left, at 2.7 miles you’ll reach a large, wide flat strip. Beware of private property signs, the land in this area is developing – turn right. After this quick moving portion of the trail, at 5.1 miles, merge back onto Watson Rd. and head north. At 6.5 miles, you’ll arrive back at the staging area.
2) Central Pass Trail [6-7]: from the staging area, head south and turn right. At 0.4 miles where the main road swings left, stay straight onto the lesser trail. Stay on the main trail meanwhile several trails branch off at 1.4 miles. At 1.8 miles, the trail comes to a Y, stay right. You’ll pass through a dry creek and then the trail will begin becoming narrower and rockier as it heads northward. At 3.1 miles, the trail crosses a creek and becomes gets rockier as it leaves the creek. From this point, the trail becomes get significantly rockier. You’ll pass a large rocky hill that is on the right and then the trail splits and heads uphill at 3.3 miles. Left is slightly easier than the right portion however, they both meet at a clearing. Use extreme caution as the trail continues to climb and narrow towards the pass. At 3.7 miles, you’ll reach the pass, which offers tremendous views of the White Tank Mountains as well as the Valley. You can turn around at this point (probably the best option) or continue downhill for an additional 1.5 miles before it dead ends at 5.2 miles and enters private property. For even more challenge, you can return to the base of the large hill and follow the rough trail west – it will go up and over the mountain and then rejoin with trail #3 listed below.
3) Western Pass Trail [4-5]: like trail #2 above, you will head south from the dune area and stay right. Stay straight at 0.4 miles and follow the trail as it heads northwest. However, at 1.8 miles when you come to a Y, stay left. This way will take you through the White Tanks to the west side of the mountains where even more trails can be ridden. Stay left at 2.8 miles where a series of trails branch right (and eventually connect with trail #2). You’ll pass through a wash at 2.9 miles and then at 3.0 miles you have the choice to either stay straight up the steep hill or take the left trail for an easier trail. The trail continues to wind in a westerly direction as it heads through the White Tanks. At 4.6 miles the trail forks – right leads to Sun Valley Freeway, left heads south and then southeast back towards I-10. You can take any of these trails to ride more or turn around like we did.
The vast number of trails in this area makes it easy to spend the entire day out. However, we by sticking to these major trails, allow for about 3 to 4 hours. The ratings vary depending on which trail you take, but the terrain – and scenery for that matter – remain relatively the same. Rocky narrow mountain trails are abundant. Because of the close location of a housing development, be respectful and always follow marked signs. This area is definitely a fun and close place to go riding!