Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hiking Frankling Mountain State Park - Sunset Loop Trail

Yesterday we completed a delightful hike through Franklin Mountain State Park. We attempted to follow the Sunset Loop Trail but wandered off it a couple of times. The desert landscape was truly gorgeous, and the generous cloud-cover meant that we never suffered under the heat of the sun.

We saw almost no wildlife (unless you count trail runners as wildlife), just a few birds and a few bugs. Comparing one of those bugs to this infographic tells me that we may have found an Arizona Bark Scorpion. He was hiding under a random rock I picked up to inspect. I assumed he was a harmless baby, but the web tells me otherwise. Apparently Bark Scorpions are the most dangerous scorpion in the US, and the venom is quite poisonous. So yeah, be careful which rocks you pick up while in the park.

Here's a few tips that I'd wish we had known about the Sunset Loop Trail before starting it:

  • While the trail does connect the Lower and Upper Sunset Trails, it starts on the Bike Loop trail. To begin the hike, head North West from the parking lot to find the Bike Loop Trail.
  • I missed that the trail incorporates Bike Loop and started us off by taking a trail down from the Overlook near the parking lot area. That trail took us to Lower Sunset Trail, it's just not what the hike calls for. We were able to re-join the recommended hike by following the Lower Sunset Trail North.
  • Nearly all the trail junctions lack usable signage. Most contain no signs, some contained numbers that didn't mean anything to us. There's also no blazes or trail markings to be found. So do be careful that you don't wander off trail.
  • Despite being named the Sunset Loop trail, the route leaves the Lower Sunset Trail and heads off into territory that the map shows no trail for. We found trails to follow out there, but they required Shira keep an extra close eye on the GPS to make sure we were on course.
  • The Upper Sunset trail is appropriately named, as it takes you up onto a ridge. This makes the last mile or so of the hike physically more challenging than all the previous miles. The views from the Upper Sunset trail are well worth the effort. The trail never gets especially technical and my fear of heights never kicked in.
  • The route is marked as Hard, and I'm not entirely sure it deserves that rating. The lack of blazes and the fact that the route leaves established trails does make this one trickier to follow. And the Upper Sunset Trail will get your heart pounding while climbing onto the ridge. But there was nothing technical or terrifying about this hike, and it wasn't especially long.

All in all, it's a great hike and was a terrific way to soak up some desert rays!

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