Ranger-led tour enables visitors to explore San Tan park on horseback

People can explore San Tan Mountain Regional Park by horseback Feb. 23 on a trail ride led by park rangers. (Photo credit: MD Ranch)

Visitors to San Tan Mountain Regional Park in Queen Creek can experience the San Tan Mountains while navigating the trail by horseback 9-10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 23.

A park ranger and the professionals from MD Ranch will guide participants through the Sonoran Desert while they learn about the plants and animals that call San Tan home.

Horses must be reserved ahead of time through MD Ranch by calling 480-331-7893.

Horse rentals cost $35 per person, Matt Dieu, MD Ranch owner, said during a phone interview.

Horses are available for all rider levels. Mr. Dieu said he will pair a rider with a horse to match his or her riding ability.

Spots are limited. Participants should wear closed-toe shoes, long pants and a hat, and bring sunscreen and water.

They should meet at the horse corral in the overflow parking lot at the park, 6533 W. Phillips Road.

Other events of interest:

•Homeschool – Eco-Hike: 10-11:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 22. People who love nature and want to learn how to see the desert as more than just a beautiful landscape can join the park for a short classroom presentation followed by a guided walk and talk that focuses on adaptations, life cycles and the special relationships between our desert plants and animals. Learn how the plants survive with very little rainfall as well as what happens when they don’t survive. Animals can benefit from plants that are alive as well as those that are decaying. Participants will examine various specimens along the trail and see firsthand the importance of indigenous desert plants at all stages of life. All ages. General public welcome. Bring water, a hat, sunscreen and closed-toe shoes. Meet in the Nature Center.

•Horseback Ride with the Ranger: 9-10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 23. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the San Tan Mountains while navigating the park atop a trusty steed. The park ranger and the professionals from MD Ranch will guide participants through the Sonoran Desert on a trail ride they will never forget. Learn about the plants and animals that call San Tan home. Grab a cowboy hat for this ride through the park. Horses must be reserved ahead of time through MD Ranch by calling 480-331-7893. Fee required and spots are limited. Personal trail rides are available, as well. What to bring: Closed-toe shoes, long pants, a hat, sunscreen and water. Meet at the horse corral in the overflow parking lot.

•Beginner Skill Level Mountain Bike Ride: 8-10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 24: an exciting beginner mountain bike ride among the San Tan Mountains. This 5.5-mile ride is open to all ages and skill levels. Local experts will be available to help participants understand a bike’s features and learn the ins and outs of safe riding. “No Rider Left Behind” is the policy because participants will ride together in a group. It is an opportunity to be around others who are passionate about mountain biking as a sport to have fun and get some exercise. Helmets are required. Under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Essentials: water, helmet, extra tube, tools to change a flat tire. Meet at the San Tan Trail sign at the main trailhead.

•Archaeology Day: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24. Explore the Hohokam culture of San Tan Mountain Regional Park and the surrounding area with demonstrations, displays and informational talks presented by local agencies and craft specialists. There will also be opportunities for attendees to get hands-on experience with ancient skills that were both utilitarian and artistic. This is a drop-in style expo event that one can visit before or after his or her hike. The event takes place outdoors around the Visitor Center complex. What to bring: Closed-toe shoes, water, a hat and sunscreen.

For more information, call the park office at 480-655-5554 or visit its website at http://www.maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/san-tan-mountain-regional-park/.

Admission to the park is $6 a car. Events are included with the cost of admission.

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