Most locals past the age of 8 will tell you that Slide Rock State Park in the summer is highly overrated. After sitting in a long line of cars just to secure a parking space, you’re jostling with scores of families for the ideal spot that includes both shade and a good view of the water chute that gives the park its name (I won’t even mention the line for ice cream at the general store). If you head to the park after Labor Day Weekend, not only does the entrance fee drop, you’ll also experience fewer crowds. And trust us, this month you’ll still have plenty of warm weather.
For those who aren’t interested in getting wet, there is a hiking trail in the park. From the parking lot, walk the paved Pendley Homestead Trail, which features exhibits such as tourist cabins built in 1933, the Pendley Homestead House, farm equipment and an apple packing shed built in 1932. You’ll walk through the area’s verdant apple orchards (visit www.azparks.com for info on Slide Rock’s apple festival, which happens this year on Oct. 8), the first of which were planted in 1912. The park was originally a 43-acre apple farm that was owned by Frank Pendley, who acquired the land under the Homestead Act in 1910.
After walking a quarter of a mile, you’ll reach the stairs that lead to Oak Creek. Instead of heading down, continue straight to hike the Cliff Top Trail, a short, 0.38-mile walk (the pavement ends here). Shortly after the trail begins, you’ll come upon a rock shelf that overlooks the creek. It’s one of the best vantage points in the park. You can watch the swimmers in the creek, and you can also see the red rock formations in Oak Creek Canyon. Believe it or not, it’s a serene spot in an area not usually known for peace and quiet.
You’ll come upon another view point a few hundred yards beyond the shelf, and this one has a bench where you can spend some time. Just past the bench, the trail loops to the left and returns via the upper orchards. If you return to the parking lot, your hike is only a mile. We ventured down to the creek and walked along the shore to the site of a massive boulder that long ago tumbled down from the rim. It’s here that you’ll also find the remains of another brick cabin. This little side jaunt is absolutely worth it if the park isn’t crowded and only adds a quarter of a mile, round trip, to your hike.