Greetings, my fellow hikers! I'm going to be sharing an excellent hike just 45 minutes north of Phoenix, Arizona, where you're not going to find many other people, but you will see landscapes I would call the true “Wild, Wild West.” 

Hi, I'm Brice, president of Vaucluse Gear and the Cool-Dry Backpack Frame, where we love to sweat less and explore more, and today, we're doing just that. I'll be walking you through a fantastic hike where, truly, there are not going to be a lot of people. Only 45 minutes north of Phoenix, you can have thousands upon tens of thousands of acres to yourself. 

The area that I visited is the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, abutting Tonto National Forest and just north of the town called Cave Creek (which is also very enjoyable if you want a nice lunch afterward, because there are plenty of choices in this cute town). The Spur Ranch Conservation Area is part of the Maricopa County Regional Park System. The conservation area encompasses over 2,000-acres of diverse, rugged, upland Sonoran desert. The North Valley location contains fascinating archaeological sites, lush riparian (wetlands) areas along Cave Creek (which flows throughout the winter and spring), and still-apparent remnants of the early mining and ranching industries the park gets its name.

This area really is a “must-see” for wildlife lovers in the spring. I know I am definitely coming back here in the spring because the abundant vegetation present in the conservation area provides a rich habitat for a diverse assemblage of wildlife. What more could you ask for in an area to hike? 

This time, what I did for hikes was fairly simple. You've got a lot of options out here.

Hiking Trail Review - Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area - Cave Creek, Arizona

I started at the Dragonfly Regional Trailhead. There is a fee to park (once you understand how to pay!). There is a little dropbox, but there’s no top on the dropbox, so it didn't look like it was very secure (to me). All I know is that there is a small fee of $3. You can get an annual pass if you live in the area (that's what we're doing). Unfortunately, from what I can tell there is no way of getting an annual pass online so you will have to go to one of the designated purchasing sites during business hours and buy it directly. 

I took three different trails: Dragonfly Trail, Two Tortuga Trail and Spur Cross Trail. 

The first trail, Dragonfly, is moderate with some uphill sections because you're walking next to Cave Creek and kind of walk up and down, with these beautiful, massive cactuses all around you. There is plenty of vegetation, it's just beautiful. And plenty of wildlife. I saw birds and small rabbits there. 

The Tortuga Trail is pretty easy. It's like walking on a plateau, and you feel like you're in the Wild Wild West. It’s something undefinable... You have this panoramic view, all to yourself, and it seems untouched and yeah, definitely “this is the Southwest.” It was absolutely beautiful, I highly recommend this trail. It’s simple. Just walk flat.

The Spur Cross Trail is moderate, with some up-and-down sections before getting you back to the parking lot. Plus, there are more trails, as I mentioned, to explore further, including those leading to decent-sized mountains like Elephant Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain (I’ve provided links to additional maps). 

The Spur Cross Trail is moderate, with some up-and-down sections before getting you back to the parking lot. Plus, there are more trails, as I mentioned, to explore further, including those leading to decent-sized mountains like Elephant Mountain and Sugarloaf Mountain (I’ve provided links to additional maps).

You have my AllTrails map, and you also have maps from the Maricopa County Parks network. The maps they provide are very insightful and interactive as well. (Actually, I was pretty impressed!)

So overall, A+ on information for this area, A+ on the trails, which were very well marked, and the landscapes were A+ beautiful. Conditions for the hike were fantastic, mid70s F the entire way. There was some chance of rain (it never did), and it was partly cloudy with humidity under 40%. The total distance hiked just over four miles, elevation gain of about 535 feet, and the total time on trails was just under two hours.


Backpack Airflow System - Sweat Less in Arizona Heat

So I'd like to share some of the incredible gear I had on this hike, and I call it “incredible” because… Well, you will find out shortly. As I mentioned at the top of this video, I'm the president of Vaucluse Gear, where we love to sweat less and explore more.

I went out on the trails with an Osprey backpack 22-liter but what I also attached was a Cool-Dry Frame.

Now you can't see the frame here (because it's in black), so I'll show it in white. The Cool-Dry Frame can attach to any backpack and allow additional space between you and the backpack, so built-up heat and sweat can dissipate.

Some backpacks (like this one) let air escape using a little bit of a curve to their design, but when you're wearing the backpack as you should, it's still snug on your back, and there is no air (meaning, heat and sweat) escaping.

When you use a Cool-Dry Frame and you put your backpack firmly on, there's still going to be a space between you and your backpack. And that, trust me, is a really good thing.

Some people say you're “not supposed to” wear a backpack separate from your back. You're also not supposed to – in pursuit of comfort – remove or loosen straps or let a backpack completely sag down. You're not supposed to wear your backpack like that. That's for sure.

With my Cool-Dry Frame, you can put the backpack on (as I'm doing right now) and keep it on and, at the same time, still have breathable space between your back and pack. As you're hiking, you don't have to stop to take your backpack off to get relief from the heat. You don't have to lower straps to where your backpack sits improperly to get brief comfort. Instead, you can leave your backpack just the way it is and be perfectly fine and comfortable.

I've got plenty of reviews on our website from people saying, Yes, this product definitely does work.

Well, that’s all I have seen on the trails this time! If you want to get some relief from back heat and sweat, check out and the ultralight Cool-Dry Frame. I think you will really like this innovation to better backpacking, and (just so you know) Vaucluse Gear also reinvests in trails and bee farms.

Thank you so much, and see you on the trails.

  • Weather - The temperature was in the mid-70s. Partly cloudy with a low chance of rain. (Full overview)
  • Time on trail: 1h53
  • Distance around 4.14 miles.
  • Elevation gain was 535 feet.

Strava Tracking: You can review the hike's stats on my Strava account by clicking here.

AllTrails Tracking: You can review the trail on my AllTrails account by clicking here.

Backpacking Airflow System Sweat Hiking
Best Arizona Hiking Trails

The Cool-Dry Frame by Vaucluse

It's your best way to stay cool and dry with a backpack.

This lightweight (only 6 ounces), soft, durable, and flexible frame attaches directly to your backpack and creates a natural airflow between you and the pack without using mesh or other material that soaks up sweat and retains heat. This design maximizes airflow to keep your back cool and dry.

Sweat Check