Tommy J. DeBardeleben

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Lower Sonoran Desert species

Elevation: 1500'

Habitat:  Scenic Lower Sonoran Desert habitat

Overall Birding Rating: 4

Difficulty: 1-4 (Easy to More Difficult)

Birding Type: Easy to Difficult Hiking

Facilities:  Parking, Restrooms, Visitor Center, Campground and Playgrounds

Fees/Ownership:  $6.00 entrance fee/Maricopa County Parks and Recreation

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Surprise /25 miles northwest of Phoenix

Getting there:  Entrance to park is reached at the west end of Olive Avenue

Overview:  The White Tank Mountain Regional Park is overshadowed by the White Tank Mountains.  This is a very popular park, which is a top notch location in the greater Phoenix area for a hike in the desert.  A hiker's paradise is met here, as thirty miles of trails run through the park.  These trails range anywhere from as short as a mile to several of them exceeding five miles or more.  Difficulty ranges from easy to very difficult.  The White Tanks are very scenic: with blooming wildflowers, numerous cacti and trees, tall mountains, and shady canyons in the Lower Sonoran Desert.  Good facilities are provided all throughout the park which includes a campground, playground, and an informative visitor center.  The visitor center provides information and exhibits on desert wildlife.  With the mix of these features, the White Tanks are a good choice for the birder who is seeking desert birdlife. 

With the exception of spring and fall migrations (the many washes may hold interesting species) and maybe a few winter surprises, typical desert birdlife is expected in the White Tanks at all times.  This area is a good place to view White-throated Swifts when hiking along cliffs and canyons.  It's also an excellent place to view Canyon, Rock and Cactus Wrens all within minutes of each other.  Costa's Hummingbirds are reliable here, as well as the much more common Anna's Hummingbird.  Also keep an eye out for the Greater Roadrunner at all times.  This is also a good place to view Canyon Towhees.  Other desert birds will include Gilded Flicker, Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, Verdin, Phainopepla, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Northern Cardinal.  Watch for Prairie and Peregrine Falcons in the canyon areas. 

What makes the birding pleasant here are the variety of trails ranging differently based on difficulty and length.  All needs are met at the White Tanks.  One of the easier and enjoyable trails to hike on would be the Waterfall Canyon Trail.  This trail is a mile in length and leads to a shaded area where a spring creates a small waterfall at times throughout the year.  The short hike is beautiful.  A portion of the Waterfall Trail is also paved and handicapped accessible.  Many trailside informative signs tell about the area, as well as inhabitant plants and wildlife.  Most of the common desert birdlife may be observed right along this trail.  The ending stretch of the trail goes to shady canyons leading up to the waterfall, which is favored by White-throated Swifts and Canyon Wrens. 

Another easy trail and hike at the White Tanks is the Black Rock Loop.  This loop is located close to the Waterfall Canyon Trail, which there is even a short fork that connects both of these trails.  The Black Rock Trail has two loops: a long loop, and a short loop.  The short loop is 0.5 miles long and is handicapped accessible, while the long loop is 1.3 miles long.  This hike is another good bet at seeing most of the desert species in the area.

For a more challenging trail to hike, try the Goat Camp Trail near the entrance to the park.  The first few miles has flat hiking to start followed by steep switchbacks while climbing steep mountainsides.  This is a great stretch to view Rock and Canyon Wrens.

Birding Tip:  The White Tanks are owned by Maricopa County Parks and Recreation, which is a six dollar fee for vehicle entrance.  Based on what levels and hiking the birder feels like doing, most of the desert birds can be seen with ease here.  Hike the longer trails for more exploration and surprises.  Just as any desert, bring plenty of water.  Summer heat in the White Tanks isn't a safe bet, always let someone know where you are going.  An another cautious note, Mountain Lions frequent this park on a regular basis.  Use caution at all times in case they may be around. 

Directions:  The White Tank Mountains are located west of Phoenix.  The White Tank Mountain Regional Park is best reached by Olive Avenue, which eventually turns into White Tank Mountain Road, going through the park.  If on freeways, the closest freeway to reaching the White Tanks is the Loop 101 west.  Take the Olive Avenue exit and head west on Olive Avenue for 14 miles to the entrance of the park.


White Tank Mountain Regional Park Maps

White Tank Mountain Regional Park eBird Data


Scenes and Sights from White Tank Mountain Regional Park:

Birdlife of White Tank Mountain Regional Park:

Canyon Wren

White-throated Swift

Black-throated Sparrow


Back to Area 9-West Maricopa

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