The call of the wild: open area activities are regulated

Date Modified: Thu, 04/13/2017 - 8:22am

People hiking on a trailIf you are an Arizona native, chances are you were raised in and enjoy the openness of the lands. Even if you grew up in the city, you may have had opportunities to enjoy the many recreational activities of the Arizona desert. The City of Phoenix has integrated the responsible preservation and use of these lands in many mountain preserves, hiking trails, city parks and in master planned communities. The City of Phoenix Parks Department is responsible for managing the hiking trails and parks that are owned and operated by the City of Phoenix.

State Trust Land

The trails and parks owned and operated by the City of Phoenix are separate from State Trust Land and have different rules. Hiking trails in the City of Phoenix are for pedestrians, bicycles and horses. There are no motorized vehicles allowed on any trails in community parks, and dogs are required to be on a leash. Users are also required to stay on the trails and not go off into the open areas around the trails. Most trails and parks have the specific uses posted at the entrances or in the parking lots if there is one. Please review them prior to using the trail system. It is also very important to observe some basic safety rules like always tell someone where you went hiking, bring plenty of water, a cell phone, wear appropriate clothes, hats, sun block and shoes for hiking and know your limitations. For more information on using the City of Phoenix Parks go to

Most open land areas in and surrounding the City of Phoenix are State Trust Land, managed by the State of Arizona State Land Department. It is important to know that Arizona Trust Land is NOT public land. A recreational permit is required to be on State Trust land that is designated as open for recreation, but NOT all State Trust land is open for recreational purposes. The recreational permit allows you to hike, bike, horseback ride, bicycle, photography, bird watching, sightseeing, and camping (up to 14 days per year). It DOES NOT allow you to target shoot, paintball, air soft, recreational flying (ultra lights), fireworks, sand railing, or off road driving using dirt bikes or ATV’s.

Many master planned communities or neighborhoods, including Anthem, have a trail system through neighborhoods that are privately owned. They have similar rules as to the hiking trails and do not allow motorized vehicles of any kind on them. A rider of a motorized vehicle on a private trail could be cited for trespassing, even if they are a resident of that community. ATV and other off-road vehicle riders need to be aware of the laws that govern their use to avoid any criminal charges. There are many open areas that these riders can go to so they can fully enjoy the ATV. For more information on places to ride go to

Phoenix City Codes

There are also City of Phoenix City codes that prohibit any motorized vehicles from being put on a dirt surface. The citations for violating this city code and the operating a vehicle on a dirt surface can be hefty and both officers from Phoenix Police Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office will take enforcement action on vehicles found in State Trust Land or any open desert area. The use of vehicles on dirt causes pollution and the County is monitored for dirt pollution. The Federal government does have highway funds which could potentially be reduced if the dust pollution is not controlled. There are many historic cultural or prehistoric ruins and archeological sites in our State Trust lands which are not to be disturbed as well as removing rocks, cacti, saguaro or cholla skeletons, plants or firewood. For more information on obtaining a permit or the use of State Trust lands, go to

Proper use of our beautiful open spaces, desert environment and its resources is every Arizonans responsibility. All residents should all be able to enjoy the land, private property trails and parks, without disturbance by those who wish to be irresponsible, act in a criminal manner and destroy land or property. Encourage everyone to remind others, including youth, of what is proper use of trails, private property and open land. If anything of a criminal or suspicious nature is observed, please call the Phoenix Police Department at 602-262-6151 or 911 in an emergency. 

Learn more about 404 wash areas in Anthem. Learn what is and isn't allowed, and how these areas are maintained. Learn more about desert maintenance in the Country Club community.

Special thanks to Officer Tim Mitten, Community Action Officer from the City of Phoenix Police Department, for contributing to this article.