Looking for a great place to go hiking in Scottsdale? The McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers many of the best trails in Arizona, with trailside experts who can answer your questions.
Download a trail map at the bottom of this page. Even though you are hiking close to home, always be conservative. Turn around before you are halfway through your water or you feel tired. Always ask other trail users for water if you run out. Select a trail(s) having difficulty appropriate for your group members’ abilities. And: McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Stewards in their blue shirts are always ready and able to provide assistance if you need it.
Hike with the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy! Our Stewards can point out things that you may not notice on your own. Guides explore all Preserve trails and share information about a variety of topics.
There are hikes for almost every interest and hiking level. Stewards lead hikes focused on primarily on Education and Fitness, We take our time, stop often to talk about what we see and admire the beauty of our surroundings. No-cost guided hikes are scheduled from mid-October through April. Check dates and times on the Events page. We also offer hikes for families and private guided hikes for adult and youth groups. Contact the Conservancy for more information at (480) 998-7971.
Please note: Only service dogs are permitted on public guided hikes. Please wear appropriate shoes and bring plenty of water!
The McDowell Mountains and surrounding Sonoran Desert are a source of beauty and wonderment. From the earliest hunter-gathers through the ranching era and on to today’s modern Preserve, the region has maintained its majesty and mystery. Those who experience Private Guided Interpretive Hikes hosted by McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Stewards will see the desert in a new perspective.
Our Stewards provide information about the history of the area, unique cacti and desert vegetation and the unique adaptions of animals that make the desert their home. We will point out seasonal blooms, migratory birds and describe how those who settled this land thrived.
Bring your camera and your curiosity and leave with memories and images of this majestic landscape.
Private Guided Interpretive Hikes for small to large groups range from one to two-hour moderate nature walks to three-hour challenging mountain hikes. Separate hikes are offered for families. For more information contact the Conservancy for more information at (480) 998-7971.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers many trails to enjoy a great mountain bike ride. Below is a description of Preserve areas often frequented by mountain bikers,
SOUTHERN REGION – LOST DOG TRAILHEAD ACCESS
TRAILS – LOST DOG, QUARTZ, SUNRISE, RINGTAIL, PARADISE
Terrain: Rocky, some loose gravel
Characteristics: Steep climbs, fast descents, some exposure (steep drops on side of trail) Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced – need good cardio and bike handling skills
CENTRAL REGION – GATEWAY TRAILHEAD ACCESS
TRAILS – GATEWAY, WINDGATE, BELL PASS, PROSPECTOR, WINDMILL
Terrain: Rocky, some loose gravel Characteristics: Steep climbs, fast descents, some exposure (steep drops on side of trail) Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced – need good cardio and bike handling skills
TOM’S THUMB TRAIL
Terrain: Compacted soil with areas of loose crushed granite Characteristics: Significant steep climbs, sharp switchbacks Difficulty: Advanced – need excellent cardio for climbing and bike handling skills for steep descents
MESQUITE CANYON TRAIL, MARCUS LANDSLIDE, ROCK KNOB
Terrain: Compacted soil with areas of loose, crushed granite Characteristics: Rolling trail, brief sections of loose gravel Difficulty: Beginner+ – need good bike handling skills to control speed and ride on loose terrain.
NORTH REGION – BROWN’S RANCH TRAILHEAD MULTIPLE TRAILS – BROWN’S MOUNTAIN, CHOLLA MOUNTAIN, GRANITE MOUNTAIN LOOPS AND VARIOUS OTHER TRAILS. Terrain: Compacted soil with loose, crushed granite, some sandy washes.
Characteristics: Flowing, winding trails with moderate climbs and fun descents.
Difficulty: Beginner+/Intermediate – need good bike handling skills to ride in loose terrain and good cardio for certain trails with steeper climbs.
Make sure you take a Trail Map available for download at the bottom of this page for mileage stats and elevation gain.
The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy has a Mountain Bike Patrol that is recruiting new members. If you are a mountain biker or are a supporter of mountain biking and would like to know more about our bike patrol, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
GUIDED BIKE RIDES
We offer free guided group bike rides throughout the year. There are group rides, educational rides, as well as mountain bike skills clinics for beginners and those needing a little tune up. See our Events page for details.
Most trails in the Preserve are available for equestrian use, although some are more challenging than others. Equestrian staging areas are available at Sunrise, Lost Dog Wash, Gateway, Tom’s Thumb and Brown’s Ranch Trailhead.Riding is a great way to visit some of the remote areas of the Preserve. While your horse is doing most of the watching for safe footing, you are free to enjoy the wide vistas of surrounding beauty.
Of all the recreational pursuits that visitors can enjoy in the Preserve, rock climbing is likely the most dramatic and the least understood. Climbers follow a rock climbing plan that includes designated trails to historic climbing crags, associated parking lots and clear and accurate signage.
Preserve climbers use fixed bolts, which are safety devices drilled into the hard granite rock that provide a secure anchor for climbers’ ropes. Most of these bolts and climbing routes were placed long before the McDowell Mountains became part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Preserve climbers are wilderness advocates who promote the adoption within the Preserve of the National Parks’ regulations for rock climbing. These regulations include prohibitions against new installations of permanent climbing hardware, the intentional removal of lichen or plants from rocks and physical alterations of rock faces, among other guidelines. In addition, local climbers promote a small-group ethic. Classes and social climbs of more than eight people are discouraged.
This field trip event engages 3rd and 4th grade students in place-based learning through fun, educational lessons about the Sonoran Desert. Program supports Arizona state curriculum standards and fits into the Expedition Days Online unit.
Expedition Days on the Trail will be available from November 2023 to March 2024.
Supporting Arizona state curriculum standards for 3rd and 4th grades, this online program integrates inquiry and exploration into student learning, fits both in-person and virtual teaching formats, and is customizable to the needs of your classroom.