VISITING THE PRESERVE

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URGENT NOTICE IN LIGHT OF COVID-19 AND GUIDANCE FROM LOCAL, STATE AND FEDERAL PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCIES, THE MCDOWELL SONORAN CONSERVANCY CONTINUES TO SUSPEND PUBLIC ACTIVITIES THAT REQUIRE THE GATHERING OF GROUPS OF PEOPLE OR CLOSE PERSONAL CONTACT UNTIL GUIDANCE ALLOWS FOR RESUMPTION OF THOSE ACTIVITIES. FOR AS LONG AS NECESSARY, THE CONSERVANCY, ITS STAFF, AND STEWARDS WILL CONTINUE WITH MUCH OF THEIR WORK WHILE MAINTAINING A SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT.

The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy provides a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy and is home to many species of animals, plants and birds. Please take some time to browse through the tabs below to familiarize yourself with the Preserve and some of our policies before you visit. Our goal is to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all visitors while preserving the future of our pristine environment for generations to come.

EXPLORE OUR TRAILS

Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers an array of fabulous desert trails and award-winning facilities. The Preserve is unique geologically and home to stunning geography, lush cacti forests and diverse wildlife. Now is a great time to explore the 30,580 acres of Sonoran Desert. Choose from any of the major trailheads listed below to connect to more than 225+ miles of trails of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The Preserve is open every day from sunrise to sunset. Click PRESERVE HOURS for times and temporary closures.

ACCESSIBLE TRAILS IN THE PRESERVE

The Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers three Nature Trails with an enhanced level of accessibility. With convenient and barrier-free access from the Gateway, Brown’s Ranch or Lost Dog trailheads, these trails are designed for all to enjoy. Interactive exhibits enhance the experience by revealing intriguing stories of our desert.

The Preserve is open every day from sunrise to sunset. Click PRESERVE HOURS for times and temporary closures.

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy offer a wide variety of activities, all in a living treasure where you will make lifetime memories.

The Preserve is open every day from sunrise to sunset. Click PRESERVE HOURS for times and temporary closures.

Hiking

Enjoy a self-guided hike or join one of the many guided hikes presented by Stewards of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy on many of the best trails in Arizona.

Biking

The Preserve offers many trails to enjoy a great mountain bike ride in Scottsdale!

Horseback

Most trails in the Preserve are available for equestrian use. Riding is a great way to visit some of the remote areas of the Preserve.

Climbing

Climbers must follow a rock climbing plan that includes designated trails to historic climbing crags, associated parking lots and clear and accurate signage.

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We hear a lot of questions from Preserve visitors who are interested in making the most out of their experience with us. Please review this list of our most frequently asked questions and see the answers to important topics, including: how much water you should carry, knowing the signs of dehydration, what to bring in your pack, proper trail etiquette, and more.

How much water should I bring?

When hiking in Arizona, set out the amount of water that you think you’ll want, then double it. Even in cool weather, the desert dryness causes evaporation. Remember that dogs need just as much water as you do.

What should I bring in my pack?

Even though you’re on the Preserve’s hiking trails close to home, it’s important to remember to bring a fully charged cell phone. Also, remember extra water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a flashlight and batteries just in case you are delayed after sunset, a first aid kit with tweezers and a comb to help remove cholla balls and cactus spines.

What is the most common first aid need when hiking in the desert?

You may need to remove a cactus spine if you brush too closely to a cactus. To remove small spines without cactus stems attached, pluck them out with a tweezers or use a fine-tooth comb. To remove large spines with cactus stems attached, use nail scissors to cut the spines that are connecting the cactus stem to you. Use pliers to pull out the spines.

How will I know if I am getting dehydrated?

If any of the following begins to occur, you are overheating and/or dehydrated:

  • Your face is bright red and your neck is white;
  • You stop sweating;
  • You are sweating and feel chills; and/or
  • You are becoming slightly uncoordinated.

If any of these symptoms occur, find shade and rest. Sip water rather than gulp it. When you feel like you have recovered, return to the trailhead immediately.

What is the proper trail etiquette to use while hiking in the Preserve?

Whether you are hiking alone or with a group, walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy, to protect the fragile desert crust. Be considerate of fellow visitors by yielding to other visitors on the trail. Let nature’s sounds prevail by using a soft voice and minimizing loud noises. Pack out all trash and litter you find along the trail. Gateway, Lost Dog Wash, Brown’s Ranch and Tom’s Thumb trailheads have restroom facilities, but always be prepared. Carry some Ziploc bags with toilet paper. Pack used toilet paper out in the Ziploc. Don’t leave it under rocks. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them. Preserve the past by examining cultural or historic structures and artifacts, then leaving them where you found them. Refrain from building cairns. Respect wildlife by observing from a distance. Don’t follow, approach, or feed animals. Feeding wildlife is bad for their health and alters their natural behaviors.

Is alcohol allowed in the Preserve?

Alcohol is only allowed to be consumed in the Preserve if a permit has been obtained from the City of Scottsdale.

Best Hiking trails in Scottsdale

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