Where possible, we will be adhering to social distancing.
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.
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. See PRESERVE HOURS for times and temporary closures.
WESTWORLD 15939 N. 98th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85260 Amenities Horse-trailer parking, water trough, shade ramada, restrooms, public arenas, directional signage. Access the Preserve via the WestWorld trail to the Quartz or Taliesin Trails.
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.
Overview The Bajada Nature Trail was constructed for the enjoyment of all — from young children to the elderly, and for those with physical challenges. The trail is a celebration of this particularly significant habitat, and an opportunity for people who have never dreamed they could enjoy an outdoor experience in the Preserve to experience the wonders of the desert. Children and seniors, visitors who are visually impaired and those who are hearing-impaired, people using wheelchairs and those with walkers will join their neighbors who regularly access the Preserve to experience the amenities this trail offers. The Bajada Nature Trail offers an innovative, interactive nature experience for those who want to learn more about Arizona’s unique Sonoran Desert.
Directions Follow the main trail from the parking area over the metal bridge and east to the sign for the Bajada Nature trail. Turn right onto the Bajada trail. The trail is laid out like a figure 8. Follow it in either direction back to the main trail and turn left to return to the parking area. Once at the start of the trail, you will see a welcome station with a sign that displays a map of the trail. From this point, the Bajada Trail is approximately 0.5 miles in total length, with a connector trail across the center of the loop. So, you can experience a shorter 0.25 mile long loop, or the longer 0.5 mile long loop. (Trail Surface: 100% of the trail surface is hard and surfaced with stabilized decomposed granite. Typical Tread Width: The typical width of the trail tread is 96”, with a minimum width of 72”. Typical Grade: The average grade is 3.0%. Typical Cross Slope: The typical cross slope is 1% or less.)
Overview The Jane Rau Nature Trail provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the diverse plants, rock outcrops, and scenic views of the Brown’s Ranch area of the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The trail is named in honor of Jane Rau, a community activist, educator, preserve steward, and leader known for her work to establish Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The trail is located in an area of undulating topography and was constructed to meet the 2013 US Forest Service trail accessibility standards. Some of the grades along the trail are in the higher range of what is typical for accessible trails.
Directions From the accessible parking, it is roughly 400’ to the start of the Jane Rau Trail. The access route is comprised of sections of asphalt, concrete, and stabilized decomposed granite and meets accessibility standards. Once at the start of the trail, you will see a welcome station with a sign that displays a map of the trail. From this point, the Jane Rau Trail travels 300’ to the east to where the trail loop begins.
Trail Specifications Trail Surface: 100% of the trail surface is hard and surfaced with stabilized decomposed granite. The majority is surfaced with stabilized decomposed granite, with two very short, and one roughly 30’ trail bridge made of metal grating that meets accessibility standards. Typical Tread Width: The typical width of the trail tread is 80”, with a minimum width of 53”. Typical Grade: The average grade is 4.8%, with a max grade of 11.0%. Thirty seven percent of the trail is between 6% and 8.3%, and 279’ of the trail is between 9% and 11.0%. Typical Cross Slope: The typical cross slope is 2.5%, with a max of 6.0%. Thirty five percent of the trail has a cross slope of 4% to 6%.
Roundtrip Distance 0.4 miles
Elevation Gain Minimal - See Trail Specifications Above
Overview On the Kovach Family Nature Trail, you will learn about some interesting features of nature’s families in the Sonoran Desert. You will discover how different families and the members within each family depend on one another for their well-being and survival. This community of plants and animals, along with the geological features and local human history, make this a special area in Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
Directions From the accessible parking, it is roughly 0.1 mile to the start of the Kovach Family Nature Trail. The access route is comprised of sections of asphalt, concrete, and stabilized decomposed granite and meets accessibility standards. Once at the start of the trail, you will see a welcome station with a sign that displays your choice of two loops, each of which are roughly 0.25 miles in length.
100% of the trail surface is hard. The majority is surfaced with stabilized decomposed granite, with some sections of concrete. There are two very short trail bridges made of metal grating that meets accessibility standards. There is also one concrete-surfaced access ramp that meets accessibility standards. Typical Tread Width: The typical width of the trail tread is 80”, with a minimum width of 53”. Typical Grade: The average grade is 3.0% and the maximum is 5.7% Typical Cross Slope: The typical cross slope is 1% or less.
Roundtrip Distance 0.5 miles
Elevation Gain Minimal - See Trail Specifications above
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.