McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Written by B.Shue at
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
trail layout
peak at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
desert view


When visiting Scottsdale, a protected sustainable desert habitat with multi-use trails is worth exploring. This is the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The sprawling desert is where nature thrives, untouched and protected. This vast expanse is a sanctuary that celebrates the incredible diversity of life in the Sonoran Desert.

The preserve takes pride in its network of non-motorized, multi-use trails accessible from various trailhead locations. Each trail weaves through the preserve, revealing the secrets of the Sonoran Desert.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve goes further than simply being a collection of paths. The trails, designed with sustainability in mind, cater to diverse outdoor activities, ensuring everyone, from hikers to bikers and horseback riders, finds their ideal path to adventure.

As you traverse these sustainable trails, you'll witness the harmonious coexistence of nature and recreation. McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a testament to Scottsdale's commitment to preserving the delicate balance between human enjoyment and ecological conservation.

Whether you're a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a first-time explorer, McDowell Sonoran Preserve welcomes you to a world where nature takes center stage.

Fun Facts & Cool Features 

For those eager for a deeper connection with the preserve, consider joining one of the guided hikes led by the Natural Resources Coordinator or the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. These expert-led excursions go beyond the surface, offering profound insights into the preserve's intricate web of flora, fauna, and ecosystems. 

When spring unfolds, so does a vital aspect of the preserve's ecosystem—the rattlesnakes. These cold-blooded reptiles are rightfully protected and are crucial in maintaining the ecological balance. To coexist harmoniously, follow safety tips, including staying on designated trails and ensuring your furry companions are leashed. It's a dance with nature that requires respect and awareness.

Before embarking on your adventure, take note that electric bikes are prohibited. However, exceptions exist for motorized wheelchairs and vehicles confined to designated trailhead parking areas. 

Download a digital route online to navigate the diverse landscapes and trails, or pick up hard copies at various trailhead locations. Having a map ensures you make the most of your journey. 

With trailheads like Brown's Ranch, Pima Dynamite, and Tom's Thumb, the preserve beckons exploration from every corner. Each path is a unique portal, offering a distinct starting point for your adventure. Whether you seek the tranquility of Lost Dog Wash or the challenging trails of Pima Dynamite, McDowell Sonoran Preserve has a trek tailored to your preference.

Grab your hiking gear, lace up your boots, and take a step into adventure on your Scottsdale vacation by visiting McDowell Sonoran Preserve.


Admission to McDowell Sonoran Preserve is free. However, guided hikes and programs offered by the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy may have associated fees.

Prices are subject to change; check the official website for updates.

Getting There

If you are coming from Scottsdale, Arizona, follow these directions:

  • Head northeast from Scottsdale.
  • Follow designated routes to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
  • Address: Saguaro Loop Trail, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

Local Tips

  • Bring plenty of water, especially during hotter months.
  • Rattlesnakes are in the area, especially during spring. Use caution and check the website for other tips and precautions.
  • Wear proper hiking shoes for rocky trails.
  • Check trailhead hours to plan your visit accordingly.
  • Keep an eye out for unique desert flora and fauna.


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