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This McDowell Sonoran Preserve hike offers well-marked trails, easy climbs, nice views, and classic Sonoran desert scenery. And unlike Camelback Mountain, McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a peaceful oasis where you can connect with nature and unwind.
4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Well marked trails
Desert scenery, views
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
18333 N Thompson Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ, 85255, USA
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike Gateway Trailhead is about 30 minutes from downtown Scottsdale and 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix.
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve hike takes the Gateway Loop trail, which climbs up to the Gateway Saddle, then back down.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve hike has a few hundred feet of climbing up to the Gateway Saddle. It's a climb, but it isn't too tough.
Interactive Map McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike Map Downloads
If you have GPS device (
I use this one by Garmin and I love it) for your hike, load the GPX file below into your device to navigate the hike. For help on loading the GPX file, read this article on converting and transferring to a Garmin GPS.
Also, don’t rely on electronics as your sole means of navigation. There’s a basic printable PDF map below, and I strongly picking up
a good topo map too. Gear for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award. I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life. On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews Also, I'd recommend just taking a look around the Gear is dirt cheap there, including day-to-day clothing, fitness gear, and camping gear. And don't forget to get a lifetime REI Outlet. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike Directions What to Expect There are a ton of McDowell Sonoran Preserve trails. This hike covers the Gateway Loop Trail. It’s a great intro to the preserve. The trail system is well marked and there are free trail maps at the Gateway Trailhead. The Gateway Trailhead also has water, bathrooms, and volunteers who will answer questions. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve was created in 1990 when private citizens and the city of Scottsdale realized that they had to protect this pristine nature from development. They formed the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, a public-private partnership. The preserve is run by and cared for by private volunteers. Very awesome. Turn by Turn Directions From the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trailhead has a huge parking lot. Head up to the visitors center from here. The Gateway Trailhead has maps, bathrooms, and water for your hike. Hike through the courtyard to and over the metal bridge. After about 500 feet, you come to a little roundabout. Hike straight through. At about 0.4 miles, you come to the Gateway Loop trail. Notice that there are good signs at most of the trail junctions pointing you in the right direction. Hike left onto Gateway Loop trail. At 0.6 miles, hike to the right. The trial goes gradually uphill. At about 1.6 miles, make the sharp right to hike up the rocky path up to the Gateway Saddle. This is the steepest part of the trail. Take your time. The trail is rocky here but nothing extreme. As you hike your way up the saddle, look right to see beautiful Sonoran desert landscapes and views into Scottsdale and Phoenix. At about 2.1 miles you reach Gateway Saddle, the highest point on the hike. Catch your breath and enjoy the view. The Gateway Saddle sign is a great spot for a selfie. Don’t forget to tag it at McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Hike down the Gateway Loop Trail. It’s all downhill from here. The trail is well marked and offers nice views as you descend. At about 2.9 miles, stay right. At about 3.1 miles, stay right on the Gateway Loop trail. At about 3.6 miles, stay right. At about 4 miles, stay right once again. At about 4.1 miles, hike left off the Gateway Loop trail back to the visitor center. At about 4.4 miles, hike straight through the roundabout that you came through earlier and end the hike. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
This Camelback Mountain hike takes the easier and more scenic Cholla Trail. It’s still a tough hike, but the Cholla Trail is a nicer way to hike Camelback Mountain, a must-do Phoenix hike.
I’m Hiking Guy, aka Cris Hazzard. I like to get outdoors, walk, and then write about it. It wasn’t always like that though.
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