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McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike

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.

Rating:
4 / 5
Distance:
4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Time:
2 hours
Difficulty:
Easy
Climbing:
620 ft (189 m)
Trail Condition:
Well marked trails
Challenges:
None
People:
Moderate
Known For:
Desert scenery, views
Best Time:
Early morning
Dogs:
Leashed
Bathrooms:
Yes
Parking:
Free

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 location

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike Gateway Trailhead is about 30 minutes from downtown Scottsdale and 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike 3d map

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve hike takes the Gateway Loop trail, which climbs up to the Gateway Saddle, then back down.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike elevation

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

hiking map on garmin fenix 3

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.

View a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike Directions

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike

What to Expect

Turn by Turn Directions

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike parking
From the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trailhead has a huge parking lot. Head up to the visitors center from here.
Gateway Trailhead
The Gateway Trailhead has maps, bathrooms, and water for your hike.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
Hike through the courtyard to and over the metal bridge.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
After about 500 feet, you come to a little roundabout. Hike straight through.
Gateway Loop trail sign
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.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
Hike left onto Gateway Loop trail.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
At 0.6 miles, hike to the right.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
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.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
This is the steepest part of the trail. Take your time. The trail is rocky here but nothing extreme.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike views
As you hike your way up the saddle, look right to see beautiful Sonoran desert landscapes and views into Scottsdale and Phoenix.
Gateway Saddle
At about 2.1 miles you reach Gateway Saddle, the highest point on the hike. Catch your breath and enjoy the view.
Gateway Saddle sign
The Gateway Saddle sign is a great spot for a selfie. Don’t forget to tag it at McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
Gateway Loop Trail
Hike down the Gateway Loop Trail. It’s all downhill from here.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
The trail is well marked and offers nice views as you descend.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
At about 2.9 miles, stay right.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
At about 3.1 miles, stay right on the Gateway Loop trail.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
At about 3.6 miles, stay right.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
At about 4 miles, stay right once again.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
At about 4.1 miles, hike left off the Gateway Loop trail back to the visitor center.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve Hike trail
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.

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