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McDowell Sonoran Preserve

You don’t have to choose between city life and country life when you vacation in Scottsdale, AZ! In Scottsdale, you can enjoy the upsides of the shops, restaurants, and spas located in the city, as well as the adventures of exploring the vast desert terrain right at your doorstep. A favorite place for getting outside in Scottsdale during all seasons, for both residents and visitors alike, is the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, located just northeast of downtown!

Explore the Trails at McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Encompassing over 35,000 acres and offering 225 miles of recreational trails, there is no shortage of places to explore within the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Preserve is popular for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. With the prohibition of motorized vehicles, this is a place to get away from the constant noise of life and connect with nature.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve trails are well marked and maintained. The trail options are varied, from short nature loops for casual strolls or challenging summits that will leave you breathless. Tom’s Thumb is one of the more popular hikes within the preserve and is a five-mile trail that ascends the McDowell Mountains. The trailhead for Tom’s Thumb can be found at 23015 N. 128th St. Switchbacks wind their way up the mountain, offering increasingly panoramic views along the way. After 2.5 miles you’ll reach Tom’s Thumb, a massive outcropping of granite, with views beyond looking out over Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area and Tonto National Forest. Retrace your steps back to the start to complete this out-and-back hike!

Other popular hikes within the McDowell Sonoran Preserve include the Lost Dogwash Trail, Gateway Loop, and Thompson Peak. Or choose one of the less-traveled trails and discover your own favorite!

Planning Your Visit to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is located in the northeast area of Scottsdale. It is open daily from sunrise to sunset and there is no charge for parking or entry. Their website is updated frequently with sunrise and sunset times, as well as any weather warnings or guidelines you should be aware of, so be sure to check for any updates before your visit! Trail maps can be picked up at trailheads or at the Community Services Office located in Scottdale at 7447 E. Indian School Rd. Suite 300. Be sure to come prepared with plenty of water for your hike!

Enjoy the great outdoors from Scottsdale, AZ when you stay in one of these luxurious Scottsdale vacation rentals!


Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain is one of the most recognized area landmarks. With an elevation of 2,700 feet, it is an excellent venue for a hike or climb. In fact, hiking Camelback is considered one of the top 10 things to do in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. There are two main trails/climbs — Cholla and Echo Canyon. Please be advised that these hikes and climbs are not generally considered “easy” or beginner level.

Papago Park

Papago Park is a municipal park that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is plenty to do in this gorgeous park including hiking, fishing and even golfing on the Papago Golf Course.
625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Hole in the Rock

Hole in the Rock is a wonderful destination for those wanting to see a terrific example of Arizona Red Rock. This is a natural geological formation located in Papago Park. This formation is actually a series of openings eroded into a small red stone hill. The openings and main chamber are accessible via a smoothly ascending path that passes behind the hill.

Taliesin West

Taliesin West was the winter home and school of Frank Lloyd Wright from 1937 until his death in 1959. Currently, it is the main campus of The School of Architecture at Taliesin and also houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. It is open to the public for tours, where you’ll be taken through indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as Wright’s private quarters, the gracious “Garden Room”, the drafting room and more.
12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259

Old Town Scottsdale

Old Town Scottsdale is one of the Southwest’s most vibrant and unique downtown areas. It offers pedestrian-friendly streets lines with world-class galleries, museums, restaurants and shops, plus an exciting nightlife scene.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the gateway to the Sonoran Desert and has one of the most diverse environments on earth. Located on more than 30,000 acres along the eastern edge of the city, the Preserve offers more than 100 miles of trails with six trailheads. Enjoy an array of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, wildlife and bird watching, and guided rock climbing and off-roading tours. Each trailhead provides expansive views of Pinnacle Peak and the Valley, and the Bajada Nature Trail offers a variety of games and activities for kids of all ages.
18333 N. Thompson Peak Rd, Scottsdale