North Scottsdale is home to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a 30,000-acre desert habitat that provides over 225 miles of trails and is the largest urban preserve in the country. There are multiple trailheads to explore on foot, on bike, or even on horse. The Preserve is open for free every day, and trailheads are open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs are welcome, though you are asked to leave them at home if temperatures are above 90 degrees.
While out and about in the preserve, keep an eye out for volunteers wearing blue McDowell Sonoran Conservancy shirts. They are a wealth of knowledge about the area and can answer questions about trails and history of the preserve.
Brown's Ranch Trailhead
30301 N. Alma School Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Doggie comfort station available. Hike the Jane Rau Interpretive Trail, named after one of original advocates of the Preserve; one of her personal favorites, there are interpretive signs all along the trail.
18333 N. Thompson Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale, AZ 85255
The largest and one of the most popular trailheads. Doggie comfort station available. Hike the favorite Gateway Loop or take the entire family on the ADA accessible Bajada Nature Trail Loop.
Granite Mountain Trailhead
31402 N. 136th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Newer trailhead that provides access to the higher elevation northern area. Hike the Bootlegger, Granite Mountain, Saddlehorn Trail Loop to see mule deer and pass through granite boulders.
Lost Dog Wash Trailhead
12601 N. 124th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85259
Doggie comfort station available. Hike the Lost Dog Wash Trail to Taliesin Overlook for views of North Scottsdale and Taliesin West in the distance.
Tom's Thumb Trailhead
23015 N. 128th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85255
Provides access to some of the most notable features in the Preserve, including Tom’s Thumb, Windgate Overlook, and Mesquite Canyon. Hike the Marcus Landslide Interpretive Trail for views of the eastern side of the McDowell Mountains.
Other Notable Local Trails
Cholla Trail is a 2.6-mile popular trail located near Scottsdale that features beautiful wildflowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from September until May. Dogs aren’t allowed.
Black Canyon Trail
Rock Springs to W Carefree Highway is a 30.6-mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near Black Canyon City that features a river and is rated as moderate for difficulty. The trail offers a number of activity options. Leashed dogs welcome.
Pinnacle Peak Trail at Pinnacle Peak Park
Pinnacle Peak Trail is a 3.8-mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Scottsdale. The trail is rated moderate for difficulty, and it offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
Daisy Mountain Loop at Daisy Mountain State Preserve
Daisy Mountain Loop is a 7.1-mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near New River. This trail is rated as difficult and is primarily used for hiking and nature trips. It is best used from September until May. Dogs are able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
Sonoran Desert Loop at Phoenix Sonoran Desert Preserve
Sonoran Desert Loop is a 13.9-mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Phoenix, AZ, that features beautiful wildflowers and is rated as moderate for difficulty. The trail is primarily used for nature trips and mountain biking, and is best used from September until April.
Cave Creek Regional Park
Cave Creek Cactus Classic Race Loop is a 22-mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Cave Creek, AZ, that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate for difficulty. The trail is primarily used for nature trips, birding, and mountain biking and is best used from April until September.
"Hike early! Gateway Trail and Lost Dog Trail allow dogs, but Pinnacle Peak has the BEST views and a flatter gravel trail for families or trail running." – Amy K.
"There is so many hiking trails, and they are all easily accessible. After I had my son, I started taking him to Gateway trailhead because they have so many different trails for different experience levels." – Amanda W.
"My favorite free hike is Tom's Thumb. You can tailor your day hike around Tom's Thumb to accommodate older people and older dogs with an easy flat hike, or you can hike to all the way to the top and see as far as Phoenix airport!" – Kimberly H.