Explore the most popular birding trails in McDowell Sonoran Preserve with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

First mile is very difficult. After that it’s pretty easy. Great view

hiking
2 days ago

Loved this. I ended making it a loop (Gateway to Windgate to Tom’s Thumb to East End to Bell Pass to Gateway = ~15 miles); part of the reason I love this area is how customizable the trail options are. Started out early and most of the incline was in the shade, and hardly anyone was out and about. Highly recommend. Great views, interesting terrain, and very well-marked (with maps available too!).

Nice hike and workout. No shade - bring plenty of water even in you go early

Great hike. Seems like it is a little longer than 4 miles, maybe 4.5. Did the hike with my 11 and 6 year olds. First mile was tough with steep incline but the rest of the hike was pretty easy. Make sure you wear good shoes as it is slippery on the rocks on the way down. Amazing views!

hiking
15 days ago

Short, relatively intense trail with excellent views! The parking lot is really big and roads to the trailhead are extremely well marked. Trail is pretty wide and well maintained with regular distance markers. It gets pretty crowded because it's popular for trail running, so get there early or go on a weekday if possible. As far as technical hiking skill needed, this is pretty easy- just wear good shoes so you don't slip. This is a moderate because of the climb. Almost all of the elevation gain is within 1/2-3/4 of a mile and it's pretty brutal. Take breaks and enjoy the views- it's totally worth the climb!

Nice and easy trail. Great trail for beginners and anyone wanting a quick hike/walk.

trail running
16 days ago

One of the most beautiful and scenic trails in the McDowells. Includes a little bit of red rock, desert brush, granite rock, and washes with varying terrain. Get ready to greet a few deer and rattlesnakes on the way.

16 days ago

Awesome trail, be prepared- the first mile is brutal. Make sure you bring plenty of water, at lease 2 liters. (I was surprised how many people I passed on my way down who were carrying a single bottle. At 10 A.M. and the temp was heating up rapidly.
Only issue is this app sent alerts to my lifeline as I hadn’t “checked in” in a while. There are a few dead zones on the hike, so signal was lost. This unnecessarily worried my lifelines- so I am not sure if there is a way for the developers to figure out a way to “fix”.
Also not sure what algorithm is used to determine hike times, again my lifelines were alerted because we didn’t return at the anticipated time (probably spent 15 or so minutes at the peak taking pictures).
Hike is a 10. App is a 5

hiking
17 days ago

Went on a sunrise hike - cooler temps, well marked trail, great leg workout, and amazing views! Plenty of shade in the middle of the hike. Hiking poles and shoes with good traction are recommended. Your knees will thank you later. Bring plenty of water (at least 3 liters), and sunscreen especially in the summer. Ample parking. Restrooms available at trailhead.

The uphill on Bell Pass is tough, but well worth it. Great run early in the morning before it gets too crowded.

trail running
18 days ago

Nice trail for running; beautiful view at the top.

hiking
1 month ago

A great trail that's quite a fun uphill journey toward the iconic Tom's Thumb. There were a fair bit of people, but parking was still good early in the morning.

Great variety of terrain from general Sonoran desert to rock garden to Saguaro forest. Very nice pretty easy loop

mountain biking
1 month ago

Like most trails in Brown's Ranch, mountain bikers out number hikers. So if you're looking for a nice peaceful hike, mountain bikes flying down the trail might harsh your mellow. During the winter months when the weather is nice, there will be a lot of them. I've seen hikers perturbed after repeatedly stepping aside for bikers. You might get a few horses too, but at least those are fun to look at.

This was a great trail! Difficult but not too hard, we will definitely be back!

1 month ago

Sunrise hikes are the best

This trail is no longer accessible at the Legend Trail end. The Legend Trail HOA has decided to close it all off to any public access and no trespassing signs are posted all along Legend Trail. I suspect it's because of a parking issue since there is no real parking area, there was a small turnout that used to have 3 or 4 cars in it much of the time. I don't know why that bothered anyone but it's not filled in with rock. Cone mountain is still easily accessible from Browns Ranch to the south though.

I had every intention of doing an out-and-back to Bell’s Pass but decided to make it a loop because the scenery was so lovely. I found it pretty moderate and completed it in just under 4 hours which mileage showing around 9.4 miles. Loved it!

Good hike with lovely views both up and down the mountain. Be sure to keep going, because, at the top, the first large rock outcropping you approach is not Tom's Thumb. You'll need to walk around that to get to Tom's Thumb.
I hiked this trail on one of Phoenix's first over 80-degree days, thus got lucky to see a Diamondback on trail. It made the hike that much more meaningful.
This trail is well maintained, wide enough to accommodate people passing each other.

Nice hike, easy and quiet.

hiking
2 months ago

Would be brutal in full sun but a great hike inbetween monsoons!

Quiet and relaxing.

hiking
2 months ago

My favorite hike so far. Very moderate steep incline for a while but after you get passed that it is easy. The views from the top are the best in Phoenix in my opinion. Very pretty, worth the hike for sure.

hiking
2 months ago

Good hike. Was pretty flat in the very beginning leading up to the incline then it gets pretty steep as the trail progresses. Cool view at the top of the 3,848 foot mountain including Scottsdale Airport and the greater Phoenix valley area (downtown and Camelback Mountain) to the southwest and the greater desert area to the north and northeast.

This is a good trail to do as soon as the preserve is open. You can hike up to the pass before the sun rises over the top. I was half way back when the sun hit me. It's a good workout with nice views on the pass.

hiking
3 months ago

First time walking this trail and I loved it. A leg workout for sure, first part is a little tough but gets easier up top. This is a huge hiking area so I did not have too much time to explore side trails as much I would love too. Definitely returning and exploring more. Highly recommend this trail! Bring plenty of water! I was almost out walking down the hill.

Took us 1 hour up, 50 minutes down. The trail is easy to follow. This is a leg workout! Great views at the top and along the way. We started the trail at 6 am and the temperature was perfect. You do get some shade in the middle of the hike too, at the hour we went.

hiking
3 months ago

First of all, I’d definitely recommend doing the hike. Very clearly marked. Well maintained. Beautiful view — I did mine at sunset and it was amazing.

My watch registered this hike at just a shy under 5 miles. And, it was a tad harder than I had anticipated it would be.

The first .25 miles are nothing but a walk through the desert. The next .75-1 mile was essentially straight incline - you think you’re done a bunch of times. Tons of switch backs. Very little relief. The last .75 was a mixture of ups and downs but since you can see your destination it’s not bad at all.

I’d strongly suggest not going in the heat of the sun.

Beautiful hike and very well marked and maintained trail

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