McDowell Mountain North Trail

EASY 67 reviews

McDowell Mountain North Trail is a 2.9 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Rio Verde, Arizona that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 2.9 miles Elevation Gain: 137 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly


mountain biking

nature trips


bird watching


wild flowers


It’s flat and offers great views. The Sonoran Desert vegetation is stunning, especially the many huge and multi armed saguaros on the southern half of the loop. Most of McDowell Park is pretty sparse because a 1995 fire took out the cactus, palo verdes, and ironwoods. But North Trail wasn’t affected and remains pristine.

9 days ago

Very easy trail for a good morning or afternoon hike with some great scenery. I’ve done this hike several times in the same day and enjoy it each time. I find it better to start the trail in reverse (turn left from the mail trail entered each) so that the trail markers count down, letting you know where you are in your hike. Of course, that was before I got the AllTrails app.

Good run, pace down to 14:50 at times

Good run, nice temps

Chance of T Storms, high of 105, cool temp, prefer 115

96, Very hot, nice breeze, no humidity

25 lbs backpack, 5 miles, 2 hours, felt great ready for Kiet Siel

Wore vasque constant velocity trail runners, heal is in much better shape

Wore Oboz GTX,heal rub left foot, dressed on trail, did not help, also got extremely hot toes, very painful

Hot hike! Dad and me. 98 degrees, hot, breezy, dry, totally desolate. Beautiful desert landscapes, cacti, mountains.

5 months ago

Not sure how you would access this trailhead. We went south on 176 th St per the directions and the dirt road was closed about 1 mile from Jeep trail which was supposed to be the next turn? ??

6 months ago

Fairly easy trail. Has some great views and good opportunities for photography. Also learned a little about desert plant life. Bring lots of water though

6 months ago

Easy trail, with great views. Lots of different cacti and flora just getting ready to bloom. Will come back in a few weeks time

7 months ago

We’ve hiked this trail several times and always enjoy it. It’s flat and offers great views. The Sonoran Desert vegetation is stunning, especially the many huge and multi armed saguaros on the southern half of the loop. Most of McDowell Park is pretty boring because a 1995 fire took out the cactus, palo verdes, and ironwoods. But North Trail wasn’t affected and remains pristine. Even some rare crucifixion thorn. Wildflowers blooming today include poppies, fiddleneck, chuparosa, and trixis. Brittle brush just starting. This trail use to be good for fairy duster and globemallow but they all look dead; maybe didn’t survive the 2017-18 drought

7 months ago

Very easy walk. Lots of cactus with educational plaques.

8 months ago

Easy hike with my four-year-old and six-year-old. Beautiful views, clean walking path and well-kept, and we’ll go back again!

10 months ago

Easy trail with good views of Four Peaks.

11 months ago

Very nice easy trail.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Easy hike, lots of birds. Saw plenty of pack rat nests too. A few bikers but otherwise quiet. Great for trail running.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

This is a nice beginner trail, and trail to take children to - it has placards along the way that identify plantlife. Pick up a brochure at the entrance so that you can read what each placard references - you'll learn about packrats, for example. And as much as I enjoyed this trail, it's not one to hike if you're looking for an exertion. I like that there were only few other hikers. Parking was easy - it's a large, large parking lot.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

A nice beginner trail, no aggressive grades, just like taking a walk in the park. Low traffic in late January. Nice trail, easy to duck off if you want.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

We found ourselves here after a recommendation in Boots and Burgers: An Arizona Handbook for Hungry Hikers. It did not disappoint for a group of diverse hiking experiences. For a gorgeous January weekend we were almost alone on the trail with just a few hawks and planes in the blue sky above. Relatively flat we meandered as we saw fit and the path was well marked. I recommended going south (left) on the loop first and turning around occasionally to snap a pic of the magnificent views. Stop by the fountain when you're done. And eat Portillo's afterwards (added bonus). Get the Chicago Dog.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Good way to learn about the flora and fauna in the park with the guide.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trail was perfect for us. We were looking for something relatively easy and it fit our needs.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Very nice rolling loop trail. Good scenery and vegetation. Trail well marked and easy for all levels. Benches along the way, as well as markers that tell about the vegetation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Went here for a night hike with park staff for the Hunter Moon/sunset/moon rise/full moon walk. The views were gorgeous! Was very flat and so easy to walk that you could do it solely by moonlight. Some people in the group showed up late and these were the same people who didn't get the brief talk from the ranger about being quiet and proper flashlight etiquette. Was pretty annoying having bright lights randomly flashed in your eyes and people incessantly talking loudly about billd and car problems and neighbors... Would have been much more enjoyable with a small group. But that's what you get sometimes when you do a group hike! Was still a beautiful hike.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Nice beginner trail. Very flat and easy for all ages.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hike of very nice length and not difficult at all. It was a good first one for my wife and I to take as we get back into hiking.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Very easy, flat hike. As the other review here says, it is more of a nature walk, but still enjoyable. We arrived at 9am on a Sunday and were the only ones there. We saw a biker and maybe 4 others during our loop. We did take out 9 month old puppy, and she held up good. The trail is soft and sandy for the most part. There are markers along the way describing some of the plants and trees. It's a great, relaxing walk through the beautiful landscape.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

This trail is accessible whenever the McDowell Mountains Regional Park is open. Park entry is $6 for day use. I started my hike at 5:30 pm and ended at 7:25. (I like to stop, take pictures, enjoy the view, etc) This is really a nature loop trail. There are 28 marker posts along its 3.1 mile distance. Some have placards that identify the flora in front of the posts. What stood out for me was just how lush and big everything was. I uploaded a photo of a saguaro I found 75' north of the trailhead right next to picnic tables. It looked to be 50' tall! Compared to other Phoenix valley trails, the saguaro, ocotillo and ironwood trees are MUCH taller. And all plants in the loop seemed more dense and healthier than typical trails. In spite of the late start, I found an abundance of wildlife: lizards, mourning doves, chipmunks, grouse, road runners, and a red tail hawk. Hike this trail in the early morning hours for even more variety. The loop affords great views of the surrounding McDowell mountains to the southeast, east and northeast. On a day with overcast skies and late day breaking sunshine, the dramatic light on the horizon is truly breathtaking. The trail itself, like many of the trails in this park, is susceptible to erosion from rain. Be prepared for some washed out sections. It's not a big deal, you just find yourself trudging through short bits of deep sand.

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