Love to hike? Scottsdale has plenty of options!

With a warm climate and minimal rain, any time is a good time to go outdoors in Scottsdale. Because of the steady weather, hiking trails have popped up all over the city, ranging from short trips that take less than an hour to day-long escapades.  The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy has dozens of trails spanning over a hundred miles. This is by far the biggest outdoor recreation sector in the Scottsdale area and features biking trails, mountain climbing paths, guided hikes, and much more! There’s something for everyone at this Scottsdale volunteer-run desert recreation center!


The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy in Scottsdale has a rich historyNature Preserve Scottsdale

Starting as a small office in the Scottsdale Promenade shopping center, in the early 90s, the Conservancy had about 5 square miles of land to work with over three pieces of land. Over the last couple of decades, that size has grown tremendously! Now with a dedicated office off East Greenway Road, the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy has grown just like the land it represents.  The Conservancy has been seen as a boon to the area, providing conservation programs along with the trails and recreation activities. The organization benefits the local residents for many reasons.

Trail building creates clear, well-kept trails

Defined hiking trails give visitors the opportunity to walk through local ecosystems safely. Hikers can stay on the path while not interrupting or interfering with the natural environment. By having well-defined trails, hikers can take an ideal path through the area and be able to find their way back with ease. The Conservancy has an added feature of having park rangers walk through the trail system at night to make sure no stragglers are lost or left behind in the dark.

Conservation programs protect the environment

Conservation programs make sure the environment isn’t disturbed or destroyed. Scottsdale is a growing city due to its high quality of living, and people continue to migrate to the region. Because of this, the Conservancy works closely with city planners and urban developers to create effective growth plans without destroying the landscape that makes Scottsdale such an attractive area. Working alongside the CAZCA, the Conservancy’s Field Institute does research projects in the area and finds ways to preserve the natural area while making room for more city residents–and even more quality golf courses!

Need a place to volunteer?

Volunteer opportunities are the backbone of McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. Run almost entirely by volunteers, the non-profit organization has 650 volunteers that do everything from trail clean up to volunteer research projects. They’re such an important part of Scottsdale, that the mayor dedicated October 2016 as Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve Month. Offering community service opportunities, the Conservancy provides comprehensive training to make sure that the natural landscape will stay pristine for years to come.


Enjoy over 180 miles of trails in the Preserve

Just how big has the Preserve grown since it first started? With over 30,000 acres, it will take a long time to explore it all! Grab a pizza at a local pizzeria and eat at one of the many picnic tables, then spend the day enjoying the outdoors. Among these are guided hikes, biking trails, climbing spots, self-guided hikes, and basic walks available for the whole family. There are even some ADA-Approved trails so no one has to be left out!

Love Mountain Biking? Try Tom’s Thumb Trail!

There are several mountain biking trails within the Preserve’s grounds. Most of them rank from beginner, such as Mesquite Canyon Trail, to intermediate, like the Windmill Trail. Tom’s Thumb Trail is in a league of its own. Experts looking to test their mettle can feel challenged by several steep climbs and descents, quick and sudden switchbacks, and areas of loose granite. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it certainly provides bragging rights!

Hiking Trail ScottsdaleWith both guided and self-guided hiking, see the Preserve your way!

People go on hikes for different reasons. Some love the thrill of a long climb to get to a viewpoint unattainable by car or other transportation methods. Others like to take it slow and enjoy the feeling of being outdoors. And still others like to learn as much as they can about their surroundings. With dozens of trailheads of all lengths, difficulties, and sights, every hiker will find something worthwhile. Want to learn about the environment? Try a free guided hike! Knowledgeable stewards explain the history of the trails including information about the plants and animals of the region. These guided hikes are available for private parties as well as group events.

Looking for something different? Rock Climbing and Horseback Riding are great options!

Since trails are well-kept and maintained, most of them work just as well on horseback as on foot. Horses are frequent visitors to the Preserve trails as they’re easy and comfortable to walk with plenty of room to navigate. You won’t, however, see a horse on any rock climbing sections! With pre-climbed paths on historic rock climbing sections, fixed bolts are built into the rocks for safety and security. Want to try rock climbing but never learned the proper techniques or safety methods? Classes are available for individuals and small groups as well!


Directions from McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trailhead to Tech Plus Automotive

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trailhead 
18333 N Thompson Peak Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

Head northwest on E McDowell Foothills Dr
(0.3 mi)

Turn left onto N Thompson Peak Pkwy
(0.6 mi)

Turn right onto E Bell Rd
(2.7 mi)

Turn left onto N Greenway Hayden Loop
(1.5 mi)

Turn left onto N 73rd St
(0.3 mi)

Turn left onto E Butherus Dr
(404 ft)

Tech Plus Automotive
7333 E Butherus Dr B-200, Scottsdale, AZ 85260