McDowell Sonoran Preserve
McDowell Sonoran Preserve

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Free admission
18333 North Thompson Peak Parkway, Scottsdale, Arizona, 85255

The basics

With its beautiful Sonoran Desert scenery just outside central Phoenix, and more than 120 miles (193 kilometers) of trails, the preserve is among the most popular hiking and mountain-biking destinations in the area. Tours for hikers and riders of all experience levels tend to meet at the trailhead and last a half-day or less, sometimes heading out at sunset to avoid the desert heat. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy also organizes lectures, community events, and guided hikes in the preserve.

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Stunning Sunrise or Sunset Guided Hiking Adventure in the Sonoran Desert
Likely to Sell OutLikely to Sell Out
Stunning Sunrise or Sunset Guided Hiking Adventure in the Sonoran Desert
$125.00 per adult
Traveler Favorite
Hike up the Sonoran desert
Our tour guide Cooper was amazing. He gave us all the information about the different fauna of the desert. My son thoroughly enjoyed his hike and was very happy that Cooper took us to different peaks. The tour provided us with water and snacks for her hike which was an added bonus because we did not have to carry it. Overall and enjoyable experience.
Shiny_T, Apr 2024

Things to know before you go

  • Electric bikes and motorized vehicles of any kind are not allowed in the preserve.

  • Watch out for rattlesnakes! Stay on designated trails and remember that the snakes are a protected species within the preserve.

  • Dogs are allowed as long as they’re on a leash at all times—and it’s under 90°F (32°C).

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How to get there

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trailhead is on the northeast edge of Scottsdale. Driving is your best bet: From downtown Phoenix, take the Arizona State Route 51 S onto the AZ-101 Loop North. Turn left onto North Pima Road, make a right on Legacy Boulevard, and follow signs for the trailhead on North Thompson Peak Parkway. Public transportation is limited in the area and not recommended.

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When to get there

The preserve is open year-round from sunrise to sunset, with specific hours available on its website. To skip the desert heat, the best times to visit are winter from December through February and spring from March through May, when the weather is relatively temperate. Summer and fall temps easily reach 100°F (38°C) and higher.

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How to explore the Sonoran Desert without leaving Phoenix

While it’s among the largest, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is only one of many protected desert areas and parks in the Phoenix area. South Mountain Park is just south of downtown; Estrella Mountain Regional Park features desert wetlands along the Gila River; and the Phoenix Mountains Preserve has desert wildlife and hiking trails north of downtown. Farther afield, the Cave Buttes Recreation Area and Sonoran Preserve lie at the north end of the metro area. There are more—and each is an opportunity to explore the desert without heading too far out.

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Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the nearest attractions to McDowell Sonoran Preserve?