McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Temporary Rock Climbing Closure - North Face of Tom's Thumb.

The northern face of Tom’s Thumb is temporarily closed to public access to protect sensitive birds of prey that are nesting in that area. THE TOM’S THUMB TRAIL REMAINS OPEN. Temporary fencing and closure signs are in place that restrict access to the northern side, and we ask that the public obey all closure signs. We anticipate the closure to last through mid-June. Volunteers from the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy’s Field Institute will continue to monitor the nesting pair, and the closure will be lifted once the juvenile birds have safely fledged from the nest.

Climbers: If you do climb to the top of the Thumb via the south face, we ask that you stay away from the northern edge, as human presence in that area could negatively impact the nesting falcons.

Vegetation along Northern region to be trimmed: To learn more click here.

The Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a large, permanently protected, sustainable desert habitat that includes an interconnected network of non-motorized, multi-use trails (hike/bike/horse) accessed from multiple trailhead locations.

Electric Bikes are not allowed in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Electric bikes are motorized, and Chapter 21 (link to Muni code) of the Scottsdale Revised Code prohibits motorized vehicles from being used in the Preserve, with the exception of motorized wheelchairs, or vehicles in designated trailhead parking areas.

New Trailhead

The City of Scottsdale is moving forward to begin design and construction of the newest trailhead in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The new trailhead will be located on the northeast corner of Pima Rd. and Dynamite Blvd. and will provide parking and support amenities for public recreational access to the extensive network of trails in the northern region of the Preserve for hiking, biking, trail running, and horseback riding. We want to hear from you. Come view proposed plans for the plans for the trailhead and let us know what you think. There are three ways for you to participate:

Plan Your Visit to the Preserve


SOUTH AREA MAP   (PDF) - Watch Video
Gateway, Tom's Thumb, Lost Dog Wash, Sunrise, Ringtail Trailheads

Gooseneck Trail - Fraesfield Trailhead to Tom's Thumb Trailhead

NORTH AREA MAP  (PDF) - Watch Video
Brown's Ranch, Granite Mountain, Fraesfield Trailheads

Pickup Hardcopy

You can pickup hard copies at any of the trailhead locations or at:

Community Services Office
7447 E. Indian School Rd. Suite 300
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Brown's Ranch Trailhead - Watch Video
30301 N. Alma School Rd. Scottsdale, AZ 85262
33° 45' 41.70"N, 111° 50' 32.06"W
Parking, restrooms, shade ramadas, interpretive signage, water, horse trailer parking, hitching rails, water trough, accessible Jane Rau Nature Trail
Fraesfield Trailhead
13400 East Rio Verde Dr. Scottsdale, AZ 85262
33° 44' 36.98"N, 111° 47' 35.21"W
Car and horse trailer parking,  no drinking water
Planned Trailhead Improvements
Gateway Trailhead - Watch Video
18333 N. Thompson Peak Pkwy. Scottsdale, AZ 85255
33° 38' 56.23"N, 111° 51' 32.96"W
Parking, restrooms, shade ramadas, water, accessible Bajada Nature Trail, horse-trailer parking, hitching rails, water trough, interpretive signage
Granite Mountain Trailhead
31402 N. 136th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85262
33° 46' 12.52"N, 111° 47' 18.14"W
Car and horse trailer parking, no drinking water
Planned Trailhead Improvements
Lost Dog Wash Trailhead
12601 N. 124th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85259
33° 35' 58.75"N, 111° 48' 46.77"W
Parking, restrooms, shade ramadas, water, horse-trailer parking, hitching rails, water trough, directional signage, accessible nature trail
Quartz Trailhead
SW corner of McDowell Mountain Ranch Rd. and 104th St.
33° 37' 37.62"N, 111° 51' 23.55"W
Parking, no drinking water
Ringtail Trailhead
12300 block of N. 128th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85259
33° 35' 56.38"N, 111° 48' 17.21"W
Parking, no drinking water
Sunrise Trailhead
12101 N. 145th Way Scottsdale, AZ 85259
33° 35' 45.72"N, 111° 46' 3.9"W
Parking, water, directional signage, limited horse-trailer parking, hitching rails, water trough, shade ramada (overflow lot)
Tom's Thumb Trailhead - Watch Video
23015 N. 128th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85255
33° 41' 21.29"N, 111° 48' 5.305"W
Car and horse trailer parking, restrooms, shade ramada, interpretive signs,  no drinking water
15939 N. 98th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85260
33° 37' 50.1"N, 111° 52' 11.57"W
Horse-trailer parking, water trough, shade ramada, restrooms, public arenas, directional signage. Access the Preserve via the WestWorld trail to the Quartz or Taliesin Trails.

The Preserve is open everyday, sunrise to sunset,  free of charge. All trailheads open and close at specific times throughout the year.

Please observe all rules and regulations links to external site including no alcohol, smoking or fires.


Dogs in the Preserve are a privilege. If you bring your dog it is your responsibility to follow the rules:

  • If it is over 90 degrees at any time in your hike, it's too hot for your dog.
  • Dogs must be on hand held leash, no longer than 6 feet at all times.
  • Waste must be pick up immediately and disposed of in a trash container or carried with you until you reach a trash container.
  • Loose or bagged waste on the trail is prohibited.

Heat Warning for Dog Owners

Dogs do not actually sweat. They exchange heat through panting and to a minor degree, through their feet pads. Additionally, our canine friends do not tolerate high environmental temperatures as well as humans do.

Risk groups

The risk groups are much the same as humans: Old, obese, suffer from medical conditions or take medicine. Certain breeds are more susceptible to heat emergencies than other breeds. These breeds with a broad, short skull: Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs, etc.

Causes of heat emergency in dogs:

  • Strenuous exercise in hot, humid weather
  • Elevated temperatures from atmospheric temps and hot surface contact
  • Sidewalk/natural rock surface can radiate very high temps 
  • 90 degree atmospheric temp/ potential surface temp of 135 degrees

Warning Signs

  • Begins with heavy panting/signs of difficulty breathing
  • Tongue/gums appears bright red with thick saliva
  • Skin elasticity (when pinched, does not snap back)
  • Worsens if dog vomits, becomes unsteady, lethargic, unwilling to move (Core temp in the 104 degree range)
  • Heat Stroke:
    • lips/membranes become blue/gray
    • Rapid on-set collapse, seizure, unconsciousness and death

What to do

  • Immediate cooling of body with water, cool packs to groin, where legs meet the body, neck
  • Remove from heat immediately
  • Get to Veterinarian (Consequences of heat emergency = kidney failure, heart irregularities, other system failures, death)


  • Know your dog’s limitations/abilities
  • Assess the environmental conditions
  • Carry plenty of water for both you and your dog
  • Cool vests and trail booties for dogs are available and are very efficient

Permits are required for special activities and all commercial and organizational events including photography and filming. Please fill out a request form to begin the process.  It typically takes 2 to 3 weeks for a permit to be issued. Call 480-312-7013 for more information or read the Preserve's Special Use Guidelines. (PDF)

For information on guided hikes of Scottsdale's Preserve, visit the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. links to external site