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.

Ecological Resource Plan Public Input Opportunity

The City of Scottsdale is seeking public input on the draft 2024 Ecological Resource Plan (PDF) for the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The draft 2024 Ecological Resource Plan builds on the prior 2016 plan and provides guidance and recommendations for scientific studies designed to promote the long-term ecological health of the Preserve.

Please review the draft document and provide your input below. Citizen input is an important part of the planning process, and your feedback will help shape the long-term management and protection of the Preserve.

Extreme Heat is Expected

For your safety, please check the weather forecast and take necessary precautions before choosing to enter the Preserve. And please be especially aware if you plan to bring your dog. The desert heat can kill them with little or no warning, and you could be charged with animal cruelty under State law. Here are some guidelines that will help you stay safe in the Preserve and reduce your risk of needing to be rescued:

  • Visit the Preserve early in the day. Gates open roughly 30 minutes before sunrise.
  • Bring ample water for you and your dog. When it is half gone, turn around.
  • Begin hydrating your body prior to your outing, even the night before.
  • Check the hourly weather forecast BEFORE bringing your dog to the Preserve. If it will be more than 90 degrees during your outing, leave your dog at home.
  • Plan a route that fits your physical abilities and the expected weather conditions.
  • Take a map with you.
  • Bring your fully-charged cell phone.
  • Be alert and watch for rattlesnakes. Wear sturdy footwear, a hat, sunscreen, and light-colored clothing that covers your skin.

Electric Bikes Prohibited

Electric bikes are not allowed in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Electric Scooters, motorized bicycles, electric bicycles or any other non-self-propelled vehicle or device (excluding motorized wheelchairs) are prohibited on Preserve trails pursuant to Chapter 21 and Section 17-86(a) of the Scottsdale Revised Code. Exceptions may be approved for individuals with a qualifying mobility disability who require an accommodation.

For information and/or to request an accommodation, please call 480-312-4444.

Rattlesnakes in the Preserve

Rattlesnakes are an important part of the Preserve ecosystem and are a protected species. The Preserve is a wild area inhabited by a variety of wild animals, which are inherently unpredictable. While you visit their natural habitat, it is important to understand these tips to assure a safe experience.

Trail Maps


View South Area Map (PDF)

Watch Video
Gateway, Tom's Thumb, Lost Dog Wash, Sunrise, Ringtail Trailheads

View North/Central Area Map (PDF)

Watch Video
Brown's Ranch, Pima Dynamite, Granite Mountain, Fraesfield, Tom's Thumb Trailheads

Hard Copy

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

Community Services Office
7447 E. Indian School Road
Suite 300
Scottsdale, AZ 85251


30301 N. Alma School Pkwy, 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
Watch Video

13400 East Rio Verde Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85262
33°44'46.0"N 111°47'42.0"W
Car and horse trailer parking, restrooms, shade ramada, interpretive and orientation signs, no drinking water

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
Watch Video

31402 N. 136th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85262
33° 46' 12.52"N, 111° 47' 18.14"W
Car and horse trailer parking, restrooms, shade ramada, interpretive and orientation signs, no drinking water

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.

28777 N Pima Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Entrances off of Dynamite Road and Pima Road.
33° 44' 32.96"N, 111° 53' 15.23"W
Parking including some extended parking stalls, restrooms, shade ramadas, interpretive signage, water, horse trailer parking, hitching rails, water trough.

SW corner of McDowell Mountain Ranch Road and 104th St.
33° 37' 37.62"N, 111° 51' 23.55"W
Parking, no drinking water

12300 block of N. 128th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85259
33° 35' 56.38"N, 111° 48' 17.21"W
Parking, no drinking water

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)

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
Watch Video

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 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 handheld leash, no longer than six (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


Special Use

A Special Use Permit is required for special activities and organized events including professional photography and filming, family portrait, car photography, special events, weddings and other ceremonies, and community club activities such as group hikes and rides. Please fill out a special use permit request form to begin the process. It typically takes 7 to 10 business days for a permit to be issued. Call 480-312-7013 for more information or read the Preserve's Special Use Guidelines (PDF).


Guiding is allowed in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve with a permit. Permits are granted through an application process held once a year.

2024 Schedule

  • June 1st, 12:01 a.m. - Online application period opens for the following season. Applications will not be accepted before this date.
  • July 1st, 5 p.m. - Applications due. Applications submitted after this date will not be accepted.

You can submit an application by visiting the Preserve Guiding Permit Application page.

Upon approval of an application, a permit fee of $150 must be paid, plus pre-paid use days equal to $5 per client and a $10 Administrative Fee. Permits will be valid for one year, from Aug. 1 to July 31. Please read the Preserve's Guidelines for Guiding Permits (PDF) for more information.

For more information or questions please email Yvonne Massman. You may also call 480-312-7013. Thank you!

Possession of Firearms in the Preserve

According to laws of the State of Arizona and the City of Scottsdale, it is legal to possess guns in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve, and to carry firearms openly or concealed without a permit. However, it is illegal to discharge firearms in the Scottsdale Preserve, except for purposes of self-defense or the defense of others, or as otherwise permitted by law. Hunting with firearms is prohibited.

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