McDowell Sonoran Preserve
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.
Fireworks and smoking at strickly prohibited in all areas of the Preserve, including parking lots.
Plan Ahead to Reduce Your Risk of Needing to be Rescued
Spring days in the Sonoran Desert can start off cool and inviting, but quickly turn hot and forbidding. 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 are not allowed in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Electric bikes are motorized, and Chapter 21 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.
Rattlesnakes in the Scottsdale Preserve
With the warm spring weather upon us, the cold-blooded reptiles of the Preserve have emerged from hiding, including rattlesnakes. 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 remember a few tips to assure a safe experience.
To avoid encountering rattlesnakes in the Preserve:
- Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times
- Travel only on designated and posted trails
- Do not place your hands or feet in places you cannot see
- Wear long pants and boots
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times
If you encounter a rattlesnake on the trail:
- Most importantly – LEAVE IT ALONE
- Move slowly and deliberately, and back away to a safe distance
- Rattlesnakes will not chase you
- Provide a caution to other hikers in the area about the presence of the snake
- If the snake is in a developed area, like a trailhead, contact the Preserve staff (480-312-7013) and they will do their best to relocate the snake.
If a rattlesnake bite occurs:
- Remain calm and call 911
- Immobilize the extremity and keep it below the heart
- Remove jewelry and tight fitting clothing in case of swelling
- Decrease total body activity as is feasible
- Get medical help as soon as possible
Granite Mountain TrailheadDetails
Lost Dog Wash TrailheadDetails
Pima Dynamite Trailhead
|Introduction||Gateway||Tom's Thumb||Brown's Ranch|
|Preserve Introduction||Gateway Trailhead||Tom's Thumb Trailhead||Brown's Ranch Trailhead|
|Southern Mountain Region||Gateway Loop Trail||Marcus Landslide||Jane Rau Trail|
|25th Anniversary Celebration
||Bajada Nature Trail|
|Saguaro Loop Trail|
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 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.
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
- 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)
- 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
A Special Use Permit is required for special activities and organized events including professional photography and filming, 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.
- May 1st, 12:01 AM – Online application period opens for the following season. Applications will not be accepted before this date.
- June 1st, 5:00 PM – Applications due. Applications submitted after this date will not be accepted.
The application process for 2022 has closed.
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 information on guided hikes of Scottsdale's Preserve, visit the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.
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.
- Preserve Hours
- Preserve History
- Archery Hunting
- McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission
- Preserve Ordinance
- McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
- Community Services Rates and Fees (PDF)