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.

Electric Bikes Prohibited

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.

Guided Hikes

For information on guided hikes of Scottsdale's Preserve, visit the Natural Resources Coordinator Guided Hikes or the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy. links to external site

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

Trail Maps


View South Area Map Watch Video
Gateway, Tom's Thumb, Lost Dog Wash, Sunrise, Ringtail Trailheads

View North/Central Area MapWatch Video 
Brown's Ranch, Pima Dynamite, Granite Mountain, Fraesfield, Tom's Thumb 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

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° 45' 41.70"N, 111° 50' 32.06"W
Car and horse trailer parking, restrooms, shade ramada, interpretive and orientation signs, no drinking water

Gateway Trailhead

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, restrooms, shade ramada, interpretive and orientation signs, no drinking water

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.

Pima Dynamite Trailhead


28777 N Pima Rd. Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Entrances off of Dynamite Rd and Pima Rd.
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.

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

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.


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 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


Special Use

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.

2023 Schedule

  • 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.

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 contact Yvonne Massman at [email protected]. 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.