McDowell-Sonoran Preserve

New trails and trailheads are open and a number of hiking and educational programs are available through the non-profit McDowell Sonoran Conservancy.  For maps and information, visit


Tom’s Thumb Trailhead opened in October 2012 at 23015 N 128th St.    Trails feature beautiful overviews of the Rio Verde Valley and McDowell Mountains.  There are restrooms, but no water, at the trailhead.  There are some steep stretches on the 2.3 mile main Tom’s Thumb trail to the mountain top.  There are also many moderately easy trails with great views below the mountain that are open to horses and bikes, and rock climbing areas on the mountain sides for the hardy.

Directions from HVR1:  Happy Valley Road east past Pima Road 4.3 miles to Ranch Gate Road.  Turn right, follow Ranch Gate for 1.3 miles, and turn right where pavement turns.  From there it’s 1 mile to the trailhead entrance.  Follow curving roadway to any of the parking areas.

GateWay Trailhead opened in 2008 at 18333 N. Thompson Peak Road.  Trailhead has water, restrooms, and an interpretive trail: Bajada Nature Trail.  The trails interconnect with Tom’s Thumb and other trailheads in the southern portion of the Preserve.  Hardy hikers can even cross the McDowell mountains to Fountain Hills.

Directions from HVR1:  Pima Road south to Thompson Peak.  Turn left.  Thompson Peak for 3.3 miles.  Watch for the signs and left turn lane into the Preserve.  Follow gravel road to any of the parking areas.


Brown’s Ranch Trailhead opened in September 2013 at 30301 North Alma School Parkway.   The trailhead has full-feature restrooms and water, a history wall (Northern Preserve Area) about the northern stretches of the Preserve, and an easy to reach interpretive trail: Jane Rau Trail.  Trails are mostly easy to moderate with extensive interconnections.

Directions from HVR1:  Happy Valley Road east past Pima 2 miles to Alma School Parkway.  Alma School north past Dynamite Road 1.2 mile, where it ends at this trailhead.

Fraesfield Mountain Trailhead is at 13400 East Rio Verde Drive.   No water or facilities at present.  Trailhead is best suited for horses and bikes, as distances to major points of interest are further than from the other Brown’s Ranch area trails.

Directions from HVR1:  Pima north to Dynamite.  Dynamite east 3.8 miles.  Watch for the new signs

Granite Mountain Trailhead is at 31402 North 136th Street.   No water or facilities at present.  This is the nearest trailhead to the Granite Mountain Loop and Bootlegger trails, rich in vegetation and rock gardens.

Directions from HVR1:  Pima north to Dynamite.  Dynamite east 4.5 miles to 136th Street.  136th north about 2 miles to Lone Mountain Road.  Left into the trailhead parking area.