Arizona's Sonoran Desert is one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, home to more than 100 species of reptiles, 350 bird species, 60 mammals and more than 2,000 plants; you never know what you'll find out here! One of the best places to explore the Sonoran Desert is the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale.
There's never been a better time to visit, as the preserve is getting ready to open a new hiking trail that will give visitors even greater access to this unique Scottsdale attraction. The 2.5-mile long trail is still unnamed, but it's expected to be named in honor of local preserve advocates Ron Kinsey and Chet Andrews. Scottsdale park officials say the trail - which was first proposed in the 1990s - will open in June 2014.
Hikers will be able to access the new trail via the popular Lost Dog Wash and Sunrise trailheads, located in the southern part of the preserve. The trail will wind along the eastern stretch of the McDowell Mountains, taking hikers to the edge of the Tonto National Forest. The trail will also connect the McDowell Sonoran Preserve to the Fountain Hills McDowell Mountain Preserve to the east.
A new hiking trail will soon be opening at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale — Photo courtesy of McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve protects 30,200 acres of sustainable desert habitat. It contains 120 miles of non-motorized multi-use trails. Apart from hiking, visitors can also enjoy mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing and trail running throughout the preserve.
Currently, there are five major trailheads at the preserve, offering visitors a close-up look at lush cacti forests and the occasional glimpse of desert wildlife. Coyotes, deer, desert tortoise and javelina have all been spotted in the area. The preserve is also a great spot for bird watchers, with more than 100 bird species identified throughout the preserve.
The new trail, like the rest of the preserve, will be dog-friendly. Dogs must be on a leash, and owners are expected to pick up and dispose of dog waste. Dog waste-removal bags are provided at most trailheads.
The preserve is open every day from sunrise to sunset and is free of charge. The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation group that helps protect and promote the preserve, regularly leads guided hikes throughout the park. Contact the conservancy at (480) 998-7971 for a schedule of hiking events.