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Sunday, February 28, 2010


BELL PASS McDowell Sonoran Preserve Just look at what we here in Phoenix have right in our backyards---thousands of acres of beautiful Sonoran Desert with miles-and-miles of hiking trails ranging in difficulty from barrier-free to extremely difficult. Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve boasts some of the best desert outdoor recreation around—all within walking distance from suburbia. For a good work out and amazing views, try the Bell Pass Trail. Although there are many access points and loop options; here’s one that works well if all you want to do is an out-and-back hike to the Pass. Here’s the plan: from the 104th St. trailhead, head north on the closed road for .2 mile to the Levee Trail junction. Turn right (east) here and go 1 mile to the Paradise Trail junction. Go left (north) on Paradise for .2 mile to the Gateway Loop junction. Turn right (east) and follow Gateway for .2 mile to the Bell Pass Trail turnoff. From here, it’s 2 miles to the Pass. This route is almost entirely flat up to the Bell Pass junction. After that, the ascent starts out gradually and does not get unduly steep until the last half-mile. The Pass itself is a narrow saddle straddling Thompson Peak (the one with the antennas) and McDowell Peak---these are the two most prominent peaks when viewed from Scottsdale. This sweet spot features views of the Mazatzal Mountain range and the confluence of the Salt and Verde Rivers. From the Pass, the trail continues another 1.25 miles and connects to both the Prospector’s Trail and Windgate Pass Trail. LENGTH: 7.2 miles roundtrip RATING: difficult DOG RATING: 2 paws (dogs must stay on leash) ELEVATION: 1,704 – 3,204 feet DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 35 miles GETTING THERE: From the Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Bell Road exit and go east on Bell to 104th Street. There’s a small parking area (room for about 16 cars) on the north side of the street. INFORMATION: or

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