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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Slinky desert trail with a quad-burning bite

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, North
Sidewinder Trail

The newest additions to the trails of this Phoenix recreation area are an eclectic collection of wide, shared-use tracks, slim footpaths and desert mountain vista points wandering among an archipelago of low-slung peaks.  Located in a separate stretch of Sonoran desert north of the preserve's established southern maze of trails around Union Peak, the new routes add 21.4 miles of local hiking options. The paths are easy-to-moderate, interconnected and all are marked with excellent signage that includes location, elevation, mileage, GPS coordinates and QR codes for downloading maps.  At just under 7 miles, aptly named Sidewinder Trail is the longest route in the system. Its serpentine course--cut on the edge of rocky slopes--serves as a backbone connector for 6 other trails. Although the grades are not too tough, this trail’s snake in the grass is its constant ups-and-downs, which makes the hike more strenuous that it might appear.

High point of the trail

LENGTH:  6.98 miles one way
RATING:  moderately difficult
ELEVATION: 1737' - 2000'
HOURS: 6 a.m. to sunset or 7 p.m. whichever comes first

From Phoenix, travel north on I17 to Carefree Hwy (AZ74).  Turn right (east) and continue to the stoplight at 7th Ave.  Park in the dirt lot on the right (south) side of the road.  No facilities at this trailhead.  The Apache Wash trailhead on Sonoran Desert Blvd,  which opened on Nov. 9, 2013, is the southern access point.

INFO: City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Brown's Ranch Trailhead GRAND OPENING this Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013

McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Brown's Mountain

Desert hiking; how we have missed thee.  The return of cool temperatures and close-to-home Valley hiking gets an added boost this year with the opening of Brown’s Ranch Trailhead.
Everything old is new again in this beautiful swath of North Scottsdale desert.  For years, local hikers have been familiar with the maze of social trails orbiting Powerline Road north of Dixileta. With no enforced rules or designated routes to protect the area's cultural artifacts and fragile terrain, this "wild west" free-for-all recreation site was on its way to becoming either an outdoor slum or swanky golf community.  Instead, the City of Scottsdale and the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy have restored the granite-and-saguaro landscape to a glorious nature preserve.  Cleaned up, packed with amenities and staffed during peak months by superstar volunteer trail stewards, roughly 60 of the planned 120 miles of recreational trails were opened to the public on June 10, 2013.  The choice of hiking trails here can be overwhelming, so a good way to get acquainted with this new section of the preserve is to scope it out from to its high point---Brown's Mountain.  Maps at the parking lot and plentiful trail signs make navigation a cinch---just head out from the trailhead and trek toward the big hill straight ahead. The real beauty of this trail system is its connectivity.  Endless combinations of loops or out-and-back routes can be created to suit hikers of all stripes.
Brown's Mountain Trail

LENGTH: 3 miles roundtrip (trailhead to Brown’s summit and back)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 2,710' - 3,253'
HOURS: sunrise -sunset daily
FACILITIES: paved parking, restrooms, water, horse hitch, bike racks, maps

Brown's Ranch Trailhead: 30301 N. Alma School Pkwy. Scottsdale 85262.
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess exit #36, go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite Road.  Turn right and continue 2.7 miles to Alma School Road, turn left and go 1 mile to the trailhead.
NOTE: trailhead parking will be CLOSED from 1 p.m. Friday 10-18-13 through Saturday 10-19-13 noon for the grand opening event.  Park at Pinnacle Peak Patio (10426 E. Jomax) and take the shuttle, which will run from 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Brown's Mountain Summit trail

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy