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Thursday, March 27, 2014


McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Granite boulders on Jane Rau Trail

Thank you, Jane Rau. We are all enjoying the results of your passion for land conservation.  As one of the original mavericks behind the McDowell Sonoran Land Conservancy, Ms. Rau's steady determination to preserve the pristine Sonoran Desert around Scottsdale spans decades and continues to this day. Shepherding this ambitious dream into reality was no walk in the park, but Jane and battalions of volunteers like her, persevered so that we hikers can, well, take a walk in the park. A barrier-free tribute trail to this tenacious mover-and-shaker loops through a delightful wash area in the Brown's Ranch parcel of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Wide, flat and adorned with interpretive signs and Palo Verde shaded benches, the trail was dedicated on March 22, 2014 making it the Valley's newest destination for effortless walks with strollers, wheelchairs, antsy kids and hiking enthusiasts of all ages and ability levels.

Abundant blooming plants on the trail

Interpretive signs embellish the trail 

LENGTH: 0.5-mile loop
RATING: easy, barrier free
ELEVATION: 2710' - 2747'
HOURS: dawn to dusk daily
RULES: no bikes or horses, leashed dogs are allowed
Brown's Ranch Trailhead: 30301 N. Alma School Pkwy, Scottsdale.
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess exit 36. Go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite, turn right and continue 2.7 miles to Alma School.  Turn left and go 1 mile to the trailhead. There’s restrooms, water and maps at the trailhead.  There are no fees, but voluntary donations can be made online:
INFO & MAPS: McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
City of Scottsdale:

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


 Final Wag & Walk dog adoption hike of the season is April 5, 2014
Volunteers with Wag & Walk dogs

The heat is on and that means the dogs of Maricopa County Animal Care & Control's Mesa shelter have one more opportunity to impress you with their cuteness, leash manners and walking skills on Usery Mountain Park's Merkle Trail for the final adoption hike of the season. Participants are encourged to "test drive" the adoptable dogs and see how well they get along with other canines on this family-friendly trek. This is a special opportunity for those looking to adopt because the dogs are often more relaxed and exhibit their true pup personalities outside of the shelter environment. All Wag & Walk dogs are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and ready to go home on the spot! So, come on out with a spare leash and an open heart for one (or more) of these deserving canine companions. Hikes will resume in November.

LENGTH: 1-mile loop (Merkle Trail)
RATING: easy, barrier-free
FEE: $6 park entry fee per vehicle
FACILITIES: picnic tables, restrooms, water,
3939 N. Usery Pass Rd., Mesa AZ 85207
From Phoenx, travel east on US60 to the Ellsworth Road exit.  Go north on Ellsworth to the park entrance.
DATE/TIME: Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 9 a.m. at the Merkle trailhead (area 6 parking).
INFO: Maricopa County Parks & Recreation, 480-984-0032

Monday, March 24, 2014


Wildflower high season at McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Brown's Mountain Trail

Standing on the summit of Brown's Mountain, a heart-pumping realization of just how close the desert preserve lapping at its base came to being washed away in a tidal surge of golf properties strikes the senses.   The suburban sprawl tsunami was averted through the persistence and hard work of the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, hundreds of volunteers and the City of Scottsdale, leaving us with an unspoiled parcel of Sonoran Desert to enjoy in perpetuity.  So, you better darn well get out there and hike! If the spectacular scenery and easy-to-navigate trails are not enough  motivation for you, the months of March and April bring wildflower high season. Even in drier years like 2013-14, strawberry hedgehog cactus, chia, lupines, poppies, buckwheat, chicory, scorpion weed, globemallow and rock gilia add splashes of vivid color to the subtle earth tones of the desert floor.
Mexican gold poppies

The familiar flat-topped silhouette of Brown's Mountain anchors the western end of the parcel. One option to get to the high point is to hike Brown's Ranch Road to Brown's Mountain Trail and take the summit spur trail to the top.
Although this path is narrow, rocky and steep, the climb's ROI is a birds-eye view of the entire trail system and surrounding mountain ranges.  Descend and continue on Brown's Mountain Trail to Upper Ranch Trail and follow its flower-fringed course back to the trailhead.

Brown's Mountain Summit Spur
LENGTH: 4.3 miles
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION:  2710' - 3253'
HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily

Brown's Ranch Trailhead: 30301 N. Alma School Pkwy, Scottsdale.
From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess exit 36. Go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite, turn right and continue 2.7 miles to Alma School.  Turn left and go 1 mile to the trailhead. There’s restrooms, water and maps at the trailhead.  No fees.
Brown's Mountain
INFO & MAPS: McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
City of Scottsdale:

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Adobe Jack Trail

Since its completion in 2012, this cluster of new trails near downtown Sedona has become quite the hot spot for urban treks. But don't be put off by its proximity to shopping and restaurants---there's quality hiking here.   Seven fresh cut trails-- Crusty, Grand Central, Coyote, Powerline Plunge, Javelina, Ant Hill Loop and Adobe Jack, add seven miles of exploratory routes that blend with the existing Soldier Pass-Thunder Mountain systems. Packed with gasp-worthy Red Rock Country views, these interlaced paths were designed for long-term sustainability and easy access to Sedona's complex geology and high desert flora.  The connectivity of these routes is a wonder---you can plan long day hikes and backpacking trips by linking with Brins Mesa trails to get to the Boynton Canyon and upper Oak Creek Canyon areas. Or, if a casual walk in tennies followed by post-trek noshing and retail therapy is your idea of an excellent adventure, then, this trailhead is your ideal launch pad.
Crusty Trail

LENGTH: 7 miles of new trails
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 4250’-4410’

Plenty of shade on Grand Central Trail

From the SR179/89A roundabout in Sedona, go 0.8 mile west (left, toward Cottonwood) on 89A to the trailhead on the right.
FEE: A Red Rock Pass is required
INFO: Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, 928-203-2900