Monday, October 19, 2015
I have a new favorite trail in Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Again. This happens every time I overcome my penchant for hiking well-known long paths with spectacular scenery and try something different. Although it's only 0.8-mile long, Buckshot Trail wins laurels because it straddles the gap between the familiar and the untried. It shoots off from the heavily travelled Brown's Ranch site to connect with the newer Hawknest Trail that arches over the preserve's north section for nearly its entire width. On the day I discovered this desert jewel, a huge group of hikers was assembled at the trailhead preparing to trek the 7.7-mile Cholla Mountain Loop--one of the area's most scenic circuits. They invited me to join them, but the drone of "been there done that" rattling in my cerebellum won over and I plowed north toward new-to-me territory instead. As with all hikes, trying to comprehend the unique character and secrets of an unexplored trail by viewing it as a line on a map is kind of like presuming to know the traits of a wine without having tasted it. Will it be a nobel Grand cru or some pedestrian vin du pays? The essence of the Buckshot Trail falls somewhere between Night Train and a hoity toity Bordeaux--amusing yet rich. Packed with massive saguaros, blooming shrubs and yucca-framed vistas, it's just far enough off the beaten paths to offer savory solitude. Only one other hiker (a preserve steward) and a handful of mountain bikers, crossed my path. Excellent maps available online and at the trailhead show numerous ways to cobble your own circuit using Buckshot Trail. Here's the route I took: From the trailhead, hike 1.9 miles north on Brown's Ranch Road to marker CL6 and turn right onto Corral Trail (note, this is 0.6 mile beyond the first Corral Trail access point). Go 0.5 mile on Corral, turn left on the Buckshot Trail and continue 0.8 mile to Hawknest Trail. Turn right (north) at the sign and hike 1.5 mile to Broken Spoke Trail, turn left and go 0.6 mile to High Desert Trail. Turn right (south) and go 0.7 mile to Corral Trail and follow the signs back to the trailhead.
On the return leg of the trip, solitude evaporated as I encountered some of the Cholla Mountain group and dozens of other hikers funneling onto arterial Brown's Ranch Road for the final mile-long trudge back to civilization and perhaps a nice Chianti.
LENGTH: 8.8 mile loop
ELEVATION: 2,610' – 2,770'
HOURS: sunrise to sunset daily
Brown's Ranch Trailhead
30301 N. Alma School Road, 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 Road. Turn left and continue 1 mile to the trailhead. There are restrooms, water and maps at the trailhead. No fee.
INFO: McDowell Sonoran Preservehttp://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/Assets/ScottsdaleAZ/Preserve/Preserve+North+Area+Trail+Map.pdf