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Monday, February 24, 2020

Lousley Hill Trail

LOUSLEY HILL: McDowell Mountain Regional Park.
A hiker and his dog look out over the Verde River Valley
Finding a quiet place in McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills isn’t always easy.
With its long, flowing trails the 21,099-acre Maricopa County park in Fountain Hills is popular with mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians.
A rock stack marks the summit of Lousley Hill
Outfitted with camp sites, picnic areas, playgrounds and family-friend amenities and events, the park is a very busy place in Arizona’s cooler months. Still, solitude can be found, if you know where to look.
The area is recovering from a 1996 wildfire
The 1.2-mile Lousley Hill Trail is an under-the-radar gem that’s perfect for escaping the crowds.  The quiet trail offers easy access, a mild climb and scenic vistas of the Verde River Valley, McDowell Mountains and distant wilderness peaks. From the trailhead, a short access path crosses a sandy wash shaded by a mesquite trees to connect with the loop portion of the trail. Either leg of the loop works for the climbing part although the left leg is less steep and more gradual that the right.
The trail makes a moderate climb with great views all around
The trail hugs the exposed, brittlebush-covered slopes of a peak on the northern nub of the Lousley Hills, a north-south running ridge at the park’s east border.  The path is well-maintained but a little rocky. There are rest areas with benches on both legs of the loop to take a break if needed.
A lightening-cause fire in 1996 destroyed much of the park’s vegetation. Except for a few telltale black scars on saguaros, disintegrating tree skeletons and sparse tree cover, you’d never know that 14 years ago, the area looked like an ashen moonscape.
Lousley Hill Trail sports lush spring wildflowers
Since then, the scorched earth has given way to a resurgence of desert shrubs, trees and wildflowers. This is an especially pretty hike in spring when Mexican gold poppies color the foothills and surrounding plains.  Scattered stands of Palo verde trees and saguaro cacti provide spots of shade throughout the otherwise open-to-the-sky hike.  A series of long, lazy switchbacks land hikers on the tiny summit. A gigantic rock cairn sits at the top of the sunny vantage point with 360-degree views. 
Rugged terrain & mountain peaks seen from Lousley Hill Trail
Look for the distinctive knob of Red Mountain rising above emerald flood plains at the convergence of the Salt and Verde Rivers and the and hazy silhouettes of the Sierra Ancha mountain range. 
The trail's moderate grade is perfect for kids and dogs
The summit has plenty of nice spots to take a break or hang out to enjoy the solitude of an isolated desert bluff. If you’re up for more following this mini mountain assault, consult the park map to build a longer loop or out-and-back hike.
LENGTH: 1.2-mile loop
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1,711 – 2,036 feet
16300 McDowell Mountain Regional Park Dr., Fountain Hills.
From the park entry gate, follow McDowell Mountain Park Road past the main trailhead staging area to the Lousley Hill trailhead on the right. There’s a restroom nearby.
FEE: There’s a $7 daily fee per vehicle.

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