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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Scorpion Point


Tarantula Trail "bear" overlooks Cone Mountain

Scorpion Point doesn’t rise particularly high over the boulder-strewn flats of the far west sector of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  Yet, even without cloud-scraping height, the weather-worn mound provides a platform for viewing a sprawling desert landscape and  a concentrated maze of tightly-woven trails favored by mountain bikers for their challenging turns and narrow passages.

Sweeping mountain views from Scorpion Point

Scorpion Point sits at the core of a vast field of granite boulders laid out in jumbled piles, fortress-like walls and isolated pinnacles.  Some have been shaped into bizarre, often amusing forms by millions of years of exposure and erosion. 

Watch for blind curves and oncoming traffic

Easily accessible by either the Brown’s Ranch or Pima Dynamite trailheads, a hike to the point unspools in an environment of rich botanical diversity and an outdoor museum of sorts with natural stone sculptures.  From the Brown’s Ranch trailhead, begin the hike on the Latigo Trail heading west. 
A stone "rabbit" on Tarantula Trail

From the start point, the trail dips into a largely shadeless expanse of desert where sun-loving plants like Christmas cactus, turpentine bush, jojoba, chuparosa, desert hackberry and desert lavender stand out over acres of prime wildflower territory.  With ample rainfall, this exposed tract produces carpets of colorful blooms in spring that creep up the slopes of nearby Cone and Brown’s Mountain. 
Desert lavender blooms along the route

At the 1.2-mile point, pick up the Hackamore Trail, hike 0.2-mile, and turn left onto the Tarantula Trail. The next half-mile is packed with whimsical stone sculptures. 
A tight spot on Dare A Sarah Trail

It won’t take too much imagination to spot lumps of granite that resemble a rabbit, hog, guppy, hippo and an enormous standing bear*.  Once through the rock art gallery, the trail encounters a sign warning of dangerous conditions ahead. 
Christmas cactus is a type of cholla

Chuparosa grows in crevices throughout the hike

This is the aforementioned bike maze where slickrock and blind curves warrant paying attention to footing and oncoming traffic.  Hikers will find the well-signed obstacles within the maze only moderately tricky.  Just follow the Dare A Sarah and Scorpion Trails to get to the point. 
Saguaros soar above the Hackamore Trail

Brown's Mountain seen from Latigo Trail

A short spur path leads to the bald lookout for unobstructed vistas that stretch all the way to the peaks of Tonto National Forest in the north to the familiar profiles of Pinnacle Peak, South Mountain and the distant Sierra Estrella range to the south.  
The route is well-signed and easy to follow

"Hippo" rock on Tarantula Trail

Make the Scorpion Point your turnaround spot or use the excellent preserve maps available online to build your own loop or car-shuttle hike.
"Hog" rock of Tarantula Trail

LENGTH:  5.3 miles round trip

RATING: easy-moderate

ELEVATION: 2,513 – 2,732 feet


Brown’s Ranch Trailhead:

30301 N. Alma School Rd., Scottsdale.

From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess exit 36, and go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite Road.  Turn right and continue 2.7 miles to Alma School Pkwy., turn left and drive 1 mile to the trailhead.  To reach the start of this hike, walk 0.1-mile south from the parking area on Alma School (the road you came in on) to the Latigo Trail access point on the right near the pedestrian crosswalk.

The preserve is open sunrise to sunset daily. There are restrooms at the trailhead. There are no fees.

* Rock formation interpretations are my own and not intended to imply "official" moniker designations.


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