This hike is a wonderful way to see the interior of the southern part of McDowell Sonoran Preserve, and it also gives you a side by side comparison of the Scottsdale Preserve with the adjacent Preserve in Fountain Hills: the McDowell Mountain Preserve.
Hiking the Trail
The hike begins at the Sunrise Trailhead, and the first portion of this hike is described in the Sunrise Trail blogpost. Take the Sunrise Trail past the 1.2 mile Overlook, and towards the peak. Once you reach the Sunrise Saddle, where you’ll see an expansive view ahead of you as well as a sign pointing towards the peak. You’ll bypass the peak, and continue on the Sunrise trail straight ahead towards Lost Dog Wash. In a short time you’ll see a horse hitch on your right (to the north), and shortly after that you’ll come to the turnoff (also to the right, or north) to the Andrews Kinsey Trail. Head north on this trail.
The Andrews Kinsey Trail is a two-mile connecting segment completed in May 2014 which brings together the two trail systems in the Scottsdale and Fountain Hills Preserves. Fun fact: the trail is named for two preservation champions Chet Andrews and Roy Kinsey who created stewardship programs in their respective areas.
This part of the hike is more moderate, with only a 355 ft. elevation gain. Views of seemingly endless rolling spans of Sonoran Desert foliage combined with jagged rocky outcrops within the canyon this trail skirts are spectacular.
Around 1/2 mile of the most northerly portion of the Andrews Kinsey trail is in the Fountain Hills McDowell Mountain Preserve, as are the Promenade and Western Loop trails. The Town of Fountain Hills has published a map of the trails in the McDowell Mountain Preserve. In summary, Promenade is rated by the Town of Fountain Hills as moderate (309 ft. elevation gain over almost a mile) and Western Loop is rated extremely difficult (573 ft. elevation gain over 1.2 miles).
Obviously you can head back at this point, but if you’re interested in adding on the Western Loop and Promenade trails (which together form a loop, and make a sort of “lollipop” at the end of the Andrews Kinsey Trail), look out carefully for the turnoff to your left onto the Western Loop Trail. This trail zigzags upwards, and you’ll pass a couple of helipads Fountain Hills has installed in case of visitors to the area requiring emergency evacuation. You’ll find a lovely spot at the peak for sweeping views and a photo of the crew! On the way down the other side of the loop watch your footing – it’s also steep, and there’s a lot of large, loose rock.
Keep a careful eye out at the top of the loop to avoid taking a continuation of the promenade trail onto the Sonoran Trail: an easy mistake to make. You’ll want to make a right turn from the Western Loop Trail to the Promenade Trail to complete this look back to the Andrews Kinsey Trail.
Trail Statistics and GPS
|Sunrise to Andrews Kinsey||Western Loop Trail to Promenade Trail||Trails Together|
|Total Distance||4.4 miles (8.8 miles return)||1.8 miles||10.7 miles|
|Configuration||Out and back||Loop||Lollipop|
|Elevation at Trailhead||1,950 feet||2,686||1,950|
|Highest Elevation||2,960 feet||3,031||3,031|
|Total Elevation Gain||1,797 feet||583||2,439|
|Trail and Trail Surface||Well maintained and signed, wide trail, dirt, loose and embedded rock, occasional unevenness||Steep, uneven boulders and loose rock in places.|
|Facilities||Water, restrooms, shade pavilion, map, parking, horse trailer parking||None|
|Location of Trailhead||12101 N 145th Way # 1, Scottsdale, AZ 85259||33°37’22.8″N 111°46’43.1″W|
|GPS Coordinates Files: click to download||GPX KML GeoJSON||GPX KML GeoJSON|
This long, tough, hike starting at the Sunrise Trailhead has you entering the McDowell Mountain Preserve in Fountain Hills. If you aren’t careful about your trail navigation, you could end up hiking a trail even longer than originally planned. Assess the trail you will be attempting to hike, and have a general idea of where you’re going. Grab a map online or ahead of time at another trailhead (there are none at Sunrise), or use your GPS device with the coordinates files provided above.
Given the length of this hike and the steep elevation gains at both ends of the trail, don’t forget to pack a snack, and/or energy and electrolyte replacement supplements.
Also, always be prepared when hiking in the desert. Be aware that even in cooler temperatures, dehydration can occur. For a full discussion, read Staying Safe on a Desert Hike – but here are a few quick tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
- Bring plenty of water. As a rule of thumb, take one liter per anticipated hour of hiking.
- Hike with a friend or group. There are many hiking groups in the greater Phoenix area – including Early Rise Hikers!
- If you are hiking on your own, let someone know where you’ve gone, and take a cell phone.
- During the warmer months, hike during the cooler hours of the day to avoid dehydration and heatstroke.
- Stay on the trail. This is the best way to avoid encountering snakes.
- When encountering any animal, give the animal space. Do not attempt a wildlife selfie!
The McDowell Sonoran Conservancy is a fount of information on all aspects of the Preserve. You can access static information on their website as well as find out about events and volunteer education sessions. The Conservancy also announces discovery hikes, wellness hikes, and education sessions held at the Mustang Library on the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Meetup site.