Hiking the Trail
This is a terrific hike to a truly inspiring lookout point on the Windgate Trail that continues eastward from the Gateway Loop Trail. It provides a relatively compact workout with a 1000 foot elevation gain over 3 miles, while simultaneously taking you into some rough and beautiful territory in the Preserve that will give you a real sense of isolation from the busy-ness of the world.
To get there, leave from the Gateway Trailhead, crossing the metal footbridge, and heading east towards the Gateway Loop Trail. You’ll reach a turnoff with the Gateway Loop Trail to the left and right (north and south) with the small Saguaro Loop Trail ahead of you. Take a left to head north on the Gateway Loop Trail and stay on it, taking care not to turn off on the Horseshoe trail on your left. In 1.6 miles you’ll come to the turnoff to continue on the Gateway Loop Trail on your right – at that point, continue straight onto the Windgate trail.
There’s a bit of a reprieve from the climb as you leave behind the Loop hikers and enter into some beautiful area of rocky outcrops around McDowell Peak beyond the Gateway Loop Turnoff. Take the opportunity at this point to look around, because the last 3/4 miles of this hike is a kicker! Towards the top you’ll switch back a couple of times and get a high elevation view of the Phoenix valley to reward your climbing effort.
Your arrival at Inspiration point feels a little unceremonious after that last switchback – if you’re not careful you might hike right past it. But look out for the sign on your right, and a few wise and perhaps even inspiring words etched in stone. The real inspiration, however, is not in the area itself at all, of course: it’s in the spectacular view you have once you’ve climbed up the tiny bit further to the lookout point. Get there, and you’ll be inspired to come again!
Trail Statistics and GPS
|Total Distance||2.8 miles (5.6 miles return)|
|Configuration||Out and back|
|Elevation at Trailhead||1,720 feet|
|Highest Elevation (at Inspiration Point)||2,687 feet|
|Cumulative Elevation Gain||1,055 feet|
|Trail and Trail Surface||Well maintained and signed, wide trail, dirt, loose and embedded rock, occasional unevenness|
|Facilities||Water, restrooms, shade pavilion, map, parking, horse trailer parking|
|Location of Trailhead||18333 N. Thompson Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale, AZ 85255|
|GPS Coordinates Files: click to download||GPX KML GeoJSON|
There are many hikes emanating from the Gateway Trailhead ranging from flat and wheelchair accessible interpretive trails to extremely difficult hikes with high elevation gains and long distances. If you aren’t careful about your trail navigation, you could end up hiking a harder trail or longer distance 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 at the trailhead, or use your GPS device with the coordinates files provided above.
The hike from Gateway to Inspiration Point is a good workout, and it may be worth hiking with a snack, especially one with salt, to prevent fatigue. Note that at Inspiration Point you’ll find a concrete bench that most of the time is a little sheltered from the wind. It’s a nice spot to take a break and have a snack before heading back down to the trailhead.
Also, always be prepared when hiking in the desert. Be aware that even in cooler temperatures, dehydration can occur. For a full discussion, read hiking safely in the desert – 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.