The Lost Dog Wash – Ringtail Loop trail is a nearly three mile loop that can be used for a 1-hour fitness hike if you hike at a rapid pace. It’s also wonderful for a more leisurely hike that will enable you to enjoy the surrounding flora and fauna, and the sweeping views of the valley.
Hiking the Trail
Start out from the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead pavilion on the concrete path, and make a left on the gravel and dirt Lost Dog Wash trail. If your feet have remained on pavement and you’re see placards, you’ve gone too far and have entered the accessible interpretive trail. Continue on Lost Dog Wash trail until you come to a right turn onto the Ringtail trail, which will take you in a northeasterly direction. Continue on this loop trail all the way around back to the trailhead parking lot, making sure not to take turns onto the Old Jeep trail or Sunrise trail. The Ringtail loop will take you to the very edge of the Preserve, and so you’ll see some houses, as you’re heading south after you’ve crossed Sunrise trail, and on the south side of the Preserve you’ll see Anasazi elementary across the road. Watch the signs, they’ll head you back to the parking lot. If you miss the turn off and make it to 124th street, don’t worry: just make a turn to the north (right) and you’ll recognize the parking lot entrance you drove into.
Pay attention to differentiating the trails in this area from the washes. Lost Dog Wash is a very natural name for the place – the washes sometimes look an awful lot like the trail, and I’ve known many people who were lost as a result! Just remember – if you are going to turn, there should be a sign indicating the change. Otherwise, stay with the direction you’re headed, and you’ll stick with the trail. Also, if you find yourself scrambling over large boulders, you’re likely in a wash. Turn back the way you came, and look out for a trail sign or trail crossing point.
For an overview of the Preserve and location of all trailheads, see the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Trailhead Map.
Trail Statistics and GPS
|Total Distance||2.8 miles|
|Elevation at Trailhead||1,755 feet|
|Highest Elevation||2,006 feet|
|Total Elevation Gain||300 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||12601 N. 124th Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85259|
|GPS Coordinates Files: click to download||GPX KML GeoJSON|
Most of the trails starting from the Lost Dog Wash area are fairly gently undulating. However, there are a few more strenuous hikes in terms of elevation gain starting from that trailhead, and if you aren’t careful about your trail navigation, you could end up hiking a harder trail or longer distance than originally planned.
With that in mind, 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.
- 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 (if available – usually they are at Lost Dog Wash), or use your GPS device.
- 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.