Hiking the Trail
There are several hikes emanating from the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead. You can hike a loop by combining the Lost Dog Wash, Old Jeep, and Ringtail trails which makes for a nice 1 – 2 hour hike of moderate challenge and spectacular views.
To take this loop, start out on the Lost Dog Wash Trail from the pavilion, heading north (left) just prior to the entrance to the accessible interpretive trail. Once you have turned onto the this gravel trail you will pass the entrance to the Chet Andrews amphitheater on your left. Continue winding basically north until you come to the turnoff for the Old Jeep trail on your right. The Old Jeep trail heads basically east, then turns south. When you meet the Ringtail loop trail, take the turn to your right to complete the loop back to the Lost Dog Wash trailhead. If you continue straight you’ll also be on the Ringtail trail (it’s a loop trail), but you’ll either take a much longer hike to complete that loop as well, or you can cut back to the Lost Dog Wash trailhead on the Sunrise trail by making a right turn when you get to that point.
Take care, especially on the Lost Dog Wash Trail itself, not to make an erroneous turn onto a wash. As the name might imply, this place is full of washes, and some of them look like trails. If you have a question whether you should make a turn, but you do not see a trail direction sign, do not make the turn – just cross the wash. Also, look out for signs that are in most of the washes (though not all are visible) saying “stay on path” to protect the vulnerable Preserve land.
The Lost Dog Wash Trail meanders prettily though some lower desert area, though you’ll be slowly climbing. Turning onto the Old Jeep Trail, you’ll be on a wide rocky trail heading east, and then as you round the bend and start heading south you might be surprised at your elevation – you’re in a position to take in sweeping views of the Phoenix valley.
The Lost Dog Wash area of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a great place to see native fauna. The Early Rise Hikers have spotted deer, javelinas, coyotes, tarantulas, and snakes (be on the lookout!). We even had the great pleasure on one occasion of hiking with a former Yosemite ranger who showed us the signs of a mountain lion he has tracked, and which is known to live in the area.
For an overview of the Preserve and location of all trailheads, see the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Trailhead Map.
Trail Statistics and GPS
|Total Distance||4 miles|
|Elevation at Trailhead||1755 feet|
|Highest Elevation||2139 feet|
|Total Elevation Gain||497 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 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.
- 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.