Lost Dog Wash to Quartz Trail

MMP Lost Dog Wash Trailhead

MMP Lost Dog Wash Trailhead

Hiking the Trail

Just when you thought the trails at Lost Dog Wash were generally on the more gentle side, you find the Quartz Trail to give you a run for your money. This one is longer than most, as well as having a healthy elevation gain, and it’s a good idea to allow at least 4 1/2 hours to complete it. Make sure you have plenty of water, snacks, and protection from the sun.

To hike this trail, take the Lost Dog Wash Trail from the trailhead to the north, making sure you haven’t entered the paved interpretive trail beyond the start of the Lost Dog Wash Trail. Bypass the Ringtail Trail turnoff to the right, and hang left to stay on the Lost Dog Wash trail when you meet the Old Jeep trail. Continue past the Taliesin Overlook spur (which will be on your left) and look for the Quartz Trail after that on your right. Note that the Quartz Trail also continues straight the direction you’ve been going – but that will take you to the Quartz Trail trailhead within the adjacent neighborhood – more on that below. Hike the Quartz Trail to the end, and retrace your steps to return.

The first part of this trail on Lost Dog Wash will give you a good warm up with around 300 feet in elevation gain. Since the trail takes you just past the Taliesin Overlook Spur Trail you can read the Lost Dog Wash to Taliesin Overlook blog post on that hike for more details on the first part of this trail. Not long after you pass the Taliesin Overlook trail, you’ll be going downhill just as you meet the Quartz trail.

From this point to end of the Quartz Trail you’ll be heading pretty consistently upwards – almost 700 feet. Given the distance, however (about 2 miles), this feels like a pretty gentle rise. After about 0.4 miles you’ll find another spur trail, apparently unnamed, and currently unmarked, on your right. This is a steep uphill climb on a narrow scree covered trail to a surprising white quartz outcropping (227 feet in elevation gain over 0.17 miles – that’s a 25% grade!). It’s a challenging tramp to the top, but very worth it for the views of Thompson Peak and the valley in all directions.

As you continue on the Quartz Trail you will come to a point where the trail appears to fork, with the left (north) side of the fork continuing in the wash you’ve been walking alongside – the correct continuation of the trail. If you continue on the right hand trail, you’ll quickly come to an end so don’t worry too much about making a mistake. Just retrace your steps a few feet and continue along in the wash.

Towards the end of the trail there’s a bit of scrambling, and the trail ends basically at a point where you’re facing Thompson Peak, and it looks like you’d need to bushwhack to go much further. We discovered by speaking to a McDowell Mountain Conservancy Steward when we returned to the trailhead that there are long term plans to continue that path all the way up to the top of Thompson Peak. Here’s hoping!

I recommend taking a GPS device or GPS app on your phone with the coordinates I’ve provided below for this hike. I found that while on the second time around it would be easy enough to do without the GPS, on the first occasion I was constantly second guessing whether I was on an actual trail, and was gratified to have it confirmed.


loading map - please wait...

| | mi | +ft -ft (net: ft) | download GPX file download GPX file
LDW to Quart Trail: 33.617335, -111.817131


For an overview of the Preserve and location of all trailheads, see the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Trailhead Map.

Trail Statistics and GPS

Total Distance 8.8 miles
Configuration Out and Back
Elevation at Trailhead 1,755 feet
Highest Elevation 2,658 feet
Total Elevation Gain 1,054 feet (1,281 if you hike the extra spur trail)
Trail and Trail Surface From Trailhead: well maintained and signed, wide trail, dirt, loose and embedded rock, occasional unevenness. Quartz Trail from LDW Trail: more boulders, some scrambling. Scree on small, steep spur trail (not necessary for completing this hike).
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

Lost Dog Wash to Quartz Trail Stats


You can actually start The Quartz Trail within the McDowell Mountain Ranch neighborhood to the west, which may be more convenient if you’re coming from that direction. Here are the details:

Quartz Trailhead to Quartz Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Total Distance 8.0 miles
Configuration Out and Back
Total Elevation Gain 1,122 feet
Facilities Parking
Location of Trailhead 104th St and McDowell Mountain Ranch Rd, Scottsdale, AZ, 85255 (McDowell Mountain Ranch Community Garden)
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 (including this one!), 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!

Additional Information

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.

Leave a Reply