Hi friends! We’ve missed you!
Sorry for the delayed absence but we’re back and super excited about the stuff we’ve got lined up to share with you.
Today we’re covering one of many trails out in the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, AZ: Gateway Loop.
We headed out to do this trail right after work one day to see if we could catch an awesome sunset, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be that day. I found my way to work in the morning and my husband picked me up with one of the dogs in tow and off we went! He really had a blast and since he’s two, still had energy for days when we got home.
The McDowell Mountains have 31 different trails ranging at different lengths and ratings of ease.
Gateway Loop is rated Moderately Difficult and has an elevation change of 625 ft. It’s 3.6 miles long. There are maps at the entrance before you hit any of the trailheads. With the exception of a few trails, most trails allow hikers, horses, mountain bikers, and you can bring your dog as well, so that’s a plus!
The McDowell Mountains are iconic of what everyone thinks the entire State of Arizona looks like: desert. (It’s not how the whole state looks, I promise! Check out some of my other posts for proof.)
The desert really is beautiful though and Gateway Loop is no different. Notice the change in appearance of colors between the two photos just above. One is direct sunlight and the other is as the sun’s on its way to bed. How on earth can something seemingly so plain explode with color just at the difference in sun? Answer: Because it’s not plain at all. It’s full of life, color, and variety! (FYI: These photos have only an anti-haze lens and very little touch up, if any. I try to keep my photos close to natural and real, instead preferring to just get a good shot to begin with!) Anyway, as you wind your way through the trail and around a mountain peak, you see desert for the first part of the hike and then after climbing uphill for a few minutes, you’ll come to a junction where you can stay on the Gateway Loop or transition to another trail. If you stay on Gateway Loop, you can look to the right and see how vast the city really is.
You’ll continue climbing uphill until you reach the tipping point of the trail at which point you’ll be not only on your way back down but around the other side of the peak where you’ll eventually get a full view of the city. This is a great hike to get in on a weekday to get your heart rate up but not overexert yourself! Spring is also a great time to do this hike to try and catch wildflowers blooming. Because of our early warm temps, they bloomed early in some spots and we didn’t catch many this go-round. #SadFace
Within the McDowell Mountains themselves, there’s a project called the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, formed in 1991, whose goal is to protect the McDowell Mountains and volunteers have given back more than 50,000 hours to make repairs and patrol the the Preserve in order to conduct research projects and educate the community. It runs 100% on donations and volunteer hours. Thanks, volunteers, whomever you may be!
The volunteers offer free guided tours from October to May, lead educational walks, and staff the five major trailheads, including Gateway Loop. You can make a reservation for a tour to walk, hike, mountain bike, or ride your horse.
Let me know if you go and enjoy the photos from our hike!