In the northeastern corner of the Valley of the Sun, a plethora of trails exist for hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders alike. I’ve written about trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve before (collectively referred to by many as the McDowell Mountains), but we’ve gone back and hiked Bell Pass this time around and, as usual, our hike did not disappoint.
For this hike, you can park in a couple of spots- the Gateway Loop Trailhead or the smaller parking lot at 104th/Bell Trailhead. (Note: the 104th is really tiny and holds maybe 10 cars because it’s more for overflow parking if the Gateway spot is full). Here’s a map of the Southern section of the Preserve showing this trail among others and the parking I’m talking about.
We basically hiked along 104th Street Trail to the Levee Trail and then hung a left at the Paradise Trail turnoff. We took that about .2 miles up to the Gateway Loop Trail and stayed there for about another .2 miles until we reached the Bell Pass Trail intersection. From there, you work your way up the mountain following Bell Pass Trail, which is a pretty obvious trail.
Once you get to the top, you could connect it to other trails if you want a longer hike, but we had our dog Chalupa Batman with us so we opted to relax at the top for a bit and enjoy some snacks and water before heading back the same way we came from. Here’s a screenshot from my husband’s Garmin Fenix 3 tracking of the hike (my Garmin died, ha! Guess I need to pay attention and charge it more often!):
There wasn’t anything super special about this hike, honestly. BUT– it was a great hike in terms of getting in a great workout and it doesn’t hurt that your furry friends are welcome to join (on their leash, of course). The hike itself has a good mix of easy spots and more difficult spots to hike through. It’s a fairly straight up hike but it honestly didn’t really feel that way until closer to the top. Towards the top, the hike feels like it begins to get more steep and it’s basically like doing a stairclimber.
Once you get to the top, it levels out and you can see far and wide. On super clear days, this is really a beautiful sight. On the day we went, there were a lot of low clouds when we began. As we neared the top of the ascent, the clouds began to lift and allowed for us to be able to see the valley behind us.
This hike was especially beautiful because the desert has been the beneficiary of so much rain this year! The plants were vibrant and more green than normal. It’s probably gorgeous right now with flowers blooming everywhere, as well!
This is a great hike that you can crank out during the week if you live in the valley or are staying nearby on vacation. It’s not overly crowded to begin with, but there’s something to be said for the peace and quiet that a mid-morning hike during the week allows for. Definitely check this hike out if you’re in the area or just looking for a quick hike that will get your heart rate up and leave you feeling wonderful afterwards!