Immersing yourself in the varying levels of wonder of the Sonoran Desert is as easy as stepping off the sidewalk and entering the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
With over 200 miles of non-motorized trails, the reserve in the northeast valley is a major draw for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders of all skill levels.
With the winter visitor season in full swing, it’s a good idea to have an unmissable selection of short and easy hikes that showcase the incredible beauty and diversity of local trails.
Accessible and informative, the Latigo-Sidewinder Loop offers a quick trip that’s packed with botanical, geological, and scenic wonders.
This quick dive into a family-friendly corner of the reserve is one to keep in mind for entertaining visitors or just wallowing in the local flora and fauna without too much hassle. This is the perfect hike to do with those who may not be regular hikers or acclimatized to desert conditions.
The tour begins at the new Pima-Dynamite trailhead where restrooms, shaded seating areas, and interpretive panels are welcoming amenities.
An easy half-mile walk on the wide, sandy Latigo Trail enters the western end of the reserve, passing under power lines that curiously mimic the long, slender stems of the native ocotillo cactus.
Along this introductory stage, a veritable botanical garden of native plants in bloom vies for attention. Look for sulfur yellow desert marigolds and brittlebush, red chuparosa shrubs, fairy feather dusters, delicately scented desert lavender and golden desert pea.
The fruit-bearing thorn bush, wolfberry and invasive mistletoe attract birds including cactus wrens, phainopeplas, mockingbirds and doves, while rabbits, squirrels and lizards scurry among the jojoba bushes and many cholla cactus species.
At the Sidewinder Trail junction, head right and follow the signs to the main botanical highlight – a magnificent crested saguaro. A panel near the rare specimen presents theories as to how the twisted, fan-shaped ridges of these desert oddities might form.
Just beyond the crested saguaro, the trail enters a boulder-lined couloir with an optional short detour to the Sidewinder Overlook where the mountain ranges can be viewed from a platform of granite shelves.
Newcomers are often amazed by the variety and profusion of desert plant and animal life and the juxtaposition of a low, arid environment with a ring of mountain peaks that can be snow-capped in winter.
From the lookout follow the signs for the Latigo trail and back to the trailhead for a satisfying 2.7 mile loop.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve: Latigo-Sidewinder Trails
Length: 2.7 mile loop.
Rating: Easy to moderate.
Elevation: 2,339 to 2,450 feet.
Getting There : Pima-Dynamite Trailhead, 28777 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale. There are two access roads near the corner of Pima and Dynamite roads. One is on Pima just north of the traffic light and the other a few yards east on Dynamite. There are restrooms at the trailhead.
Hours: From sunrise to sunset every day.
Details: Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve, https://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/preserve.
Read more about the Mare Czinar hikes on http://arizonahiking.blogspot.com.
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