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Cholla Mountain Loop

This hike is rated INTERMEDIATE.

Hike should start at 0645. Gate is supposed to open at 0617, but we know the Brown’s Ranch gate is consistently 7 to 11 minutes late! Hike start time will be adjusted to allow 30 minutes for hiker preparations.

Sunrise is at 0649 so let's have fun doing our introductions and get rolling ASAP. We’ll have a long way to go!

Our goal will be to traverse the entire Cholla Mountain Loop, and it will take us about 2 miles to get there. We’ve been in this exciting scenery before during our Seven Mile Exploratory Hike. This time we will enjoy the additional features of Cathedral Rock and The Amphitheater.


This hike is in the new Brown’s Ranch Area of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. You will be amazed at the spectacular desert views. Saguaros, living and dead, are abundant due to the higher elevation! This is a chance for you to notice unusual desert plants and possibly more wildlife. Maybe we will see a desert tortoise! We have already witnessed several strange things during our Cone Mountain Hikes!

The trails are new, well-groomed, and fairly soft. There are some areas of deep sand & dirt that will make you feel like you are trudging at a beach. You will notice breath-taking scenery on every turn of the trails!

This hike will be cross-posted on Phoenix (2-Hour) Beginner Hikers and Trail Mix. We travel at a beginner’s pace. There is a 34-hiker limit in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Bring plenty of water and PLEASE wear a hat or head-covering. Also consider bringing a bandana, a towel, or other wrap-around cooling cloths and energy snacks. Be sure to nourish yourself during this hike! We will take a break for food consumption before heading back. We will have plenty of rest and water breaks during the hike.

The City of Scottsdale already has the new maps stocked at the TH, but feel free to print them out in advance from the link below.

DISTANCE: 7.4 miles roundtrip

ELEVATION GAIN: > 200 feet

TRAIL STYLE: In and out, but includes the 3.0-mile Cholla Mountain Loop and two scenic stops

DURATION: 3.0 hours +

DOGS: Yes, if leashed

FACILITIES: Restrooms and water at the TH; dog fountain also

WEBSITE: Trail Map

DIRECTIONS: The trailhead address is: 30301 North Alma School Parkway, Scottsdale, Arizona. To get there, take Scottsdale Road or Pima Road north to Dynamite Blvd. Head east on Dynamite. At Alma School Road turn left, and head north. The Google map link will show you where to head north.

(Dynamite changes to Rio Verde Drive at this intersection, so don't get confused.)

Another option is going east on E. Happy Valley Road to N. Alma School Road and then head north.

If you are coming from Fountain Hills, just take Rio Verde Drive.

** The TH is approximately one mile north of Dynamite Blvd. **

You will observe signs that say “No Outlet” and “Dead End”… just keep going! Parking for passenger vehicles is on the left.

Contact me via Meetup if you have questions.

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  • Jim K.

    Absolutely, wonderful, beautiful, surprising hike this morning! Large number of no-shows again, but it ended up being the right mix of 13 people. And normally we have far more Women than males attending so this hike was quite different. It was still great to hear the “Female Laughter”.

    Weather was fantastic at 57-59° at hike start time and low-70’s when we finished.

    Tsk, tsk, shame, shame on all the no-shows and last-minute cancellations. We had better attendance throughout the summer under very different weather conditions.

    A sincere thank you to Chuck for stepping up and for being an excellent Sweep! Great hike! Thanks to all of you that came out to hike with me.

    1 · November 3, 2013

  • Sabrina

    Great hike! Glad to see everyone, Simba had a great time as usual. Even though he managed to find 3 cholla with his hind feet, guess he took the name of the hike too seriously. Thanks as always Jim!

    1 · November 3, 2013

  • Scott C.

    Can't make this one.

    November 2, 2013

  • Sabrina

    Anyone planning to bring a dog? Simba would like to go but as most know, he is not good on the trail with other dogs.

    1 · November 2, 2013

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