Urban Desert Hiking

Scottsdale, Arizona’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve (MSP) is a wonderful way to enjoy the desert landscape and hike safely. It is the largest urban preserve in America. All trailheads are easily accessible, have a wonderful shelter, ample parking, maps, and bathrooms. 

They open at 6:17 am? Not 6:30 am? And close at dark. Perhaps that is daylight for many areas, but it was weird. There are even ADA accessible hikes and horse accessible trails through this Wilderness. 

The change in the desert scenery was a surprise as the cactus types and quantities changed depending on the trailhead location.

To the north, the Granite Mountain area provided us with amazing Saguaro cactus formations and forests of the cactus giants up to 20-40 feet tall. It was as good as the Saguaro National Park in Phoenix, without the educational guides and buildings. 

To the far north at Tom Thumb, we found the tree like branched structure with hanging cactus leaves.

For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young,that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. Deuteronomy 32: 9-11 NIV

The Granite Mountain, Bootlegger, and Saddlehorn trail combined for about 3.0 mile/4.7 km. The ability to interact with the Aussie cattle Dog was a great treat on this trail. 

The orange flags marking the previous dog poop were a reminder to owners to pick it up! We met great dogs and owners even though with Covid, many of us stepped off the trails, turned away and wore masks. 

We found lizard head rocks, saguaro cactus so thick it was like a forest. and so many snake holes in the dirt.  Glad it was cool.

Do you like hiking in the desert? What do you like about it? How have people adapted to living near the desert where the harshness of the climate is a constant battle?

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