If you are looking for another option to the overcrowded 9+ mile Bell/Windgate loop in the McDowells without the company of over-perfumed and underdressed trophy wifes and their disattached, self-absorbed and aloof mountain biker husbands, this may be the better option for you. Get to Palisades Blvd in Fountain Hills from either Saguaro on the BeeLine or Shea from the 101. Take Golden Eagle Blvd at FH HS all the way to the end. Just before you hit the guardshack at a well gated community, find your secure parking spot at a large paved lot on the left. Nice restrooms are available at the complex. Make your way across the street and follow the "feather" icons maked on the sidewalk as you stroll .6 miles through the neigborhood to the Dixie Mine trailhead maintained by Maricopa County's McDowell Mountain Park.
A lockbox at the park line prompt's for a $2.00 enterance fee. Follow Dixie Mine Trail (1.9 miles) as it intersects with Thompson Peak Jeep trail and continues to the right up past the mine a short distance. A small sign on the left indicates the trail seperating again from the maintenance road. Continue on Dixie Mine Rd as it works its way up, east and into the vast flat plateau of McDowell Mountain Park. Eventually you will come to a sign indicating you have reached the junction with Coachwip trail. Take CW to the left and continue for .8 miles to the intersection with the Windmill Trail. Signage and a park bench awaits you at the intersection. Take Windmill to the left again and into Scottsdale's Sonoran Reserve and continue until you reach the intersection with Windgate and Bell Pass Trails while admiring the massive bouldered area that houses the Tom's Thumb complex high above on your right. Make the left again into Bell Pass Trailhead. Head uphill for a short while until you come to the well marked intersection with the Prospector trail on your left. Take the left onto Prospector until you rejoin Thompson Peak Jeep Road again. Make the left onto the jeep trail for a short distance until you come back to Dixie Mine Rd again.(Thus completeing your loop)
Take Dixie Mine right, back the way you came into Fountain Hills and complete the hike. - Oct 17 2010 MJNelson