Overview: The Sidewinder Trail is the longest trail in the northern section of the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve and goes over the highest hill. It is the northern most of the two main trails in this area and has the most hills as it meanders between its easternmost trail head and the parking at Carefree Highway and 7th Avenue. There are valleys surrounding it giving good views to the hills in Cave Creek and the southern part of the Sonoran Preserve. The trail is well marked, wide and easy to follow.
Hike: I've described this hike from southeast to northwest following the ascending mileposts. The beginning of both the Sidewinder Trail and Ocotillo Trail (N33 46.121 W112 02.638) is accessed by a short trail at the north end of the trailhead parking area (currently under construction). At the milepost go right following the markers with an "S" on a light blue background which marks the trail. The trail begins a gradual climb up some low hills and at .90 miles (Milepost .83; N33 46.539 W112 02.679) reaches a junction with the Apache Vista Trail. This trail is an out & back to the top of the hill. Go right here to stay on the Sidewinder Trail. It loops around the end of the hill and comes to a junction with the Apache Trail at 1.22 miles (MP 1.18; N33 46.568 W112 02.812) where you go right again to stay on the trail. The Apache Trail connects to the Ocotillo Trail. The Sidewinder Trail is flat for the next .6 miles until it reaches the junction of the 14th Avenue access at 1.77 miles (MP 1.72; N33 46.947 W112 03.063). The trail gradually climbs for the next .6 miles and then begins a slow decent reaching the junction with the Ridgeback Trail at mile 2.50 (MP 2.50; N33 46.959 W112 03.580). Keep straight here. The trail winds around to the 10th Street access at 2.68 miles (MP 2.75; N33 46.983 W112 03.666). Bear left to stay on the Sidewinder. After crossing two washes the trail begins a gradual to moderate climb up the highest hill in this section of the Sonoran Preserve. At 3.13 miles you cross a gravel road which has been "plowed" to discourage vehicle use which provides a way to the Ocotillo Trail to shorten a loop, if you are doing one. At 3.67 miles you reach the ridge and at 3.77 you reach the high point on the trail.
Now begins a series of switchbacks down the hill reaching the junction with the Central Avenue access at 4.66 miles (N33 47.260 W112 04.444). AEG is 681' to this point. Go left here. At 4.83 miles (MP 4.70; N33 47.181 W112 04.534) the trail reaches a junction with the eastern section of the Ocotillo Trail where you bear right. A junction with the western section of the Ocotillo Trail is reached at 5.09 miles (MP 4.94; N33 47.140 W112 04.749). Keep right here and begin a gradual climb to the tower hill passing through a wash on the way. The trail reaches a junction with the Tower Road access at 6.25 miles (N33 47.453 W112 05.057). After finishing the climb the trail decends gradually reaching an area with several unmarked trails at 6.7 miles where you should keep right on the Sidewinder Trail finally reaching the Carefree Highway/7th Avenue access point and parking at 7.20 miles (MP 6.98; N33 47.927 W112 04.978).
This makes for a long out & back hike. However, with the several access points along the way, the Ocotillo Trail and other shorter trails, many shorter loops are possible from 2 miles and up. The official trail map is posted below.
One-Way Notice: This hike is listed as One-Way. When you hike several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
Paved - Car Okay
To hike Directions: West End: Desert Hills Trailhead located at the southwest corner of Carefree Highway and 7th Avenue. From I-17 take exit 223 Carefree Highway (SR-74) and travel east to traffic light at 7th Avenue. Turn right into developed trailhead. From north Scottsdale take Carefree Highway west. Turn left at the 7th Avenue light into developed trailhead. There are bathrooms, shade and plenty of parking.
East End: Apache Wash Trailhead, 1600 Sonoran Desert Drive, N 33 46.103 W 112 02.654. From the west take Exit 222 off I-17. Continue to traffic light at Dove Valley Road. Go east on Dove Valley Road. At 5.1 miles from light the road name becomes Sonoran Desert Drive and in another .1 miles turn left into trailhead entrance. From the east from Loop 101 in north Phoenix, take Cave Creek Road (Exit 28) and go 4.5 miles north to Sonoran Desert Drive. Turn left (west) and continue 3.5 miles to the trailhead on the right. There are plenty of parking, bathrooms and shade.
Alternate access: Parking for a couple of cars is available at the intersection of 10th Street and Dove Valley Road south of Carefree Highway; also at the junction of 14th Street and Dove Valley Road on the side of the road; and also at the end of Central Avenue south of Carefree Highway there is very limited parking for a high clearance 4WD vehicle. These alternate access points are on gravel roads useable by cars except for the Central Ave. one.