The final trail to the top is not signed. Bring your own sign or this hike is illegal.
An MSC Steward writes: Off trail activities within the McDowell Sonoran Preserve are not permitted without written approval from the preserve manager. Otherwise, visitors are required to stay on mapped trails, or risk being ticketed by the occasional mountain bike police patrol.
The following description was written before any official trails or trailheads existed.
After arriving at the "trailhead" along Bell Rd., you will want to start off on the large trail that heads east towards Thompson Peak. You will follow this elevated path all the way until it stops in front of a barbed wire fence. Follow the fence to your right until you reach the entrance for the preserve, and begin to follow the trail from there. It gently rises for about a half a mile, revealing wonderful views of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and of McDowell Peak. After that half a mile, the trail will split in two, the one heading to the right goes up a short hill to a mine, and the other heading down towards the left takes you further back toward the McDowell Sonorant Preserve. Head toward the left unless you wish to visit the mine. A little while after that you will encounter another fork, and again stay to the left. You will continue to descend until eventually you will join on to a large wash. Follow this wash all the way back to Bell Pass, the pass between McDowell Peak and Thompson Peak.
From Bell Pass follow the ridge up to the peak, being careful of where you place your feet because this area is pretty steep and if you fall you might not stop rolling for a while. Once you've reached the top you should notice the Emergency Transmitter and spent car batteries all over the place. I suggest taking a little time to explore the surrounding areas to see all of the artifacts left over from the age when miners roamed these mountains. But remember to leave everything the way you found it so people in the future might enjoy it. From the top you should be able to see the Four Peaks to the east, the Superstitions to the south (roughly) and the various other Valley landmarks to the west (Camelback, Piestewa Peak etc.) To come down just follow the way you came, or you could get adventurous and head down another way. Just be careful to avoid the various cholla patches that cover the lower slopes of the mountain. - Mar 11 2004 fairweather8588