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Cholla Mountain Loop from Brown's Ranch TH, AZ
no permit
route 295 33 0 0
Description 33 Triplogs  0 Topics
RatedFavorite   Wish List Region
 Phoenix NE
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,730 feet
Elevation Gain 298 feet
Accumulated Gain 470 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 9.95
Course Loop Hike
Author Nan
Descriptions 2
Routes 0
Photos 689
Trips 105 map ( 703 miles )
Age 55
Location Mesa, AZ
Viewed All Mine Following
5  2016-02-26
10  2016-01-24
Another meander in MSPN
8  2015-11-21
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
5  2015-10-18
McDowell Preserve Far North Area
8  2015-09-12
Cathedral Rock-MSPN
7  2015-06-10
Browns Mtn - Cathedral - Amphitheater Loop
6  2015-02-14
Cholla Mountain Loop - MSPN
20  2015-01-07
Maverick Trail - MSPN
5  2015-01-02
Granite Mountain Loop - MSPN
10  2015-01-01
McDowell Sonoran Preserve North Region
10  2014-12-07
McDowell Sonoran Preserve North
15  2014-11-02 mazatzal
Page 1,  2
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Backpack   No
Preferred   Feb, Mar, Apr, Nov → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  5:18am - 7:42pm
Route Scout
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Official Route
Alternative Routes
Nearby Hikes Area Water Sources
direct air miles away to trailhead
0.0  Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
0.0  Brown's Mountain Summit via Upper Ranch
0.0  Jane Rau Interpretive Trail - MSPN
0.1  Upper Ranch Trail - MSPN
0.2  Latigo Trail - MSPN
0.2  Hackamore Trail MSPN
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     Teddy Bear Cholla
Genteel ramble
by Nan

This is a genteel ramble through the open desert of the proposed McDowell Mountain Preserve. It crosses the current preserve land, rounds Cholla Mountain (Hill #3406 on the SLD's "Granite Mountain Multiuse Area" map) and returns, covering a boulder-and-saguaro-dotted landscape. Except for one very short, steep climb and descent, the grade is easy. There's NO shade, so this is definitely not a summer hike.

Not much info is available on the trail system in the McDowells, no doubt because the Preserve's future is still in limbo, so I figured the best way to find out was one of the McDowell-Sonoran Conservancy's free guided hikes. We set out from the TH about 7:30, heading north on TR 27. At this point it's more of a road than a trail. The MSC volunteers who do maintenance have put up stick barriers and scattered cholla buds at some points alongside the trail to discourage people from going cross-country. Most of this hike is on State Trust Land, so look out for motorbikes and ATVs.

About 1 mile in there's a gate marking the beginning of the Preserve. Go through the gate and continue on. Ahead and to the left you'll see a slanted, banded mountain; this is Brown's Peak. Continue on straight until you see the sign for Brown's Ranch, and turn right on the unmarked trail. Here's where the yuccas really start to pop up. The trail narrows and cuts across Brown's Ranch and pops back out onto State Trust Land at TR 24 near the foot of Cholla Mountain, a hill made of huge, smooth boulders. Boulders are everywhere, and the whole landscape looks like one of the tonier resorts.

Turn left on TR 24. The trail starts to undulate and there are several turns; just follow the trail markers. On this day the fairy dusters and hedgehogs were giving a good show.

Climb up the shoulder of Cholla Mountain to Gorilla Rock... this is the one serious grade in the hike and you're probably ready for a good ankle-stretcher by now. A few hundred feet on is another group of boulders, so have a rest and a snack and enjoy the view of Carefree and points north. At the bottom of the downslope, turn right on TR 28, that takes you around the back of Cholla Mountain, and right again on TR 30. A pair of rock climbers were trying their luck as we passed through. This is the stretch where you figure out how the hill got its name. On a right-hand spur just after you pass through the Ocotillo forest, there's a natural ampitheater that makes an interesting detour.

TR 30 T's into TR 24; turn right, and a few yards further on turn left on the unmarked trail. This takes you back into the Preserve. After some undulating, and crossing a sandy wash, the trail Ts back into TR 27, right in front of Brown's Mountain. Turn left and walk out to the TH.

No water or toilets at the TH, but there is a cleverly-disguised gas station on the SW corner of Alma School and Dynamite.
© 2006 - 2016

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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.

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Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Brown's Ranch Trailhead
From the 101 in North Scottsdale, drive North on Pima/Princess drive and go East on Happy Valley Road to the stop sign at the instersection of Happy Valley & Alma School Road. Follow Alma School Road North past Dynamite until it ends at Brown's Ranch Trailhead.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 34.0 mi - 44m
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 135 mi - 2h 4m
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 139 mi - 2h 15m
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
stay out of the scorching sun
prehydrate & stay hydrated
© 2016 HAZ