Cholla Mountain Loop, AZPrint Full | Basic
Description 17 Triplogs 0 Topics
RatedFavorite   Wish List Region
 Phoenix NE
Difficulty 2    Route Finding
Distance Round Trip 8.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,730 feet
Elevation Gain 400 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.2
Course Loop Hike
Author Nan
Descriptions 2
Routes 0
Photos 689
Trips 105 map ( 703 miles )
Age 53
Location Mesa, AZ
Rated Viewed All Mine Friends
15  2014-11-02 mazatzal
19  2014-11-02 Nightstalker
15  2014-08-10
MSP Northern Expansion
Darth Stiller
20  2014-06-30 Widowmaker
16  2014-01-06
Cholla & Little Granite M
trekkin gecko
18  2014-01-02
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The Eagle
48  2013-11-18
Granite and Cholla Mounta
15  2013-11-16 Crzy4AZ
5  2009-02-04 AZLOT69
62  2008-04-19 tibber
10  2006-04-22 Nan
Trailhead Forecast
Historical Weather
Backpack - No
Seasons - Late Autumn to Early Spring
Alternative Routes
Nearby Hikes Area Water Sources
direct air miles away to trailhead
0.8  Powerline Road #2 - MSPN
0.9  Cholla Mountain / Mish Mash Area
0.9  Cholla Mountain / Saquaro Hotel Area
0.9  Cholla Mountain / The Scimitar
0.9  Cholla Mountain / The Whale
1.1  Cone Mountain Loop - MSP
[ View More! ]
     Grave - Unidentified
     Hohokam Mano and Metate
     Gila Spotted Whiptail
     Harris Antelope Squirrel
     Northern Mockingbird
     Red-tailed Hawk
     Soldier beetle
     Velvet Ant
     Zebra-tailed lizard
     Coopers Paperflower
     Desert Night-Blooming Cereus
   Needleleaf Dogweed
     Rough Prickly Poppy
     Soaptree Yucca
     Teddy Bear Cholla

Genteel ramble
by Nan

Mobile Version
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.

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.


Directions Preferred Months Feb Mar Apr Nov
Water / Source:None
Preferred StartEarly Cell Phone Signal??? Sunrise7:26am Sunset5:21pm
Road / VehiclePaved - Car Okay
Fees / Permit
AZ State Land Recreational Permits are available for an individual ($15.00), or a family limited to two adults and children under the age of 14 ($20.00). Permits are valid for one year from the date of purchase. Exceptions to this requirement are licensed hunters actively pursuing game in season and certain archaeological activities permitted by the Arizona State Museum. Recreation under this permit is limited to hiking, horseback riding, picnics, bicycling, photography, sightseeing, bird watching, and camping. Permits can be obtained through the mail by calling 602-364-ASLD(2753) or by visiting the Land Department office in Phoenix.

Land Parcel Map

Print Version
To hike
From Scottsdale/East Valley, take Pima Road north to Dynamite and turn east. Turn left (north) at Alma School Road and continue north through the McMansions of Troon until the street ends. Park on either side of the street.

Permits available from the Land Department office or Arizona Public Lands Information Center, see Fee/Permit link above. No permit needed if you're taking one of the MSC guided hikes, which run October-April.
Login for Mapped Driving Directions
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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