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Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN, AZ

no permit
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Guide 172 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
2.9 of 5 by 17
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,719 feet
Elevation Gain 128 feet
Avg Time One Way 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 2.43
Interest Ruins & Historic
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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7  2019-03-17
Browns Ranch Explore
4  2019-01-17
Latigo Trail - MSPN
18  2018-12-23
Axle Grease Trail
5  2018-08-05 DarthStiller
15  2018-03-18
Axle Grease Trail
21  2017-11-07
West Express-MSPN
2  2017-11-02
MSPN loop
10  2017-03-17
Cholla Mountain Loop from Brown's Ranch TH
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Author Crzy4AZ
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 96
Photos 2,588
Trips 589 map ( 2,119 miles )
Age 46 Female Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Jan, Feb → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Early Summer
Sun  6:12am - 6:31pm
Official Route
37 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Human history in the McDowells
by Crzy4AZ

The Brown’s Ranch Road segment is the main artery leading out of the Brown’s Ranch trailhead and connects with dozens of other trails in the newly developed northern region[1] of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The trailhead opened June 10, 2013 but official opening ceremony will be October 19th.

The sandy, flat path has been used by desert dwellers including ancient Hohokam and more recently mid-century ranchers. In fact the stretch of road from Dynamite Boulevard to the parking lot is the exact route for cattle drives that ran from the ranch into Scottsdale until the 1960’s. Archaeologist Thomas Wright published Brown’s Ranch site info that dates the earliest evidence of human existence to 7000 B.C.[2,3] Much later the land was seasonally irrigated for agriculture by the Hohokam from 500 B.C. to 1300 A.D. The Brown family purchased the land in 1917 and it was a working ranch until 1970. At its peak Brown’s Ranch encompassed 44,000 acres supporting 3,000 to 5,000 head of cattle.[2,4] The land was acquired in 1999 by the City of Scottsdale and the project to develop the trails and trailhead cost $3.8 million dollars funded by a 2004 Preserve Sales Tax.

From the trail head, after you read more details of the history of the area follow signs for Brown’s Ranch Road trail. The trail segment is 2 miles one way and is an easy, wide path ideal for trail running, biking, and horse back riding. Add elevation gain to this segment at 0.4 miles from trailhead going northwest up to Brown’s Mountain trail and summit (marker #BT1). Watch for the intersection with the Corral Trail at 1.4 miles (marker #CL1) for the turnoff to the right to see the ruins of the Brown’s Ranch including the footprint of the northern ranch house, corrals, stock tanks, blacksmith’s shed, bunkhouse, and other structures.

If you are looking for larger loops, connect with trails leading to Cholla Mountain and Little Granite Mountain. There are plans underway to connect these northern McDowell region trails with the more mountainous southern region trails (Windgate, Bell, Quartz, Sunrise)[1]. The Maricopa Trail will eventually connect 420 miles of trails in 10 parks throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale including both southern and northern regions of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.


  1. Mountain Lines Vol 20(1), Fall 2013. McDowell Sonoran Conservancy magazine.

  2. From educational plaques at Brown’s Ranch trail head

  3. Wright TE., The Arizona Archaeologist;2002, “Archaeological testing of AZ U:1:25 (ASM), the Brown's Ranch Rock Shelter site, in northern Scottsdale, Maricopa County, Arizona “.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2013-09-12 Crzy4AZ
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One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking 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.

Most recent of 74 deeper Triplog Reviews
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Judy joined me as I did a foot patrol for the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy while wearing my Conservancy shirt and badge. Went up to Brown’s Mountain saddle and down the back side and around mountain counter clockwise. Always busy when we have nice weather on a Sunday. A fellow steward told Pinnacle Peak had 1000 visitors by 11 AM! :(
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Joined a 'Discovery' hike sponsored by the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy titled Noteworthy & Notorious Arizonians. Leader headed out Browns Ranch Road and stopped to talk every half mile or so about robbers, miners, rangers, etc. He told the tale of Henry Wickenburg, an early prospector, throwing a rock at a vulture. The rock broke open and had a gold nugget inside! He named the mine....Vulture Mine. There were 6 stewards and 14 pubic visitors on the talk/hike.
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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West Express-MSPN
Another new trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Rowdy didn't make this hike as he wasn't feeling well.
I didn't see another hiker after I passed Brown Mountain Summit Trail.
I was a little disappointed as I was hoping to see some deer but that didn't happen :( . But I did see a rattlesnake, tarantula and a Cardinal. :y:
The weather was perfect as it was cool but a little humid with a nice breeze and lots of cloud cover.
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Took advantage of the cooler weather and hiked instead of doing a spin class indoors. Left the house at 5:20 AM and by 5:50 we started off. Up to the saddle of Brown's Mountain, down the other side and took a left toward Cone Mo. and back to the trailhead. With Judy.
AVE HR:111
MAX HR:141
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Went on botany hike with our botanist steve jones. Lot of stewards and public were in the group. Total of 51 showed up :D . Very popular :D among stewards and nonstewards. I learned a lot. Day was a bit cloudy but very comfortable temps. Amazing hike overall :y:
I learned that APS buried lines under 118th st and revegetated with non native desert plants.
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Went to do a patrol hike since it rained a lot. Trails have lot of puddles as well as lot of traffic today with hikers, bikers and equestrians. Saw 3 more sps of birds today. I believe they can still be added to the bird count....few days before and few days after the actual count day are supposed to be included. Sent an email so will see what they say. Day is cloudy with pleasant temps. Glad the rain finally stopped.
Got the word back. It is 3 days before and 3 days after thus making it a total of 7 days. Today is last day. Glad they made it. Our count now is 24 sps for Brown's area.
Our area is called area 10 includes preserve as well as legend trail golf course. Area 10 comes under cavecreek circle.
We saw a total of 28 species plus one additional species not seen on the count but seen within the 3 days before and after the count.(canyon towhee)

*Canada Goose - 6
*Ring-necked duck - 4
Gambel’s Quail - 109
Harris’s Hawk - 17
Red-tailed Hawk - 6
*Killdeer - 1
Mourning Dove - 17
Anna’s Hummingbird - 11
Gila Woodpecker - 47
Ladderback Woodpecker - 8
Gilded Flicker - 16
American Kestrel - 1
Loggerhead Shrike - 2
Common Raven - 29
Verdin - 41
Rock Wren - 4
*Bewick’s Wren - 1
Cactus Wren - 13
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher - 31
Ruby-crowned kinglet - 1
Curve-billed thrasher - 43
Crissal Thrasher - 1
Northern Mockingbird - 20
Phainopepla - 132
Brewer’s sparrow - 4
Black-throated sparrow - 26
White-crowned sparrow - 48
*Northern Cardinal - 2
*House finch - 19
*House sparrow - 10

*only seen outside the Preserve
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Christmas bird count (CBC) 2016
I participated in my first ever Christmas bird count aka CBC. I get a kick out of those initials since they mean complete blood count to me :) . Prerequisite is to attend a workshop held at Audubon center by Troy who is with az game and fish and is also a member of az field of ornithology. Since it is my first time, I learned a lot in the process :D
Workshop was on 12/10th this year held at Audubon center in Phoenix. I learned that there is no exit to central from hwy10. By the time I realized it, I overshot to 19th ave and then had to trace back using local roads :( . Troy Corman works for AZ game and fish.....In a section overseeing CBCs. He gave a nice power point talk and I am including a few slides here. They divided the area into circles and try not to overlap the dates of counts for people have a chance to participate in more than one count. They used to do an area near downtown Phoenix but decided to stop it as they noticed greatly reduced numbers of birds :o Troy taught us how to estimate numbers if you see a huge flock of birds. I enjoyed learning about it although I don't get to practice that skill in the preserve. Typical areas that attract massive quantities of birds are agricultural or riparian which are not part of Preserve. Whenever there is a flock of birds, need to pay attention to all the birds as there will be more than one sps and often rare birds are mixed in. Need lot of patience to look at all the birds.....I learned this last year as I used to assume that when I recognized one sparrow in a flock, rest are all the same. Birding with Walter, I now learned to pay attention to all of them....but I still need to work on my patience.
The day of our count is scheduled on 12/30th. We got our instructions before hand. Since there were enough stewards, they decided to add a new area in northwest portion of Preserve to the count. Our instructions included our trails that I glanced briefly and knew that it would involve power lines and cone mountain. Since our circle starts at power line, we can't include any birds we see at TH or parking lot. We start and finish the count at powerlines. Once we are inside the circle, we can report any birds we see from there. Since rain is in the forecast this week, I was watching the forecast closely....was going to cop out if it rained. But luckily no rain until tonight so I showed up. It was windy and sunny with pleasant temps. Windy means fewer birds :( Our group only had 2 stewards.....myself and Lisa, an experienced steward. We had 2 visitors from tonto NF. I learned quickly why there were not more stewards in the group.
As a person with camera, my job also included photographing esp birds we could not identify so that they can be reviewed by others. Troy recommended every group to carry at least a camera, binoculars, tripods...etc. We had a young intern that carried a tripod and other two had binoculars. As we were moving on, I realized that the powerlines also exist wayyyy behind cone mountain which is where we had to go from the powerlines in front of the mountains. :scared: ...hence the mysterious absence of other stewards. We started around 7.30 and took a lunch break around noon where Brown's mountain trail ended at second set of powerlines. I am pretty sure we all received a healthy dose of radiation......we were entertained by Harris hawks and some bikers.
The stretch of second powerlines is new to I really enjoyed that area which is filled with boulders and lots of washes. I will definitely go back there. The trail where the powerlines meet cone mountain is not recognized by conservancy but is well defined as it is used by bikers a lot.
Once we got to cone mountain, it was around 2pm. We still have over 3 miles to go :scared: I then realized it's been a year since I did a long hike. Actually I haven't been hiking much this season as I got busy with my new business. I decided that before my legs quit, I better take lead and charge forward. I became speedy gonzales......we are not seeing many birds anyway as it is middle of the point in a slow hike. The rest just followed me....must have bought my logic. We ended it at 3.30.....with 21 sps. Underwhelming number for sure. But apparently last year, it rained in the middle of the hike so they actually quit the count at half waypoint. I don't know last year's numbers. I actually don't have a copy of this year's numbers but will update this triplog if I get the list.
Most number seen were phainopeplas. Uncommon birds we saw were crissal thrashers and Brewer's sparrows. Most complained bird was gila woodpecker. We watched 2 red tailed in harmonies flight.....may be courtship.....not sure.
Overall, I really enjoyed the hike. Learned a lot from others. Probably will do it again next year....but should train my legs. They had dinner at Hacienda's. I ended up not going as I had to nurse my legs and started to work on photos. Worked out for the better as I texted photos to Lisa who was with other stewards at answers pretty fast.
Question 1: I thought our preserve is part of cave creek count count circle but I keep getting corrected. Need to talk to someone about it.
Question 2: Is HV not part of trail system....I couldn't find it here to add.
This must be my longest triplog here....editing is hard when the trip log exceeds my screen spell check either :sweat:
Final results are in my next triplog.
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Hiked with Judy. Brown's Ranch Rd :next: Brown's Mtn Trail :next: Upper Ranch Rd. Estimate on out of juice.
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Performed trailhead host duties this morning at Brown's Ranch, then hiked. Upper Ranch Trail :next: Brown's Mtn Trail :next: Brown's Ranch Road. No time recorded as when I'm wearing my blue steward shirt I say hello to everyone and stop to answer their questions. Very windy today..
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
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Browns Ranch Loop
Nice hike on some trails in the MSPN area with Ryan and Lauren. Saw our first rattler of the year spotted by Lauren in the third hiker position :o Good for Ryan and I it was on its best behavior. Nice morning hike.

Permit $$

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
3 pack - loud whistle
safety first
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