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Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH, AZ

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Guide 284 Triplogs  2 Topics
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 7.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,680 feet
Elevation Gain 1,520 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,577 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 14.99
Backpack No
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4  2017-11-25
Thompson Peak from 104th St TH
1  2017-10-18 JuanJaimeiii
9  2017-03-04
Thompson Peak from Dixie Mine TH
7  2015-10-10
McDowell & Drinkwater Peaks
11  2014-11-19 New2hyk
20  2013-12-28
Tom's Thumb Loop off Windgate Pass Trail
5  2013-04-18 BobP
10  2013-03-20 BobP
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author Crzy4AZ
author avatar Guides 31
Routes 96
Photos 2,588
Trips 589 map ( 2,119 miles )
Age 46 Female Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
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Preferred   Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar
Seasons   Early Winter to Late Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:31pm
Official Route
7 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Earn your view
by Crzy4AZ

I am biased about how to approach Bell Pass since I live on the Scottsdale side of the McDowell mountain range; however, there are two ends to Bell Pass trail. The goal of a day hike from either end would be the Pass itself with its terrific views of Four Peaks, Superstitions, and the Phoenix Mountains. This description's mileage is to the Pass and back from the City trails starting from the Bell/104th St parking lot.

Take Levee trail one mile then left on Paradise Trail then right (east) on Gateway Trail for 0.2 miles to the start of Bell Pass Trail. The remaining two miles to the Pass holds 1200 feet of elevation change, and now you know why you earn your view. Thompson Peak to the right and McDowell Peak to the left envelop you as your heart rate climbs. Those antennae on Thompson Peak all of the sudden don't seem so far away anymore. The trail towards the top of the Pass is slippery, small gravel and some people will prefer to have a hiking stick. Every craggy step is forgotten once you arrive at Bell Pass and stop to take in the peaks in the distance to the east and west.

For completeness sake, Bell Pass Trail does continue 1.3 miles descending east and then around a corner north to its other end. This is the Fountain Hills side of Bell Pass Trail connecting to the Prospector trail at 0.4 miles from the Pass and to the Windmill Trail at 1.3 miles from the Pass. It is an incredible maze of City trails linked with the McDowell Mountain Regional Park trails. Also, the other end of Bell Pass Trail becomes Windgate Pass trail which connects with Gateway Loop creating several potential super loops in the area.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2008-01-06 Crzy4AZ
  • MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 1
    area related
    MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 1
  • MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 2
    area related
    MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 2
  • MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 3
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    MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 3
  • MSP - Approved Climbing Areas 2011
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    MSP - Approved Climbing Areas 2011
  • overview map
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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 33 deeper Triplog Reviews
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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In keeping with the yearly goal of more peaks, more unique hits, and more miles, I decided to head out here. Wow. That last road is no joke. It felt never ending with a steepness I don't remember experiencing elsewhere. I think the paved portions make it seem like it isn't as steep as it is but holy crap.

I was going to attempt this last weekend but decided to do the loop around Tom's Thumb. I am glad I chose to follow lindaagm's route as it shaved a few miles off of the one I was going to use. I was gassed by the end.
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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Halloween day - my Dad is flying in from Georgia for Caroline's birthday weekend - but I am determined to see how fast I can get to Bell Pass from the new house! Shaved off a few miles and time - basically no Levee trail at all.

Left from front door of new house (still living at old house) - and booked it to Bell Pass in 1 hour - and then had to jog down to make it back to car to then zip to airport to pick up my Dad. Kind of a badass move for a middle-aged Mom. And I was tagging my Dad on posts on IG so he knew where I was if I was late.

I'm a study subject for an ASU research project which is really kind of cool. I have to take photos of my hikes during a 6 week time frame with a special locator app - and then pick 5 within the Preserve and 5 outside the MSP that represent "home" to me. Fascinating project especially since I'm physically moving my home this month!! And my hikes limited due to extreme overbooking of all activities and living on the brink of nervous breakdown as we pack up - purge - remodel - put other house on market - kid Halloween stuff - birthday - and guests coming for Tgiving. Living in a tornado of to-do lists this month. So why not be part of a research study? #bringIt

So I got some cool pics of Bell Pass for the study - and I am using those pics to reference back to HAZ community. I couldn't find a way to photograph the "home" I feel on HAZ and the community here. But writing up Bell Pass hike description long ago was one of the first times I felt valuable to HAZ - and making the Super Loop map for Windgate-Bell loop BEFORE the city even had a map!

Made it to the airport in the nick of time - brought my Dad to see the new house - went to new neighborhood Halloween party - went back to old neighborhood for trick or treating. Wild and fun day.
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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I accidentally went on a 5-month hiking hiatus. Oops. A federal jury trial is what knocked me off course at first, but that excuse lasted only about 4 weeks in May. What happened next is a blur of self-whining, sleeping in, and months flying by like they were seconds.

Getting back into the saddle was painful but necessary. I chose Bell Pass as my punishment. It was slow going but well worth it.
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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McDowell & Drinkwater Peaks
Oh, this one has been on the to do list for quite a while. My wife had something going with the kids this morning, so this gave me a chance for the rare Saturday hike. I got over to the 104th street trailhead about 7:20 to start off for the day. I usually like using the smaller lot so I can avoid the Gateway crowd as much as possible...Uneventful trip to Bell Pass, made it there in 1:09 without any breaks, I am pretty happy with that. Here is where the trip started getting interesting. I basically followed Trekkin' Gecko's track up the east side of McDowell. The scramble was better than I anticipated, there are lots of things to poke you, but the footing is pretty stable all considered. The genus Cylindropuntia (Chollas) is well represented out here for sure...Topped out on McDowell and started the traverse to Drinkwater. I stayed on the ridgeline and had no problem making my way across, if you have done Camelback from the Cholla side this is no big deal. I took a break on Drinkwater to enjoy the views, and then started my way back around. Instead of summiting McDowell again I thought I would skirt around the west and south face, pretty sure this did not speed the process and might have taken longer in retrospect. Found my line to head back down to the Pass again and then hightailed it to the truck. Brought 3 liters and ran dry right as I got on the Levee trail fro the return, plenty of water back at the truck. I have now officially climbed all 5 of the bigger peaks in the MSP, woo hoo. Great hike!

P.S., Has anyone ever seen the purported bicycle patrol threatening to ticked off-trail hikers in the MSP? I have hiked out there at least a dozen times (both on and off trail) and have never seen these guys. Has anyone else???
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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Bell Windgate Loop from 104th Street
Wanted to get in one good last hike before my ten day road trip to the NW visiting cousins, continuing up with following from last summer's route of the Ice Age Floods (incredible what happened to cause the landscape in part of western Montana, northern Idaho, Washington, Oregon all the way to the coast), visiting cousins, touring the west coast from Astoria to Bandon and then over inland via scenic highways to Portland. Oh, and did I mention we'll be visiting cousins.... mostly second cousins.

Anyway, I won't get to hike hike for at least two weeks unless getting in and out of the car a zillion times counts ;) . I wanted to hike on Saturday but you know, it just looked too cold and the weather still seemed tenuous so I opted to go on Sunday after I had breakfast at Village Inn. Don't know that I've hiked much after having a nice breakfast out. Well the breakfast thing was a story in itself but I don't want to digress more than I already have.

I started hiking around 8:30AM from the 104th St TH. Before approaching the Levee Trail there was actually a good puddle of water; not something I'm used to seeing out here. The Levee Trail is starting to be encroached upon by creosote bushes and they are pretty happy about that with all this rain. I decided not to crossover to the Gateway Trail until the Paradise crossover just to miss some of the people traffic.

Slightly before the old trail that crosses over to Gateway my HAZtraks had some kind of blip and told me I had gone another 1/2 mi after barely going a couple 10ths mi and that now I was at 5.83 miles "zoom zoom". Serious, she said "zoom zoom". WHAT? So I pulled the HAZtraks out, saved the track and started over. Well of course that would confuse me the rest of the day as now I had to use my head to get the real mileage.

Soon I arrived at the turn off to Bell Pass Trail thinking it was only 1.5 mi but alas it is 2. Oh well. I looked at my watch and figured I should make it in an hour at 10:15 but I'd give myself an extra 15 minutes just in case I wasn't feeling it. I kind of like this part of the trail and it was such a nice day even as my temporary filtered light disappeared into the big blue sky after the clash of the clouds scene I witnessed earlier :D .
As I got about 1/2 mile from starting the climb I decided I was struggling. Funny thing, I hiked the trail in my head and had no problem; sheesh! Well I kept going remembering I had no problem when I hiked this with Kelly on our way to do McDowell/Drinkwater Peaks. But today, it was an effort. So I pulled over in the shade and got my poles out. Thank goodness I decided to hike with my regular pack rather than what I call my city pack.

So up I started still struggling. Reminded me of my time going up Bear Mountain last Nov though not quite as bad. I was determined to get up to the Pass : rambo : because I didn't want to have a failure lingering in my head while on my road trip. So one foot in front of the other with a moment or two to check out the scenery. I kept thinking of all the other hikers I know that would already be at the Pass with the pace they can do.
I wasn't sure if I could get 'er done and sure didn't know if I would continue to Windgate or just go back but shockingly, at 10:20, I was there. I actually don't think this trail is that hard as it has some nice level areas but I just wasn't feeling it. So I had my banana, gathered my wits and headed east down the trail. It was a glorious morning really.

I saw a big lizard move across the trail in front of me. That was a big lizard so I softened my step hoping to see what it was. I was delighted to see an eastern collared lizard. I always get a little jealous when so many people get to see the critters and I don't. I showed the lizard to some other hikers coming but they didn't seem as impressed as me; oh well. A little further down I saw some blooming prickly pear, saguaros and palo verdes; all of it helped to pick up my spirits and Tibber was back :) . I made good time over to the Windgate intersection admiring the scenery along the way.

I drank some gatorade and now tackled Windgate Trail. I knew I was back to normal so it wasn't a problem at all and the elevation gain is so gradual. Soon I was at the saddle eating my snack and drinking a little more gatorade. I did a FB check in with a cell phone photo of the mountain that turned out not good even with editing. One of these times I'll figure that out ](*,) . The gnats were wanting to play so it was time to get moving west down the pass. I still had my trekking poles so I could get up some speed when I wanted. I was taking the time to check out the geology and the flora. I looked over to my right and there was a pretty good sized saguaro with blooms and as I was taking a picture of it, I suddenly noticed Tom's Thumb sticking out above it. Don't know that I've noticed Tom's Thumb from there before.

Once at the Gateway Loop intersection I put away the poles (they really help you maintain good speed on the rockier downhill), put away my hat and brot out the Chrome Dome. Body shade is just so much nicer than shade for my head. One fellow asked me "if it was raining at the Pass" and I said "no, but I was prepared just in case :lol:" . There is this one area I pass not too far from here that I always remember my heat exhaustion debacle that I had. I learned a lot from that but it is still a bad hiking memory.

I thot about going back via Gateway Saddle but I wanted to finish this route the exact same way I did in Oct 2011 to erase the bad karma I had that day. Today on the other hand, after my initial Bell Pass struggle, I was rolling. I figured johnlp and trekkin gecko were probably done with their hike. The trail from the VC junction to Levee Trail Junction with 104th St was longer than I thought. I wanted to be done by 1:30 and would have been except for that extra 10 minutes I struggled on Bell Pass.

So now I can go NW with a good hike under my belt. Here are 3 movies I did. I was by myself so there is a lot of narration.
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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Oh my god this weather is amazing. How lucky are we to live in this state? Hiking along the saguaros with clouds covering some of the mountaintops, the sun partly out, a slight breeze, basically t-shirt weather but long-sleeves are fine too. A random hiker I passed by exclaimed to me, "Man, this is so nice out here!" I yelled back, "Man! I know!" I probably should have turned around to high-five him but that was too corny for even me.
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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I used to hike to Bell Pass from 104th a bunch before kids were born. Then the Gateway TH opened in 2009 and just got too crowded for me - plus good stretch of hike is flat so if I'm looking for "quicky" exercise hike it takes too long to get to the good AEG.

But I realized that the driving to Tom's Thumb each way is about 25 minutes (plus 1h15 min to 2h hike) - - so is the same total time as doing Bell Pass which is 4/10th of a mile from our house.

On the way up saw very few people except trail runners (started around 7:00am) - but on the way down was pretty crowded on the Gateway section (duh it's a Sunday). But legs got a good workout and I had forgotten that most of the hike is in the shade of the mountains in early morning. Next summer I will have to do more Bell Pass hikes as you don't have to wait for a trailhead gate to open and is well shaded.

I'm glad I had on a jacket - was pretty chilly in the shade! And thank you to Brad for watching the kids while I got to hike alone. :D

Also was surprised to see thick brittle bush in bloom in a wash on Crossover Trail and scattered blooms along trail edge of Bell Pass too.
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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104th St TH to Gateway Loop briefly and on to Bell Pass trail for the first time. Hit the trail extra early for me, 5:15, so I wanted to experiment by seeing how close to Bell Pass I could get before I had to turn around to be home in time for my non-trail life. The answer was "painfully close." I was probably within a half mile or less of the pass, but by that point I'd already blown all my vowed turnaround points so as not to be late to work, and I just had to stop. Most of the hike in was shaded by the canyon. I loved it.
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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Well I got a late start and trails were busy now. This was my first hike to Tom's Thumb from this direction. The trailhead is setup very nice. I really did not notice the 3D display case until I was leaving it is very cool 8) . There was so much to see from this side and it looks like spring is going to be super awesome this year as everything is turning green and growing.
The trails are very nice and easy to follow a lot of people out today. The only thing I would have like would have been clear skies.
Bell Pass - Bell / 104th TH
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SuperLoop Windgate Bell Pass - MSP
The SuperLoop in McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This quickly becoming one of my favorite routes for more than one reason. I'll detail those reasons below.

Simply put, the loop begins at any one of the trail entrances on the WEST side of the preserve, at the Gateway Trailhead near Thompson Peak Parkway and Bell Rd, Scottsdale, or any of the other nearby access points to this part of the preserve. I nearly always start at the main trailhead with the designer ramada, restrooms, big parking lot, landscaping etc. But there are access points within a half mile or so either north or south of there with less parking, less facilities.

I hiked this route just one week ago in the opposite direction (counter clockwise). Today I'm going clockwise. In either direction, the toughest part of the trail, in terms of elevation gain, is approaching Bell Pass. It's a little more grueling if you approach via the counter clockwise direction. But either way, the last click or so up to Bell Pass is steep. There's less loose rock on the clockwise route, so in that sense today's route is a tiny bit simpler. Of course a steep route UP, when traveled the other way is a steep route DOWN. It's an upper thigh burner going down, moreso in today's clockwise version.

I begin on the Gateway Loop Trail, at the Ramada. Dozens of hikers are starting out there. Some travel just a couple tenths to the wheel chair access nature trail, some another couple tenths to the simplest loop part of the trail, still others venture on to the rest of the Gateway Loop or beyond. As you'd expect, the fitness and experience level of hikers generally(?) increases the farther you get from the trailhead. I say generally with a question mark because some times you see some people quite a ways out on the trail who you wouldn't expect - ie people in sandals, no water, inappropriately dressed etc.

This hike was on a Saturday, likely the most busy day of the week for any trail. There were a lot of ladies in full sweat pants and shirts. Lots of ladies wearing a lot of perfume (attracts the bees away from me!). Lots of young people with a cellphone in one hand, texting as they hike. The quintessential Scottsdale hipster hiker was there - a low 20s something good looking, well groomed guy, designer sunglasses, cellphone in one hand, Starbucks cup in the other. Another comical curiosity was a pretty big, overweight guy, wearing sweatpants, carrying a big open bag of BBQ potato chips. He was munching a chip every couple of strides.

OK, so I get through the "people of Wall Mart" part of the trail and I'm now on the Windgate Pass Trail on the way UP to Windgate Pass. Much more serious hikers and Mtn Bikers are on this portion. A refreshing amount of older people, some in their 60s and 70s, in amazingly great shape, were on this part of the trail. Several MSP Stewards were coming down, most of them are older (older than me at least, I'm 56). One lady came down with a full leg immobilizer splint. I asked "How are you doing?" She replied, happy as can be "Great! How 'bout you?".

Approaching the summit to Windgate Pass from this side, there's a lot of loose, broken granite. The elevation gain is pretty constant and not over grueling, but the loose rock demands your attention. The 105 lb girls that run up and down these trails in their spandex and minimalist shoes have an easier time than this 230 lb aging geezer with bad joints. They seem to bound up and down the trail like a gazelle. My style is a little more "Wild Boar" than gazelle.

At the summit I pause for a couple of minutes and talk with a couple, older than me, who had come in from the Fountain Hills side 8 miles to this point and were planning on continuing on to 13 miles one way for a 26 mile out-and-back total! This from a couple of probably 65 y/o retired people from New York. I add the bit about New York because it seems to me, for some reason, that everyone from NY tells you so within about the first eleven seconds of any conversation. This physically fit couple were no exception.

Onward and DOWNward...From Windgate Pass summit, I then descend down the back side of the mountain on Windgate Pass Trail, traveling generally EAST. This portion, the eastern slope, of the trail is more packed desert soil and sand, less broken rock than the western slope. I find that to be the case on all the trails in the MSP. So bounding down like a gazelle...OK, walking quickly like a wild boar...I descend just about one mile to the (cue Carnac the Magnificant) "Fork in the Road". Trail marker BP9 (Bell Pass 9) is where you can choose to turn right (SOUTH) and take the Bell Pass trail to Bell Pass, or turn left (NORTH EAST) and join the East End, Windmill, Coachwhip et al trails that lead to Tom's Thumb, McDowell Regional Park, Fountain Hills etc. I turned right and headed toward Bell Pass.

Now traveling generally SOUTHWESTERLY and UPHILL toward Bell Pass, I have about a 1.3 mile trip uphill to Bell Pass. The elevation gain is just over 600 ft. The first 2/3 or so of this leg are relatively flat, just a mild gain. The last 1/3 or so are the majority of that 600 ft gain. But the trail is in very good shape. Packed desert soil, the most gorgeous views you could ever ask for and responsible, polite hikers and bikers to share the trail with. I moved aside for one mtn biker who was descending. He thanked me and added "I'm by myself". That seemed like a helpful thing for him to say. I always try and move aside for bikes (or anyone) and often bikers are in pairs so I'll stay sidelined till the 2nd one passes. I thanked him and added "There's one slow mover going down hill behind me". That may help keep the biker from suddenly confronting the other hiker guy and having to make a panic stop.

Reaching the summit at Bell Pass - That's always a conquestial feeling (is conquestial a word?). It's tough getting up there for most anyone. For an old and out of shape, overweight guy like me, it's a little tougher than for you young whipper snappers with low BMI. So I pause a couple of minutes. Helped a couple by taking their cellphone photo of the two of them. Rehydrate, breathe, allow my heart rate to come down a bit, then begin the steepest DOWNHILL part of the hike, WESTWARD off Bell Pass toward Gateway Trailhead.

As I mention a lot, this side of the mountain is a LOT of loose rock. In many places I'm forced to literally walk OFF trail on the edge to avoid the scree in the middle of the trail. Just about a tenth of a mile down the trail I sensed a little tenderness on my right heel. I wished it would have disclosed itself while I was at the summit, but I was now on the way down so I found a (sort of) convenient spot to pull off my right boot and sock and apply some moleskin. During my little M.A.S.H. timeout, one of those beautiful gazelle girls with running shoes bounded UP the trail and said hi. Oh how nice it must have been to be young, strong and flexible. I'm sure I was once. I just don't remember.

Bandage now in place, I continued RAPIDLY downhill. I always like descending rapidly as long as I can remain in control. Once I get out of control I become about 250 lbs of Newton's second law of motion. But I'm in control of this leg. I've been here before, once in the rain and hail. The weather is great, traffic is low to non-existant, my feet/joints/lungs aren't protesting (much).

The descent is a little over 3 miles. The first 1/4 or so is most of the elevation loss. The remaining 3/4 is mostly crossing two washes. So your climb goes down-up-down-up a couple of times. Nothing severe, and overall it's pretty much a literal "walk in the park".

After that 3 miles you join the most traveled part of the trail system, the Gateway Loop Trail. You're on the south side of the loop now, heading clockwise, generally WEST toward the Gateway Trailhead, 1.6 miles away. I passed a handful of hikers on this leg. It was a little after 1300 Juliet by now. Weather was warming up, most casual hikers had long since come and gone. I have no bones to pick with casual or inexperienced hikers. I just don't want to have to come across someone heavier than me, more out of shape than me, who has suffered a heart attack, heat stroke or face vs cholla accident.

Back at the trailhead I empty my pockets of the miscellaneous trail trash I'd picked up along the way. I brought down one trail side bag of doog poo someone had irresponsibly left. It amazes me that people will bring a bag, scoop the poop, then just LEAVE it. For those interested, it's a misdemeanor to leave dog poop, or to hike with your dog off leash, or to hike off trail. The Scottsdale PD is occasionally on bike or foot patrol on these trails. They also sometimes wait at the trailhead and cite/arrest violators. I'm only too happy to see this happen. Argue if you like about the "big brother" nonsense. Allowing your dog to run off leash in the wilderness with rattle snakes, jumping cholla, coyotes and other threats is just plain inhumane. Personally I'm glad to see violators get sanctioned. During the last part of this hike I heard coyotes. This is rare for mid-day. Typically that means they've taken a poodle or something. They're usually sleeping this part of the day. Every year, several family dogs as well as sheep, goats, cats and sometimes even a horse are taken by coyotes here. Essentially every one of them could have been avoided by a little consciencous thought on the part of the animal owner. The coyotes and rattle snakes are doing what comes naturally. The humans are doing what comes stupidly. Enough soapbox...

Hike Like You Love Your Dog AND Your Part of the Wilderness -

Sgt Lumpy - n0eq

Mexican Poppys everywhere. Big fields of them, not just a few clumps trailside.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Directions: From 101 - take Bell Road exit (either FLW Blvd or Pima/Princess depending on your direction). After the intersection of Bell Rd with Thompson Peak Parkway continue east on Bell, and the gravel lot is on the left at 104th Street.
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