Short loop with saddle views
This lasso loop hike in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in northeast Scottsdale has a nice balance of physical exertion and expansive views of the McDowell mountain range. From the new Gateway access parking area, go 0.4 miles over the bridge until you see the amphitheater on your left. I prefer to travel clockwise from this point to have views of the McDowell ridgeline as I climb to the saddle. It's 1.7 miles to the saddle going clockwise and 1.9 miles heading counter-clockwise from this point. From the amphitheater you can also take a 0.5 mile diversion on the Interpretive trail or make a short 0.3 loop on the Saguaro loop trail before you start the Gateway loop. The Interpretive trail is paved and has several seating areas and will open officially September 2009 with numbered stops explaining features of the desert flora and fauna.
Traveling clockwise on the loop you encounter cholla, barrel, and saguaro cactus with views of Tom's Thumb in the distance as you climb towards Windgate Pass. At 0.2 miles, you intersect with Horseshoe Trail (see below). At 1.2 miles, turn right to reach Gateway Saddle climbing another 0.5 miles to the highest point of the loop at 2378 feet.
As you cross Gateway Saddle, Thompson Peak pops into view and the McDowell pit mines are visible. Continuing down in elevation off the saddle, Bell Pass is to the left and Camelback Mountain and Phoenix Mountains straight ahead. At 0.8 miles down from the saddle high point, stay right on Gateway Loop while Bell Pass trail begins to the left. Another 0.2 miles finds the Paradise trail junction on the left, but stay straight and in 0.5 miles you will see an old fence. From the fence, it's 0.6 miles to the right bringing you back to the Access center or it's 0.7 miles to the left using the Crossover trail to the small Bell/104th St parking area (see alternate entry point info below).
If you're interested in the ranching history of the area, from the old fence go left to see the ranching ruins. This stone building was part of the Lower Ranch of the Brown family's D.C. Ranch, which at its peak had more than 4000 head of cattle on 44,000 acres. In 1885 Dr. W. B. Crosby purchased the land and registered the brand "DC" ("D"octor "C"rosby), and later various members of the Brown family raised cattle on the land from 1919 to 1966 when it was split up and eventually bought by developers.*
Two alternate entry points to Gateway Loop Trail:
With 200 parking spaces at the Gateway Access area (opened May 2, 2009), most people will start the Gateway Loop trail from this point; however, there are two other nearby entry points.
1. Park at the health club at Union Hills and Thompson Peak Parkway in the southeast corner of the parking lot. The Horseshoe trail is visible from this corner and is 0.7 miles to the intersection with Gateway Loop.
The mileage and elevation gain will vary depending on where you park and enter the loop.
Page originally posted 2008-01-06, revised on 2009-05-09 due to access changes.
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.