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Windgate Bell Loop, AZ

no permit
614 274 3
Guide 274 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.6 of 5 by 44
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Multi-Loop 10.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,671 feet
Elevation Gain 1,529 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,967 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4-5+ hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.94
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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1  2019-09-15 DixieFlyer
8  2019-05-27 Daytripper
10  2019-05-22 RowdyandMe
21  2019-03-27 RowdyandMe
9  2019-01-12 Yoder
12  2018-12-22 Naferg323
17  2017-12-11 RowdyandMe
12  2017-11-24 DarthStiller
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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   Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar
Seasons   Early Winter to Early Spring
Sun  6:16am - 6:23pm
Official Route
15 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
McDowell Super Loop & tributaries
by Crzy4AZ

The newest (2007) City of Scottsdale trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve form a super loop with many points of entry and options to extend your distance or accumulated elevation gain. This description is from the largest available parking area in a clockwise direction to Windgate Pass then to Bell Pass and around Gateway Loop back to the parking area.

Starting from Horseshoe Trail (point A on the Super Loop map), there is minimal elevation change to connect with Gateway Loop trail (point B). Take a left and follow Gateway until it intersects with one end of Windgate Pass trail (point C). You could go to the top of Gateway Saddle and back or make the saddle (point aa) part of your return loop.

It is a steady climb to Windgate Pass (3031 ft) over the next 2.2 miles. Tom's Thumb is visible to the left and McDowell Peak looms above on the right. On this section the Desert Park trail (point D) merges with Windgate Pass trail, and further up is an option to go 100 feet to Inspiration Point (point E).

From Windgate Pass (point F), continue down and around to the trail's end as it intersects with Bell Pass trail and Windmill Trail (point G). This area is completely away from any housing developments or construction, and Thompson Peak is in view around the turn in the loop. Continue up to Bell Pass (point I) arriving at the highest point on the loop.

Descend down Bell Pass trail and you can complete the loop over Gateway Saddle and throw on more (372 ft) elevation gain or continue around Gateway Loop returning to Horseshoe trail.

Of course the loop can be approached counter-clockwise by parking at the Bell/104th Street lot and heading out on Levee trail or 104th Street trail (point cc and dd), but this parking can only hold about 12-16 cars and is not slated to expand.

Other loop extenders for more distance and accumulated elevation gain:
1. Desert Park trail (point D): Shares a trailhead with Horseshoe trail. It's 2.7 miles to intersection with Windgate Pass trail.
2. Windmill trail (point G): Connects with McDowell Mountain Regional Park trail system.
3. Prospector trail (point H): Connects with the road to Thompson Peak and McDowell Mountain Regional Park trail system.
4. Paradise Trail (point K): Connects to Quartz trail which connects to Lost Dog Wash trail which connects to Sunrise trail. That would be a whopper of a hike.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-01-13 Crzy4AZ
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 43 deeper Triplog Reviews
Windgate Bell Loop
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I wanted to do an exercise hike not far from home, so I chose this one, even though it is not my favorite hike.

There was some cloud cover and nice breezes early in the hike, both of which were quite welcome.

I almost stepped on a rattlesnake that was curled up in a ball on the right side of the trail. I saw the snake just as my foot was about 6" away from stepping on him -- but the snake never moved, and I was able to lengthen my stride just in time to avoid stepping on the snake.

It was nice to do a low elevation hike for a change -- I could actually breathe on this hike!
Windgate Bell Loop
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Jim Lyding was in town and while he really wanted to hike the Apache Maid trail again we settled for a the Windgate Bell Loop. :lol: The hike up the Bell Trail was shaded which made the climb much nicer. I took a break at the saddle and watched the others hike up. Donovan was enjoying the steep part of the trail so much he made it last a little longer. Once we were over the saddle the trail we were in the sun but the grades were easy so it was still nice. Up on Windgate Pass there was a nice breeze and we stopped and enjoyed that for ea few minutes. The trail traffic was light until we passed the gateway intersection. The last few miles were a bit crowded but made it through. The food and beverage at Growler USA was great. It was nice to meet Donovan and hike with the group.
Windgate Bell Loop
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What a beautiful day to be in the McDowell's. I only seen a few hikers out today and I was able to talk a couple into turning back. They had planned on Tom Thumb but they only had 1 bottle each of water and it was already half way gone before the turn off for Inspiration point.
The view were incredible all day as was the weather. The sunset was perfect and it looked like there my be a haboob heading across Chandler. I also seen two beautiful deer but the sun would not let me take their picture.

What was new to me is that when the park close it closes for people coming and going out. I am not sure what that's about. But when I pulled up to the gate to leave there is a sign on it telling me that I am trespassing.
Windgate Bell Loop
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It's been a week since I've hiked (the weather was my excuse). What a beautiful day for a near 10 miler in the beautiful McDowell Sonoran Preserve near Thompson Peak. Saw a mule deer and two of her babies. Saw snow-capped Four Peaks and Mt Ord, etc. Such a treat to see snow capped Arizona mountains. It's going to be a beautiful spring!
Windgate Bell Loop
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couldn't decide what to hike this morning
wanted something a bit longer with decent elevation gain, not on south mountain
decided on the windgate bell loop counterclockwise from gateway
saw bobp on the way up bell pass :) he was running down at the time
plenty of people out, given the relatively cool temps, low humidity and occasional cloud cover in july
had never been to inspiration point, so i stopped there for a minute
hit the saguaro loop on the way down as i hadn't been on that, either
two decent ascents on this loop, up to bell pass and windgate pass
very nice morning for a hike
Windgate Bell Loop
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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.
Windgate Bell Loop
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McDowell Loop
I had afternoon plans, so I had to stay close to the valley. With the freakish cool/wet May Saturday, this worked out perfectly.

I don't get many hikes, where the hike mileage is greater than the driving distance or where I can get in close to 15 miles and be home before noon.

Temps were perfect and the clouds from the previous night's storm, made a decent hike into a great hike. The climb up the Tom Thumb Trail from the SW, the Lookout Trail, and the East End Trails... are my favorites in the McD's. The weather added a new kick to them.

Saw nobody for the first 2 hours and then was surprised at the lack of people out enjoying. I ran into the masses once I got to the Gateway Loop portion of my hike.

Saw JJ and his entourage climbing Bell Pass on their way to Thompson Peak.
Windgate Bell Loop
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Well, my backpack trip needed to get postponed for this weekend (second time this year I have had to do that, f@#& :gun:), so I thought I would get in something I have not done in a while. Started out from the Gateway trailhead about 8, and boy was it already packed. I headed off in a clockwise trip up the Gateway loop to Windgate, and then made my way around. People thinned out almost entirely by the time I hit Windgate, but then the ubiquitous gnats came out in full force. No big worry as long as you can keep moving, I did not make any stops for just this reason. All in all a good hike!
Windgate Bell Loop
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Haven't done this loop in a while. Brings back memories of making the "super loop" map for my HAZ description before the City of Scottsdale had any printed maps of the area.

I love the back side of Bell Pass. I took a picture of a sign on Paradise trail to compare with same spot in December 2007 that listed the Gateway access area as "FUTURE".

Levee trail: light brittle bush
Paradise trail: light chuparosa
Bell Pass trail (backside): Goodings verbena
Windgate Pass trail: isolated poppies
Windgate Bell Loop
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Quick morning hike just to get some miles in. Started from the Gateway TH and made a clockwise loop with a quick summit of 3515. I returned on the Equestrian Bypass Trail and this is a great way to avoid the busy part of the Gateway TH. I'll use this on all future hikes in this area.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Horseshoe Trailhead
Take the 101 Pima Freeway to the Princess Drive/Pima Road exit. Go north on Pima Road to Union Hills Drive. Turn right (east) on Union Hills Drive. Turn into the parking lot for the health club at the southeast corner of Union Hills Drive and North Thompson Peak Parkway. Parking for the Horseshoe Trail is permitted in the southeast corner of the lot. A sign for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve marks the start of the trail.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) - 28.9 mi, 34 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) - 126 mi, 2 hours 5 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) - 140 mi, 2 hours 31 mins
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