Even on a cloudy day, you can see the fountain.
Overview: This is a popular trail in the southern portion of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It begins at Sunrise Trailhead and has its western terminus at Lost Dog Trail. As of November 2014, it is one of the longest named trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. From east to west, it connects with the Peak Spur Trail, 136th Street Spur Trail, Ringtail Trail, Anazasi Spur Trail, and Lost Dog Wash Trail.
Warning: Sunrise Trail is officially rated as "Difficult" by the City of Scottsdale. You will frequently encounter rocky, loose terrain. I have slipped and fallen on my butt more than once while running down a grade.
Hike: At the end of 2012, I documented a morning hike of the Sunrise Trail. The 63 image photoset provides a decent look at the entire length of the Sunrise Trail from the trailhead to the western terminus. As of the date of this writing, almost 3/4 of the images have some sort of description.
Taking the summit of Sunrise Peak from the trailhead is popular and if that is your goal, the journey can be divided into four stages: the runway, the beam up, the supercruise, and finally the shot to the top. The trail and the runway stage starts at the Sunrise Trailhead. This is trailhead is about as developed as you can get without having a building. There is a parking area for 22 cars (plus one disabled parking spot), a refrigerated water fountain with a doggie water fountain, a weatherized trail map, doggie waste bags, trash and recycling bins, signs with lots of rules, and a container for McDowell Sonoran Preserve maps. The first section of the trail is about 0.27 mile in length and takes you from the trailhead to the first "hump" and "Sparky's Pitchfork" (at least that's what it looks like when you encounter it when coming down from the summit at twilight). After passing this point, you can't see the parking area anymore. The next section of the trail, from the first hump until you round the mountain and can no longer see the first hump, is about 0.49 mile in length. As you hike this section, you'll probably notice a total of four humps. This section is relatively easy and is downhill for the first 0.07 mile (losing 52 feet) before trending gently upward for the next 0.42 mile (and gaining 92 feet). After you round the mountain, you'll see 0.15 mile ahead and 115 feet up the next bend around the mountain. The second bend marks the end of the runway. At that point, you will have logged 0.91 mile and accumulated 353 feet in elevation gain.
The beam up begins just past that bend. This short section is so-called because over the next 0.25 mile on your way to the Upper Overlook, you'll accumulate 237 feet in elevation gain. As you round the bend, if you look carefully to the right of the trail, you'll see a short, alternative way. Either way, the next 0.12 mile takes sees you another 112 feet and puts you at the foot of the run up to the Scenic View. At that point you can take the regular, hooked path or an alternative steeper, shorter path. Taking the regular path brings you up 82 feet over 0.07 mile to the Scenic View. From that vantage point, to the southwest, you can see at least South Mountain, Papago Buttes, Camelback Mountain, and Piestewa Peak. Continuing up around a bend for 0.06 mile gets you to the "Upper Overlook" where there's a steel box and another view of the Valley of the Sun. At this point, or at the Scenic View below, many novice hikers or folks short on time may choose to turn around and head back down. All told, from the trailhead to the Upper Overlook, you've covered 1.16 miles and AEGed 575 feet.
Pressing on from the Upper Overlook, you embark on the supercruise stage of the hike to the top. Because of the relative challenge of the just completed beam up stage, the majority of the next 0.50 mile seemed to me like an opportunity to cruise at at a faster pace to the saddle at the base of the final stage. The first 0.29 mile could be called standard McDowell Sonoran Preserve outback hiking a gentler grade with mostly (but not entirely) hard surface. Sure, there are some rocky areas and a few big step-ups, but mostly it's an opportunity to make your way through some scenic landscape as quickly or as leisurely as you please. AEG and elevation gain over this portion of the trail is 210 feet. The final 0.21 mile of the supercruise begins with a quick, switchback pop-up to a longer, switchback leading to the saddle. AEG and elevation gain over this 0.21 mile is 151 feet, so it's a bit steeper overall compared to the previous 0.29 mile. Something to watch for while on this leg is the eruption of the Fountain. The Fountain is active for the first 15 minutes of each hour, day or night. After a final, quick push, you'll round a bend and find yourself in the saddle.
Upon completing the supercruise, you'll be at a saddlepoint that provides views (southeast) down into Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and (northeast) into Fountain Hills, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Reservation, and McDowell Mountain Regional Park. The last stage of the trek to the summit of Sunrise Peak is the Peak Spur Trail, as indicated by the trail sign. After taking in the sights, continue along the 0.19 mile connector segment running below and north of the Peak Spur Trail to transit from the eastern side of Sunrise Trail to the western side of Sunrise Trail. Along the way, you'll be treated to excellent views of terrain from Thompson Peak and the northern McDowell Mountains to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Reservation, and Fountain Hills.
The first section of the western part of the trail traces a rough semi-cirlce across the slopes whose run-off drains into the creekbed that runs down and along 136th Street north of Via Linda and the forms the bulk of the 136th Street Spur Trail.
About one-sixth of a mile along, you'll come to a hitching post. After resting your horse, you can continue about a quarter of a mile forward along a relatively flat portion of trail. Along the way, take a gander south into the 136th creek canyon. Then, 0.41 mile from the western terminus of the Peak Spur Trail, the trail begins a noticeable descent and continues until you're walking along a ridge. A short while later, you'll reach the northern terminus of the 136th Street Spur Trail.
At this point, you can look down onto the rest of the Sunrise Trail and see the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead. The next 0.22 mile comprises a series of switchbacks that take you down 115 feet in elevation. The next 0.42 mile takes you down another 249 feet. This section is generally shaded in the morning and afternoon allowing for the growth and survival of unexpected flora. This section of the trail, in the morning, as the sun rises, is a sight to behold.
Arguably, this section of the trail ends where you find a natural bench. After a quick break, you're ready to tackle the next 0.57 mile which will take you down 292 feet. This part of the trail (in fact, almost the rest of the trail) can be fairly rocky. About 0.45 mile from the bench, the trail intersects a weird track that from the air looks like a trail, but from the ground, barely looks like anything at all. Maybe someone can explain what that (and the similar weird tracks in the area) are. This section of trail ends at the intersection with the Ringtail Trail.
The final 0.49 mile of the trail takes you to the western terminus at the Lost Dog Wash Trail. This section of trail drops 161 feet. This part of the trail is notably rocky. About 0.48 mile from the Ringtail Trail intersection, Sunrise Trail intersects the Anasazi Spur. Thereafter, it's a quick 0.08 mile to the end of the Sunrise Trail.
Water Sources: The Sunrise Trailhead has a refrigerated drinking fountain. There are no water sources along the trail.
Camping: Camping is not allowed on this trail.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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 55 deeper Triplog Reviews