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Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP, AZ

no permit
110 36 1
Guide 36 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
2.8 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 0.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,731 feet
Elevation Gain 16 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 45 min +
Kokopelli Seeds 0.78
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
17  2016-12-14
Bell Pass Trail - MSP
6  2016-09-15
Gateway Loop Trail - MSP
10  2016-09-12 New2hyk
18  2016-09-11
Gateway Loop Trail - MSP
5  2016-03-06 Crzy4AZ
13  2015-12-15
Gateway Loop Trail - MSP
25  2014-10-08 New2hyk
2  2012-11-25 Crzy4AZ
Page 1,  2
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
Seasons   Early Winter to Late Spring
Sun  6:16am - 6:23pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Educational stroll
by Crzy4AZ

The pride was palpable amongst the speakers at the grand opening of the Gateway on May 2, 2009. The crowds pressed together to hear local politicians, environmental activists, and the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy volunteers declare the Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve officially open to the public. The history behind this day begins around 1990 when Scottsdale citizens initiated the preservation of the McDowell Mountains and surrounding desert.*1 Voters approved sales tax increases in 1995 and 2004 to purchase lands for a preserve, and the goal of preserving 36,400 acres (equivalent to 1/3 of Scottsdale's total land area) is close to completion. *2

The Bajada Nature Trail was officially opened at the Gateway in September of 2009 as a way to educate the public about the fragile land area and serve as a starting point for 45 miles of hiking trails. The goals*3 of the nature trail are to: create the sense of being immersed in the desert environment, to see plants and animals in their natural setting, ensure there are no physical barriers to the experience and address comfort, to coax visitors into investigating the setting rather than the exhibits, and to put biodiversity into a context that is intelligible to the layperson.

The trail itself is made from a combination of on-site dirt and concrete in a smooth, wide surface with minimal incline and is about 1/2 mile long. It is wheelchair and stroller accessible with several resting spots along the way. There are 15 interactive stations with photographic panels, games, and information about the bajada (area between steep mountain slopes and the valley floor). There is one station with a game called "Six Degrees of Separation in the Bajada", and the most notable panel is a 14-foot picture of the McDowell range taken by photographer Ed Mertz. The photograph was taken with a large format view camera and a Better Light 144-megapixel digital scanning back with a panoramic stage. The camera was mounted on a ten-foot high platform and rotated through 200 degrees to produce the image with a 3 minute exposure. It is breathtaking!

The Bajada nature trail is a great introduction to the Sonoran Desert for out of town guests or could be a nice wind down walk after a popular hike in the area (Gateway Loop trail, Windgate-Bell Loop, Tom's Thumb). If you are not up for any big hikes, you could combine the Bajada nature trail with the short Saguaro Loop (0.3 miles RT), and enjoy lunch near the 3-D topo display of the McDowell Mountain range at the Gateway access area. There are bathrooms and water and even a dog water fountain! Check out the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy's website calendar of events for the lecture series in the nearby amphitheater, outreach projects, and guided hikes.

Topics of trail panels: (1) trailhead, (2) The Bajada, (3) Cacti of the Bajada, (4) Desert Wash, (5) Diversity of Life on the Bajada, (6) People's Use of Plants, (7) Trees of the Bajada, (8) Packrats and History, (9) The McDowell Mountains, (10) Animals of the Bajada, (11) Desert Time, (12) Scottsdale's Conservation Efforts, (13) Sonoran Seasons, (14) The Future of the Bajada, (15) You Matter.

Some interesting facts about the Gateway: *1
Project cost was $5.9 million and the annual carbon footprint is zero! Solar panels produce 29,000 kWh per year or 105% of projected annual energy demand. Rainfall is collected on a roof catchment system and can store 20,000 gallons of water annually in an underground cistern which provides 100% of landscape irrigation water. The walls are constructed of rammed earth with 95% site salvaged soil and 5% cement. The building contains 30% recycled materials and 47% regionally produced materials. After construction, 1500 cacti were revegetated on the Gateway site by volunteers.

*1. Case Study: The Gateway accessed on April 7, 2010 from
*2. McDowell Sonoran Conservancy History accessed on April 7, 2010 from www.
*3. The Bajada Nature Trail Project accessed on April 7, 2010 from

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2010-04-07 Crzy4AZ
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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 12 deeper Triplog Reviews
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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Another beautiful day for a hike. But I will have to admit it warmed up more than I wanted.
We made it up to Bell Pass and only seen 2 hikers along the way. The views of Four Peaks was beautiful while the views of Phoenix were lets say dirty.
The McDowell Mountains are just simply beautiful so much more green than any other place I have hiked lately.

On the way back down I decide to take a side trip and do the rest of the Gateway Loop Trail. It was busier than Bell Pass Trail. I did talk to quiet a few hikers along the way and really everybody seemed to be in really good moods.
This was a fun hike and I'll have to come back and try out some different trails.
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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After nap I took my tender chickens and Junior stewards for the Conservancy to Family Sonoran Sunday at Gateway. I am the coordinator this year for the program. Natalie Case presented on plant/animal adaptations from Scottsdale Community College - Center for Native and Urban Wildlife. They have a really cool nature center there with school tours too.

I bought their solitary bee house to put in the backyard. After the talk we took a walk around the Bajada Nature trail. Kids were being so sweet. They are good helpers and enjoy coming to all the Conservancy activities.
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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My sisters were visiting from CA. They really like to hike, so I brought them to the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy to give them an idea of hikes they can do when they return and have more time. We took this little hike, read all of the plaques and learned more about the life of the desert.

We really enjoyed this hike. It was a beautiful sunny day. We did see a lizard and tried to track down a bird's song. This is a wonderful introduction to the park. I'll bring other visitors here so they can marvel in the beauty. :A1:
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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Went to Family Friday Sunset Series lecture at the Gateway with presentation by Southwest Wildlife. Great organization that rescues wildlife and exotic pets that have been released. They brought a skunk and a fox. Lots of kids there. My two were fairly well behaved.

Invited several of their friends to meet us and we walked around the Bajada Nature Trail afterwards.
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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Spent 2.5 hours in the lecture room at Gateway and out on Bajada nature trail learning how to be a Nature Guide with McDowell Sonoran Conservancy (MSC). All kinds of cool classes that you are required to take (but are open to the public also) through Scottsdale Community College on Sonoran Desert geology, flora, fauna, human history. So I've got 4 Saturday mornings' worth of classes to take as "prerequisites" before being ready to lead a nature guide activity. But in the meantime I can be an assistant and learn the ropes. There are also public access YouTube videos (on the MSC channel) that summarize the SCC lectures but they are too short to really teach an adult new material. Fine if you already know it and just need a refresher though.

Grateful to have a kind husband that watches the kids so that I can have grown-up hobbies :D
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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Gorgeous day - grabbed the two little ones and new push trike for a quick nature walk and picnic. Caroline rode the tricycle on the downhill part of the nature trail. Then a picnic by stop #8 Packrats and History. Good small seat there with shade from a mesquite tree. Fed George some yogurt and then he got a turn riding back uphill with Caroline singing and walking beside me. Her attire is classic post-Christmas : rein : : ballerina shirt, pink rose tutu, new tights, old Dora the Explorer Ice Princess Snow Boots. Love it. My ballerina-hiker girl!! She noticed a downed barrel cactus that looked like someone had let the air out of a tire. We talk about how a cactus will pop something with its spines, and she declared that the barrel cactus had popped itself. Yep- sort of. She signed her name on the book at the entrance albeit in a way that only a parent could understand!

Lots of green grass since our recent rains. And lots of holiday hikers out and about.
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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Went to Family Friday Night event at the amphitheater at The Gateway with C&G. Started at 4:30 and had impressive turn out for the middle of a dust storm. Several kids but more adults. Good talk about superstitions' volcanoes and magma, lava, tubes, etc. Good eruptive demonstrations with bottles and toothpaste and such. Caroline brought her binoculars and loved passing around the rocks in baggies to people around her. The speaker talked about porous rocks at Brown's Ranch and the future trailhead there. There was a lava drop on loan from Sunset Crater that was passed around.

Caroline bolted to the nature trail when some older girls went that way. Lots of play ensued and testing each others' knowledge of jumping cholla vs. chain cholla (which really impressed me). Taking the true/false quiz and I.D. the animal/plant on the nature trail stations.

Was a fun evening even in the dusty air.
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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Took the two little ones on a walk around the nature trail. George strolled and Caroline walked on her own. Caroline packed a backpack and took her OWN pictures with her own camera! A couple of them are pretty good! She took over station #3 as a tour guide for anyone that came through. Station #13 has the best shade in the morning and has a nice place to sit.

The parking lot was totally packed and lots and lots of people out on the trails. Spring break and nice weather.
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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I am 36 weeks pregnant and had preterm labor last week -- so got put on semi- bed rest (no working, stay off your feet). Saw the snow from my backyard on Thompson Peak and HAD to go see the rest of the McDowells. Took Caroline in the car to Gateway access area and we walked along the nature trail together totally unprepared. Neither of us had on a jacket - she was carrying animal crackers and I was trying NOT to have contractions.

I remember hiking to Bell Pass with a light dusting of snow-ish material in Feb 2008, but this was way more. It was so beautiful b/c the sun was coming out but there were still clouds and you could see it was pretty thick up near Tom's Thumb. Ohhhh :doh: if I was not on restriction - I would have been up the north trial to Tom's Thumb in a heart beat!!!!

Caroline was excited about the snow and pointed a lot. She adores those pictures on the nature trail and we walked through a couple of them before heading back. There were lots of people all around the trails giddy about the snow who were properly attired.

Hopefully baby George will arrive in a few more days and maybe we can get back out on the trails soon.
Gateway - Bajada Nature Trail - MSP
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Went with a friend from work along sidewalk from the house to pedestrian entry and stopped for picnic lunch under the shade of the trailhead access area. Then walked the nature trail and back home again. Caroline roamed around holding a new book she loves - and she stood right by the dog water fountain to get as close as possible to the parade of small and large dogs. She loves to shout "dog" but then gets too shy to pet them.

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Gateway Trailhead
Take the 101 to the Princess Drive/Pima Road exit. Go north on Pima Road to Union Hills Drive. Turn right (east) on Union Hills Drive to Thompson Peak Parkway. Turn right on Thompson Peak Parkway and head south about 1/2 mile to the Gateway Visitor Center on the left. There's plenty of parking and nice facilities here.


Take 101 to Bell Road exit (by way of either FLW Blvd exit 39 arriving from the south or Pima/Princess exit 36 arriving from the north). Go East on Bell road 1.7 miles and turn left onto Thompson Peak Parkway. The Gateway is 0.7 miles on the right. (18333 N. Thompson Peak Parkway)

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) - 28.4 mi, 36 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) - 126 mi, 2 hours 6 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) - 141 mi, 2 hours 33 mins
page created by Crzy4AZ on Apr 07 2010 4:02 pm
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