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Windmill Trail - MSP, AZ

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Guide 107 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
2.6 of 5 by 12
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 1.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,585 feet
Elevation Gain -157 feet
Accumulated Gain 47 feet
Avg Time One Way 0.5 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 1.26
Interest Historic
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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16  2019-02-15
Marcus-Boulder-Coachwhip-Windmill-EE-TT - MSP
10  2019-02-01
Dixie Mine-Prospector-Coachwhip - MSP/MMRP
13  2019-01-25
Lost Wall Loop Plus
7  2019-01-12
Toms Thumb Marcus Landslide Loop
19  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven - East End - Toms Thumb
11  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven - East End - Tom's Thumb
9  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven - East End - Toms Thumb
7  2018-12-29
Hog Heaven-East End-Toms Thumb
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 9
Author neilends
author avatar Guides 8
Routes 16
Photos 182
Trips 140 map ( 670 miles )
Age 47 Male Gender
Location Scottsdale
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Jan, Dec → 7 AM
Seasons   Early Winter to Late Winter
Sun  6:16am - 6:23pm
Official Route
36 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Don't look for the fan blades
by neilends

This trail is named after an old structure that's fairly easy to find along its route. Whether you approach it from the west or the east, and even though it's a short jaunt of barely a mile, you will gain a new appreciation and love for the McDowell-Sonoran Preserve by the time you complete it.

The Windmill Trail runs for 1.1 miles. Most hikers will access it while heading east from the intersection of the Bell Pass / Windgate Pass trails. It can also be reached from the East End Trail if you are heading down and southbound from Tom's Thumb. Or it can be accessed while heading westbound from the Coachwhip Trail.

My access point was southbound from the East End Trail and Tom's Thumb, which placed me within eyeshot of the Bell Pass/Windgate Pass intersection, just a few yards away. At this point, you are surrounded by gorgeous and diverse scenery in each direction. To your back is Tom's Thumb and the East End peaks. Ahead and to your right are the trails leading straight into the McDowell Mountains, up to Windgate Pass and beyond. To your left is your route along the Windmill, with the Superstition Mountains 40 miles away visible in the background. If you have the freedom to pick any one of those directions at random depending on which ones looks more delicious to you in that moment, we should all be so lucky. But if you choose to hike along the Windmill, eastbound, you'll enjoy a fairly flat, slightly downhill stroll until connecting to the Coachwhip Trail.

I should point out that I lost the trail for a few brief moments, and was only saved because I'd downloaded a GPS track. For about 10 minutes, I found myself doing some light bushwhacking through a dry creekbed that I'd mistaken for the trail, before looking at my device and seeing that I was off-trail. Whether this was my own carelessness or because the trail was easy to lose, you can judge for yourself. But other than that minor slip-up, I had no route-finding difficulty. As for "the windmill" itself, you can spot it if you're paying attention without leaving the trail. It is standing south of the trail.

Water Sources
None. Bring ample water for hot, desert hiking during warm weather.

Not allowed in the Preserve.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2014-08-19 neilends
  • 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
    area related
    MSP Rock Climbing Guide - Page 3
  • MSP - Approved Climbing Areas 2011
    area related
    MSP - Approved Climbing Areas 2011
  • overview map
    area related

One-Way Notice
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 25 deeper Triplog Reviews
Windmill Trail - MSP
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Tom's Thumb-Marcus Landslide area loop
Linda and Marlee joined me for a nearly 11 mile loop in the McDowells.

Starting at Tom's Thumb Trailhead, we hiked up Tom's Thumb Trail, went down East End, continued east one Windmill and then Coachwhip, turned left onto Pemberton, and left again on Boulder. When we hit the Marcus Landslide Trail, we turned left to do the interpretive loop before heading back to the trailhead.

We saw a number of other trail users on Tom's Thumb and Marcus Landslide, but not many on the other trails.

No snakes today, but we did see a number of bunnies. We also saw a deer as we were starting out.
Windmill Trail - MSP
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Dixie Mine-Coachwhip-Windmill-Prospector
I led a group of nine on a loop starting from the end of Golden Eagle Blvd in Fountain Hills. We hiked Dixie Mine, Coachwhip, Windmill, Bell Pass, Prospector, then down the service road and back on Dixie Mine. Along the way, we took two brief side trips, one to take a look at a water catchment and the other to look at the mine and the petroglyphs. (One person in our group hadn't seen the petrogylphs yet.)

As usual, the trails in this area were in excellent condition and were very easy to follow.

We saw a number of other hikers and also mountain bikers on our hike. We saw a gopher snake on our way back from the catchment.
Windmill Trail - MSP
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Toms Thumb Marcus Landslide Loop
Linda, Linda, Susan, and Ben joined me for a 9.5 / 10.75 mile loop (with nearly 2200 feet of total ascent) starting from Tom's Thumb Trailhead. We hiked up Tom's Thumb Trail, down East End, turned left on Windmill, left on Pemberton, left on Boulder, and then right on Marcus Landslide. When we got to the intersection with Feldspar, Linda K joined me for a short scouting trip for my rappelling session on Saturday. The rest returned to the trailhead via Marcus Landslide.

Linda K and I continued up Feldspar and then turned left onto the climber's access trail which leads to the Morrell's Wall Parking Lot crags. My wife and I used to climb in this area way back when and I recalled that bees were occasionally a problem on the scramble down from the top. (There are a number of two or three bolt anchors at the top of "7 Up" and "Back To the Wall" now, but back then they didn't exist, so the descent was to scramble down.) For Saturday, my plan was for us to scramble to the top and rappel down. I was concerned that Africanized bees might be a problem for the scramble to the top. In any case, I scrambled up to where I remember seeing bees, but found none. (Yay!)

After satisfying myself that bees wouldn't bother us on Saturday, Linda and I returned to Feldspar, and then hiked a short way back down Tom's Thumb Trail to the parking lot.

The morning was cool and cloudy with some light rain that started midway through the hike. It rained just enough to bring out the desert smells that rain brings.
Windmill Trail - MSP
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Dixie-Coachwhip-Windmill-Bell Pass-Prospector
Marilyn, Linda, Sara, and Susan joined me for a 10.4 mile lasso hike starting from the Dixie Mine parking area at the end of Golden Eagle Blvd in Fountain Hills. We hiked Dixie Mine out to the service road, turned right on the road and then veered left and up where Dixie Mine continues deeper into McDowell Mountain Regional Park. We turned left on Coachwhip, left on Windmill, left on Bell Pass, left on Prospector, which led us back to the service road. We finished up by taking the road and the Dixie Mine back to where we started.

It was a pleasant morning that warmed up a bit near the end. We saw a mountain biker and several other hikers on Dixie Mine, but didn't see anyone else on the trails further out.
Windmill Trail - MSP
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Heather and I hiked a ten mile loop starting from Tom's Thumb Trailhead. Starting on Tom's Thumb Trail, we took the first climber's access trail to the right. This trail led us to the ridge upon which Tom's Thumb is situated. We continued past Tom's Thumb to Tom's Thumb Trail, turned left and descended (mostly) to the intersection with the East End Trail. We took East End down to Windmill, the returned via Coachwhip, Pemberton, Boulder, and Marcus Landslide.

The climber's access trail which we hiked early on (which forms a significant part of the so called "Lost Wall Loop") is steep and loose in spots, but I found it much easier to follow than in the past where I would often get lost for a while by inadvertently following a wrong path. Either I'm getting better at it or some work has been done on this trail to make it somewhat easier to follow. That said, you still need to look carefully.

On my past two times out on this climber's access trail that goes near the Lost Wall, I went the other direction, descending the trail. It's definitely easier from a technical standpoint to go up rather than down. As mentioned above, the trail is very loose and it's easier to deal with the loose conditions when ascending.

We saw a tarantula midway up the climber's access trail. It was near a hole in the ground which was probably its home.

Later on, after we had gained the ridge, we saw a Sonoran Coral Snake. It was pencil thin and perhaps two feet in length. It wasn't interested in staying near us. I did get a few pictures, but they're not as good as I would have liked.

When we got to the intersection with the East End Trail, we spoke to a Preserve steward who clearly thought we were nuts to do the route that I had planned. He didn't try to talk us out of it, but he did ask Heather whether she had ever done this route before. (I told him that Heather had done longer and harder hikes with me in the past.)

A short while later, while we were hiking down the East End Trail, we encountered a very fit trail runner named Anika (not sure about the spelling). She had a 17 mile run planned for the day. What really surprised me was that she was able to accomplish it with just a small water bottle tucked into the waistband of her running shorts. I've seen her on at least two other occasions - she's very fit.

It started getting warm when we got to the Pemberton Trail in McDowell Mountain Regional Park. As we approached the Boulder Trail, I polished off the first (of two) 3L water reservoir that I had brought with me. I think I drank about 4L total for the day.

Heather hadn't hiked the Marcus Landslide Trail before, so we paused at a several shady spots along the way and looked at the rock formations. There are a number of interesting mushroom boulders along the way. Plus, the entire area is studded with boulders almost anywhere you look.
Windmill Trail - MSP
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Mona and Linda joined me for a lollipop hike starting from the end of Golden Eagle Blvd in Fountain Hill. We hiked out Dixie Mine, turned left on the service road, then went right on Prospector, right on Bell Pass, right on Windmill, right on Coachwhip, and right again on Dixie Mine which eventually led us back to the parking area.

It felt a little warmer to me today, but that was probably due to the slightly increased humidity.

Visibility was very poor. Mona told me that smoke from the wildfires in California and Oregon had blown into the Phoenix area. Prominent landmarks such as Four Peaks, Weaver's Needle, and the Flatiron were totally obscurred by the haze. Even Red Mountain, which is much closer was difficult to see.

The air was smelled slightly smoky too though, thankfully, I really had to sniff it in deeply to detect it. (Or it may just be that I got used to it.)
Windmill Trail - MSP
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For Friday's hike, I did a loop starting from the Tom's Thumb Trailhead: Up Tom's Thumb, down East End, then continuing around on Windmill, Coachwhip, Pemberton, Boulder, Marcus Landslide, and Feldspar, with a short section of Tom's Thumb (again) to finish up.

My friend Linda accompanied me on the hike up Tom's Thumb. It was good to see her again after her (continuing) recovery from her knee injury.

We noticed several new signs to overlooks on the Tom's Thumb Trail. We also noticed that the recently added gabions seem to be working well to allow drainage without erosion.

I've been experimenting with wearing long sleeve shirts to help stay cool. The one I wore seems hot at first, but became quite comfortable once I started sweating.

The weather is still warm with temps between the low 80s when I started to the mid- to upper-90s when I finished. I drank at least 4L of water on the hike.
Windmill Trail - MSP
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For my Friday morning hike, I hiked: Dixie Mine, Coachwhip, Windmill, Bell Pass, Prospector, service road, and then Dixie Mine back to the parking area at the end of Golden Eagle Blvd.

It was a humid morning, but light rain and cloud cover kept the temperatures in the low to mid eighties. I only saw five other people during my hike. (This is fairly typical when doing this route.)

Route finding is super easy. The trails are well maintained, obvious, and the intersections are marked with signs. The signs in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve are especially helpful since they provide distances to other locations. Signage in McDowell Mountain Park is mostly limited to only the trail name. (There are a few signs on the Scenic Trail which do provide distances.)

barrel cactus
Windmill Trail - MSP
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Six of us hiked a lollipop consisting of Dixie Mine (to the road and past the mine), Prospector, Bell Pass, Windmill, Coachwhip, and returning on Dixie Mine (and the sidewalks in the gated community).

As usual, the trails in this area in excellent shape. Route finding is easy. The views are good. What else is there to say?
Windmill Trail - MSP
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What a great introductory hike in the McDowell's, from Tom's Thumb's Grand Central Station Trail, :PMIC: to the solitude of Inspiration Point, finishing up on the East End Trail :wlift: :stretch: :y: . The trails are currently being worked on and in great shape. The views are outstanding and something available for all levels of hiking, climbing or whatever your into. Will definitely return to see what else the McDowell's have to offer..

Permit $$

Map Drive
Connector trail - Not Applicable

To Tom's Thumb Trailhead
1) 101 (Pima Freeway) to Frank Lloyd Wright
2) East on Frank Lloyd Right to N Thompson Peak Parkway
3) North on Thompson Peak Parkway to McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trailhead to drop off first vehicle
4) Then North on Thompson Peak Parkway to Pima Rd
5) North on Pima Rd to Happy Valley Rd
6) East on Happy Valley Rd until it turns north and changes to 116th st.
7) East on Ranch Gate Rd to 128th St
8) South on 128th to Park Entrance

From Exit 36 of AZ-101 Loop North, head northeast on North Pima Rd 4.7 miles to East Happy Valley Road. Turn right onto East Happy Valley Road and drive 4.3 miles to Ranch Gate Road. Turn right onto Ranch Gate Road and travel 1.3 miles and then turn right onto North 128th Street. After 1.0 mile on North 128th Street, you'll be at the trailhead gate. No water at the trailhead! Bathrooms are non-flush.

If you just pop in the coordinates of the trailhead, it's very possible that your GPS unit will tell you to wrong turn from Happy Valley Road onto Alameda Road at ( 33.706667, -111.832396 ). Don't do it! Those GPS units don't know that there's a locked gate at (33.694441, -111.813335).

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 34.8 mi, 55 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 135 mi, 2 hours 24 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 149 mi, 2 hours 37 mins
page created by trekkin_gecko on Aug 19 2014 4:57 pm
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