Steep climb with a sweet pay-off
This is a well-developed but steep trail (about 400 feet per mile) with great views throughout. The highlight, Windgate Pass, offers views of the Superstitions to the east and White Tanks to the west. It can only be reached from one of 3 other trails: Gateway Loop from the southwest, Windmill from the east, or Tom's Thumb from the north.
The easiest access point for this trail is probably the Gateway Loop Trail. From the well-equipped and popular Gateway Trailhead, you'll hike along the clockwise portion of Gateway Loop with a steady but moderate climb for about 1.6 miles. This is a crowded section that's frequently used as part of a workout loop by mountain bikers, trail runners, chatty neighborhood residents and, based on one sighting I recently had, a unicyclist. Fortunately, you'll lose the crowd at the approximately 1.6 mile mark, because their loop turns off to your right at an officially marked sign, while you will continue straight. It is at this point that the Windgate Pass Trail officially begins.
The climb becomes noticeably steeper within minutes, relative to the Gateway Loop stretch that got you here. At mile 1.3 (i.e., mile 2.9 if you started at the Gateway TH), you will reach Inspiration Point, elevation 2,700 feet. This is a nice spot to scramble around a bit and find a boulder to sit and enjoy the expansive, westward views of North Scottsdale. Off in the distance you can also see Camelback Mountain and, on clear days, the White Tank mountain range in the far West Valley. There is a petroglyph I found on a rock somewhere in this area, although some English-speaker decided to add to its historical record by bizarrely scratching the year "1842" right next to it. Whether someone did this in 1842 or 2014 is probably unknowable. But the petroglyph right next to it does look authentic.
Hiking an additional, approximately 1 mile will get you to the next point of interest, which is Windgate Pass. To get here, the climb becomes tougher, but in exchange your reward will be sweeter. I think this is the funnest stretch of the trail, because it follows a narrow ridgeline (nothing precarious) with beautiful views of the inner canyon and of the now much closer Tom's Thumb. Tom's Thumb will soon disappear from view. As you reach the Pass, your view eastward unfolds jarringly to views of the Superstition Mountains, some 40 miles away. Weaver's Needle is visible to the southeast, and the Four Peaks are visible directly east. Between the Superstitions and you lies the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation. Behind you as always are great views of the McDowell Mountains you've been hiking through, and North Scottsdale beyond them. Hiking on past this point will connect you to any number of further trails in the network.
None. There are water fountains at the Gateway TH.
Not allowed in MSP.
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.