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Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN, AZ

no permit
1.4k 89 0
Guide 89 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
3.1 of 5 by 14
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 4.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,724 feet
Elevation Gain -124 feet
Accumulated Gain 362 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1-2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.91
Backpack No
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
47  2019-03-17 rrshort
51  2016-12-30
Christmas bird count (CBC) 2016
19  2016-12-19 New2hyk
10  2016-04-03
Brown's Mountain Summit via Upper Ranch
15  2016-03-04
Hackamore Trail MSPN
10  2016-01-24
Another meander in MSPN
27  2016-01-16 New2hyk
16  2016-01-01 New2hyk
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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   Mar, Dec, Feb, Jan → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn
Sun  6:12am - 6:31pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Pleasant desert stroll
by Crzy4AZ

This 4.1 mile lasso loop in the northern section of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a gentle meander around the circumference of a small cone-shaped mountain. This description starts from the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead which offers bathrooms, water, and a nice educational board with timeline of human history in the McDowell mountains. Mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers will enjoy the firmly packed wide trail with minimal elevation change.

From the trailhead go 0.1 miles and take Upper Ranch Trail 0.7 miles to the intersection with Cone Mountain Trail (at sign marker #UR4). These trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve are extremely well-signed, and it would be difficult to get lost in this area. At the intersection between Upper Ranch Trail and Cone Mountain Trail you can proceed either direction depending on time of day and sun exposure or your desire to connect with other trails in the area. I chose clockwise to keep sun at my back in the early morning. Brittle bush and saguaro are the predominant flora, and there are scattered granite boulder formations to catch your eye. Brown’s Mountain is in view for much of the hike to the northeast with a peak of 3,253 feet. Cone Mountain trail continues for 2 miles with slight elevation change and easy, wide turns. Finally you dead end into Upper Ranch trail and continue back southeast 1.3 miles to trailhead.

You can link this hike with Brown’s Mountain trail via Upper Ranch Trail. These trails are very popular on the weekends and the parking lot fills quickly. Cone Mountain loop offers a slightly less crowded spur from the Brown's Ranch Road Trail main thoroughfare.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2014-01-26 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 35 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Christmas bird count (CBC) 2016
    I participated in my first ever Christmas bird count aka CBC. I get a kick out of those initials since they mean complete blood count to me :) . Prerequisite is to attend a workshop held at Audubon center by Troy who is with az game and fish and is also a member of az field of ornithology. Since it is my first time, I learned a lot in the process :D
    Workshop was on 12/10th this year held at Audubon center in Phoenix. I learned that there is no exit to central from hwy10. By the time I realized it, I overshot to 19th ave and then had to trace back using local roads :( . Troy Corman works for AZ game and fish.....In a section overseeing CBCs. He gave a nice power point talk and I am including a few slides here. They divided the area into circles and try not to overlap the dates of counts for people have a chance to participate in more than one count. They used to do an area near downtown Phoenix but decided to stop it as they noticed greatly reduced numbers of birds :o Troy taught us how to estimate numbers if you see a huge flock of birds. I enjoyed learning about it although I don't get to practice that skill in the preserve. Typical areas that attract massive quantities of birds are agricultural or riparian which are not part of Preserve. Whenever there is a flock of birds, need to pay attention to all the birds as there will be more than one sps and often rare birds are mixed in. Need lot of patience to look at all the birds.....I learned this last year as I used to assume that when I recognized one sparrow in a flock, rest are all the same. Birding with Walter, I now learned to pay attention to all of them....but I still need to work on my patience.
    The day of our count is scheduled on 12/30th. We got our instructions before hand. Since there were enough stewards, they decided to add a new area in northwest portion of Preserve to the count. Our instructions included our trails that I glanced briefly and knew that it would involve power lines and cone mountain. Since our circle starts at power line, we can't include any birds we see at TH or parking lot. We start and finish the count at powerlines. Once we are inside the circle, we can report any birds we see from there. Since rain is in the forecast this week, I was watching the forecast closely....was going to cop out if it rained. But luckily no rain until tonight so I showed up. It was windy and sunny with pleasant temps. Windy means fewer birds :( Our group only had 2 stewards.....myself and Lisa, an experienced steward. We had 2 visitors from tonto NF. I learned quickly why there were not more stewards in the group.
    As a person with camera, my job also included photographing esp birds we could not identify so that they can be reviewed by others. Troy recommended every group to carry at least a camera, binoculars, tripods...etc. We had a young intern that carried a tripod and other two had binoculars. As we were moving on, I realized that the powerlines also exist wayyyy behind cone mountain which is where we had to go from the powerlines in front of the mountains. :scared: ...hence the mysterious absence of other stewards. We started around 7.30 and took a lunch break around noon where Brown's mountain trail ended at second set of powerlines. I am pretty sure we all received a healthy dose of radiation......we were entertained by Harris hawks and some bikers.
    The stretch of second powerlines is new to I really enjoyed that area which is filled with boulders and lots of washes. I will definitely go back there. The trail where the powerlines meet cone mountain is not recognized by conservancy but is well defined as it is used by bikers a lot.
    Once we got to cone mountain, it was around 2pm. We still have over 3 miles to go :scared: I then realized it's been a year since I did a long hike. Actually I haven't been hiking much this season as I got busy with my new business. I decided that before my legs quit, I better take lead and charge forward. I became speedy gonzales......we are not seeing many birds anyway as it is middle of the point in a slow hike. The rest just followed me....must have bought my logic. We ended it at 3.30.....with 21 sps. Underwhelming number for sure. But apparently last year, it rained in the middle of the hike so they actually quit the count at half waypoint. I don't know last year's numbers. I actually don't have a copy of this year's numbers but will update this triplog if I get the list.
    Most number seen were phainopeplas. Uncommon birds we saw were crissal thrashers and Brewer's sparrows. Most complained bird was gila woodpecker. We watched 2 red tailed in harmonies flight.....may be courtship.....not sure.
    Overall, I really enjoyed the hike. Learned a lot from others. Probably will do it again next year....but should train my legs. They had dinner at Hacienda's. I ended up not going as I had to nurse my legs and started to work on photos. Worked out for the better as I texted photos to Lisa who was with other stewards at answers pretty fast.
    Question 1: I thought our preserve is part of cave creek count count circle but I keep getting corrected. Need to talk to someone about it.
    Question 2: Is HV not part of trail system....I couldn't find it here to add.
    This must be my longest triplog here....editing is hard when the trip log exceeds my screen spell check either :sweat:
    Final results are in my next triplog.
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Feb 1st to 5th the AZGFD, in conjunction with City of Scottsdale and the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy will be radio collaring 32 mule deer. I attended training to take part in scouting for the deer and communicate their location to the helicopter that will net, tag and collar the deer. My location is the top of Cone Mountain. Today I hiked to the peak in daylight and found the location on the backside of Cone that they want us to leave the trail and make our way to the top. Weather looks terrible for Monday, Feb 1st so will have to see if it's postponed. You can't hike off trail in the preserve without a permit so it was nice to be able to do it.
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Did patrol hike today. Not very busy in the morning hours. Trails are in good shape despite recent rain. Pair of kestrels came to my eye level and followed me for a while. Lots of black throated sparrows and gnat catchers today. Nice to see cardinals back at the Th. Parking lot filled up by noon.
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Unfortunately due to morning commitments, couldn't get to TH until noon. Day was nice and toasty but hardly saw wildlife. Parking lot was full. Steady influx of people on cone mtn trail. Surprised me since I don't usually see that many people on CM trail. All dogs are on leash. Met another steward in the parking lot as I was leaving. Looking forward to a year of changes.
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Finally able to do a foot patrol today after a very prolonged cold. Slightly breezy day and not much wildlife to speak of. Though parking lot is full, I didn't see many people on this trail all dogs are on leash :)
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Mt first patrol by foot. All the dogs are on leash less than 6ft :D . Testing maprika app. Looks like when it is on, and i happen to take disrupts the track :o
    Weather is beautiful. Hardly any butterflies around :( Last year this time, the same trail was filled with butterflies.
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Well Rowdy and I got another late start. As we started up Browns Ranch Road everyone else was heading back. It was windy and a little chilly but we had the trails to ourselves.
    I was planning on hitting Balance Rock and hitting Granite Mtn. Loop Trail the going around Black Hills Trail. But the weather change all that. We stopped off to check out Cathedral Rock and take a break but the Bees had other ideas so we moved on. Next we hit the Amphitheater and took our break there. Rowdy eat a whole bag of beef jerky and drank some water that's when I notice a change was coming. We got back on the trail and started heading to Balance Rock and all at once it dump on us.
    So I turned back and jumped on the Watershed Trail as the weather looked better going south, right. It rain on us the rest of the way back. Once we got on the Latigo Trail the rain lighted up and the wind pickup. We made it back to the trailhead soaking wet. Still a nice hike as the rain makes the desert look so clean :) :)
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Judy and I hiked the loop after our photoshoot with a photographer from ImageAZ Magazine. They are doing an article in their May issue on the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and called the Conservancy for a name of a steward the article could use to add a human element. They took some early morning photo's of us with Brown's Mountain in the background and me in the trailhead building area. Very exciting!
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    Goldie Brown
    Given the very nice day, we decided to head over to North Region of the McDowell Preserve to get in a few miles. With a clear sky, light breeze and temps in the low to mid 70s, it would be impossible to imagine a more perfect time to have some dirt under your feet.

    Looped around Cone and then came up Goldie Brown from the North side. Had never been up Brown before. Really nice views from the top.

    Dropped back down the south side and headed back to the trailhead. Made for a very nice stroll.
    Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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    It was a beautiful afternoon for a hike. I did not have a hike planned so Rowdy and I just started hiking and this how we ended up. The weather was very nice and the crowds were small perfect. We started out on the Latigo Trail and the rest is history. I did notice such a difference in this hike from the one we did yesterday. The plants were not the same even though the trails were not that far apart.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Brown's Ranch Trailhead
    From the 101 in North Scottsdale, drive North on Pima/Princess drive and go East on Happy Valley Road to the stop sign at the instersection of Happy Valley & Alma School Road. Follow Alma School Road North past Dynamite until it ends at Brown's Ranch Trailhead.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 34.0 mi - 44m
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 135 mi - 2h 4m
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 139 mi - 2h 15m
    page created by Crzy4AZ on Jan 26 2014 5:06 pm
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