long, flat, long, flat
Rerouted in early 2013 to NOT follow the service road at the north end of the park.
The Pemberton Trail is the longest hike in the McDowell Mountain Park. This long loop hike has varied terrain and wonderful views of Four Peaks and the Rim to the North. Weaver's Needle and the Superstition Mountains are also visible from this trail. Begin your hike at the Trailhead Group Area. Hiking the 15.3-mile trail counter-clockwise will allow you to experience the elevation changes and varied terrain at the tail end of the hike. The trail begins to the North of the parking area driveway. Rather quickly the Scenic Trail shoots off to the right and offers a 3-mile option as it returns to the Pemberton farther North. About a mile and a half into your hike the trail crosses McDowell Mt. Park Dr. Continue on the trail to Cedar Tank at the 3-mile mark. At this point you will be heading west toward the corner of the park. There is an additional walk-in entry to the park at about the 6-mile mark along this stretch of trail. The trail makes and abrupt turn south toward Granite Tank. You will be walking toward the actual mountain range. Although it will seem that you will actually reach the mountains, you will not. This is where the hike becomes interesting. The unusual rock formations along this stretch of trail make for interesting photographs. The trail continues past Rock Knob to the right and Tonto Tank to the left until it begins to turn East at approximately 13 miles. Throughout this section the terrain is broken, however this is the most scenic section of the trail. After passing the old Pemberton Ranch site with less than a mile to go, the trail will again cross the park drive and end with a straight shot back to the parking area.
The total elevation gain on this hike is less than 1000 ft. There is no water along the trail. Elevation at the trailhead is 1960 feet. My evaluation of the trail is that it makes for excellent mountain biking. As a hiking trail it is too long and dull to hold the hikers interest. It is possible to break the hike into segments by connecting with other park trails. This is a popular trail for trail runners do to its flat, even terrain and mountain bikers for its length. Bike it, don't hike it.
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.