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Pemberton Trail - MMRP, AZ

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Guide 229 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > Phoenix NE
2.8 of 5 by 21
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 15.25 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,960 feet
Elevation Gain 620 feet
Accumulated Gain 850 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 6-8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.5
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6  2019-07-12
Escondido-Pemberton-Scenic - MMRP
8  2019-03-20
Gooseneck Trail - MSPC
10  2019-03-16
Granite Trail - MMRP
6  2019-03-03
Gooseneck Trail - MSPC
16  2019-02-15
Marcus-Boulder-Coachwhip-Windmill-EE-TT - MSP
24  2019-02-12 RowdyandMe
13  2019-02-08
Wash Day plus Marcus Landslide - MMRP/MSP
1  2019-01-28
Cinch-Scenic-Pemberton-Shallmo Loop - MMRP
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 19
Author ck_1
author avatar Guides 9
Routes 0
Photos 120
Trips 117 map ( 396 miles )
Age 46 Male Gender
Location Mesa, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:31pm
Official Route
27 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
long, flat, long, flat
by ck_1

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.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2001-09-27 ck_1
  • overview map competitive tracks hunting zone campgrounds
    area related
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 66 deeper Triplog Reviews
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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Escondido-Pemberton-Scenic - MMRP
On Friday, the 12th, I did a loop hike in MMRP starting from the Four Peaks Trailhead (formerly known as the Horse Staging Area). I hiked Escondido, Pemberton, and Scenic. I passed the intersection with Cinch, planning on going back to Pemberton and down Shallmo Wash. But it was starting to get warm, so I turned back and went down Cinch and back on Escondido.

I saw a few cyclists getting ready to ride at the parking lot, but saw no one else on the trails.

Trails were in good condition. Hiking was easy except for the heat; my GPS watch indicated a higher heart rate than I'd expect to see for the terrain and pace. I'm not as well acclimated as I was last summer.
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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South Wash Loop - MMRP
Heather, Bob, and Mike joined me for a 10+ mile hike in MMRP which featured the South Wash.

Starting from the Four Peaks/Horse Staging Area, we went across the road to the competitive track lot and hiked part of the Technical Loop. We then used a service road to connect us with Stoneman/Pemberton Wash. A feeder wash took us to the Pemberton. We then made our way to the South Wash which we followed ESE, crossing the Long Loop once. We took the second intersection with the Long Loop north to return to the competitive track parking area. I learned the hard way that taking the first intersection results in a significantly longer hike back to the parking area.

We saw a barn owl while hiking South Wash. We also came across two mule deer sheds (antlers).

It was starting to get warm toward the end of our hike. With about half a mile to go, Bob said that he was feeling a bit dizzy. We stopped in what shade we could find so that he could eat a banana.

I brought two reservoirs (6L) today, but was having problems with the hose on one of them. It has some sort of leak that caused it to fill with air. When I sucked on it, I could - with enough sucking - get some water, but I mostly got gurgley air. I ended up using my back up reservoir for the hike. Thankfully, I didn't need more than 3L of water. (Though if I had, I could have either swapped hoses or transferred the water. The reservoir wasn't leaking.)
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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Shallmo-Pemberton-Scenic Lasso - MMRP
Another evening hike at MMRP: Out Shallmo to Pemberton, all the way around Scenic and, finally, back on Pemberton and Shallmo.

I saw just one very red faced cyclist on the Pemberton. It was pretty warm early in my hike and I'm guessing that he had started quite a lot earlier than I had.
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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Wash Day - MMRP
Mike, Bob, Sara, and Jill joined me for a morning hike in McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

Starting from the Wagner Trailhead, we went across the main park road, then on Tortoise, and right (SW) on Pemberton. When we came to Stoneman Wash, we turned south and then took a feeder wash west crossing Pemberton. Continuing west and somewhat north we eventually came to some deep arroyos. Working our way into one of them, we headed back towards Pemberton again and briefly visited the very, very low pond. (The pipe feeding it has become disconnected again; I told Ranger Amy about it after our hike.) At that point, we made our way back to Stoneman Wash.

We could have kept going north in Stoneman Wash which would have been my preference. But one of our group had done a glute workout a few days earlier and was really feeling it after trudging through the washes for at least 5 miles. So, instead, we made things a bit easier and returned via Granite and Wagner.

We saw an owl several times while in one of the washes. Later we saw some bees. We also saw some rabbits.

It's really dry out. I hope we get some rain this weekend.
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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Shallmo-Pemberton-Scenic-Cinch Loop - MMRP
Another evening hike in MMRP. Did Shallmo, Pemberton, Scenic, Cinch, and Escondido.

I saw a trail runner and three cyclists. Was especially surprised to see two cyclists on the Scenic Trail late in the day.

I might have gotten some half way decent shots of the sunset. I'll post at least one of them in the photoset if it turned out. I wish now that I would've brought my tripod and cable release.
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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Cinch-Scenic-Hilltop-Shallmo Loop - MMRP
An early evening loop hike in MMRP... I did: Escondido, Cinch, Scenic, Pemberton; when I got to the Trailhead Staging Area, I did the half mile long Hilltop Trail before returning via Pemberton and Shallmo.

It was warm out. I considered going the long way on Scenic, but wasn't certain of of my heat acclimation status, so I kept it short.

I saw a few ravens and a two mountain bikers. When I returned, there were a number of vehicles in the lot; when I started, mine was the only one there. Apparently there were more riders out than I saw.
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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Cinch-Scenic-Pember-Stoneman-Tech Loop - MMRP
Another evening loop hike in MMRP...

For this evening's hike, I did: Escondido, Cinch, Scenic (the short way), Pemberton, Stoneman/Pemberton Wash, and part of the Technical Loop (in the competitive track area).

It was a quiet hike. I saw two mountain bikers as I was descending the short hill into Stoneman Wash, but saw no one else.
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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Wash Day - MMRP
Another "wash day" - sort of - in McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

Ranger Amy rode her bike with us for part of our hike, so I opted to stay on hard packed trails for the initial part of the hike. Starting from Wagner TH, we crossed the street and hiked Tortoise to Pemberton, turned right and followed Pemberton to the pond.

The water level in the pond was very low today. We found that the pipe which fills it had been disconnected from its water source. Amy fixed it, though at the rate of flow that I saw, it could well lose more water to evaporation than be filled by the trickle coming from the pipe.

After the pond, we hiked some of the washes to the west. We met up with Amy again on Tonto Tank. Amy continued west on Tonto Tank while we made our way over to Stoneman Wash and then NW on Stoneman Wash, meeting Amy again at the intersection with the Bluff Trail. When we hit Granite, Amy turned right to check on some stuff going on in the Campground while the rest of us took Granite and then Wagner back to the trailhead.

We saw lots of rabbits today, but not much else in the way of wildlife. We hiked an arroyo where we had seen a number of long eared owls earlier this year, but they were not there today.
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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Shallmo-Pemberton-Escondido Loop - MMRP
Another early evening hike at MMRP...

I hiked Shallmo Wash Trail, Pemberton, and Escondido which makes a nice loop.

Midway through Escondido, I hiked the "MC" trail to the road and then took the road back to Escondido. This short diversion didn't add much distance, but it was slightly different from the usual route and I welcomed the change, even if it was small. I don't know the history of the MC trail, though I suspect that it stands for "Mink's Camp" and was likely built by scouts at some point in the past. It's fairly faint now - you might not notice it if it weren't for the sign.

It's starting to get warm out. The car thermometer said it was 102 when I arrived at the park. My watch said it was 103 shortly after starting out. I checked my watch again when I had perhaps half a mile left - it said 89 at that point; I thought it felt pretty nice out.

I saw one mountain biker during my hike. He had a headlamp on his helmet, so I'm guessing he rode into the dark. When I returned to the parking lot, I saw a number of vehicles (five) of other night cyclists.
Pemberton Trail - MMRP
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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.

Permit $$
Maricopa Regional Parks - Fees more info

$7 per vehicle,$85 annual or trade your first born for the life pass

$2 walk, bike or horse ride into park

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Shea Blvd take Fountain Hills Blvd if coming from the West, Saguaro if from the East, to McDowell Mtn. Road. The road heads North away from Fountain Hills. Turn left at the entrance to McDowell Mountain Park. Yes, you have to pay to enter. Take the park drive past the family and group campgrounds to Shalimo Dr. Turn right and follow road to Trailhead Group Area
2+ mi range whistle
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