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Cholla Mountain Loop from Brown's Ranch TH, AZ
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no permit
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This is a genteel ramble through the open desert of the proposed McDowell Mountain Preserve. It crosses the current preserve land, rounds Cholla Mountain (Hill #3406 on the SLD's "Granite Mountain Multiuse Area" map) and returns, covering a boulder-and-saguaro-dotted landscape. Except for one very short, steep climb and descent, the grade is easy. There's NO shade, so this is definitely not a summer hike.


Not much info is available on the trail system in the McDowells, no doubt because the Preserve's future is still in limbo, so I figured the best way to find out was one of the McDowell-Sonoran Conservancy's free guided hikes. We set out from the TH about 7:30, heading north on TR 27. At this point it's more of a road than a trail. The MSC volunteers who do maintenance have put up stick barriers and scattered cholla buds at some points alongside the trail to discourage people from going cross-country. Most of this hike is on State Trust Land, so look out for motorbikes and ATVs.

About 1 mile in there's a gate marking the beginning of the Preserve. Go through the gate and continue on. Ahead and to the left you'll see a slanted, banded mountain; this is Brown's Peak. Continue on straight until you see the sign for Brown's Ranch, and turn right on the unmarked trail. Here's where the yuccas really start to pop up. The trail narrows and cuts across Brown's Ranch and pops back out onto State Trust Land at TR 24 near the foot of Cholla Mountain, a hill made of huge, smooth boulders. Boulders are everywhere, and the whole landscape looks like one of the tonier resorts.

Turn left on TR 24. The trail starts to undulate and there are several turns; just follow the trail markers. On this day the fairy dusters and hedgehogs were giving a good show.

Climb up the shoulder of Cholla Mountain to Gorilla Rock... this is the one serious grade in the hike and you're probably ready for a good ankle-stretcher by now. A few hundred feet on is another group of boulders, so have a rest and a snack and enjoy the view of Carefree and points north. At the bottom of the downslope, turn right on TR 28, that takes you around the back of Cholla Mountain, and right again on TR 30. A pair of rock climbers were trying their luck as we passed through. This is the stretch where you figure out how the hill got its name. On a right-hand spur just after you pass through the Ocotillo forest, there's a natural ampitheater that makes an interesting detour.

TR 30 T's into TR 24; turn right, and a few yards further on turn left on the unmarked trail. This takes you back into the Preserve. After some undulating, and crossing a sandy wash, the trail Ts back into TR 27, right in front of Brown's Mountain. Turn left and walk out to the TH.

No water or toilets at the TH, but there is a cleverly-disguised gas station on the SW corner of Alma School and Dynamite.
Description 37 Triplogs  0 Topics
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 Phoenix NE
Statistics
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 7.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,730 feet
Elevation Gain 298 feet
Accumulated Gain 470 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 9.95
Author Nan
Descriptions 2
Routes 0
Photos 689
Trips 105 map ( 703 miles )
Age 56
Location Mesa, AZ
Photos
Viewed All Mine Following
10  2017-03-17 Oregon_Hiker
13  2016-08-21
McDowell Sonoran Preserve North
DarthStiller
5  2016-02-26
Cholla-Brown's
mazatzal
10  2016-01-24
Another meander in MSPN
mazatzal
8  2015-11-21
Brown's Ranch Road Trail - MSPN
Crzy4AZ
5  2015-10-18
McDowell Preserve Far North Area
mazatzal
8  2015-09-12
Cathedral Rock-MSPN
Widowmaker
7  2015-06-10
Browns Mtn - Cathedral - Amphitheater Loop
The_Eagle
6  2015-02-14
Cholla Mountain Loop - MSPN
The_Eagle
20  2015-01-07
Maverick Trail - MSPN
New2hyk
5  2015-01-02
Granite Mountain Loop - MSPN
The_Eagle
10  2015-01-01
McDowell Sonoran Preserve North Region
mazatzal
Page 1,  2
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar
Backpack   No
Preferred   Feb, Mar, Apr, Nov → Early
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:17am - 6:22pm
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Official Route
 
Alternative Routes
 
Water
Nearby Area Water
Cone Mountain Loop - MSPN
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362 ft
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0.0 mi away
0.5 mi
45 ft
Upper Ranch Trail - MSPN
0.1 mi away
2.1 mi
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Latigo Trail - MSPN
0.2 mi away
1.1 mi
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Hackamore Trail MSPN
0.2 mi away
1.8 mi
21 ft
[ View More! ]
Fauna
American Kestrel
Cactus Wren
Cardinal
Desert Cottontail
Desert Tortoise
Gila Spotted Whiptail
Gila Woodpecker
Gilded Flicker
Greater Roadrunner
Harris Antelope Squirrel
Harris Hawk
House Finch
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Mourning Dove
Mule Deer
Northern Mockingbird
Phainopepla
Red-tailed Hawk
Soldier beetle
Tarantula
Velvet Ant
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
Zebra-tailed lizard
Flora
Banana Yucca
Barrel Cactus
Barrel Cactus - Red
Chuparosa
Coopers Paperflower
Coulter's Lupine
Datura
Desert Marigold
Desert Night-Blooming Cereus
Fairy Duster
Goldeneye
Many-Headed Barrel Cactus
Mexican Gold Poppy
Needleleaf Dogweed
Ocotillo
Owl Clover
Perezia
Rough Prickly Poppy
Saguaro
Scarlet Bugler
Soaptree Yucca
Teddy Bear Cholla
Named place
Brown's Mountain - Scottsdale MSP
Browns Ranch
Cholla Mountain - MSP North
Cone Mountain - MSP
Four Peaks
Four Peaks Wilderness
Granite Mountain - MSP
Humboldt Mountain
Little Granite Mountain - MSP North
Pinnacle Peak
Culture
Azimuth Mark
Grave - Unidentified
HAZ - Hike HAZard
HAZ - Selfie
Hohokam Mano and Metate
Informational/Interpretive Trail Sign
Inscriptions
Spring Box
Stone Dwelling
Summit Register Log
Trail Signs and Markings
Trash Hauled Out
Genteel ramble
by Nan

This is a genteel ramble through the open desert of the proposed McDowell Mountain Preserve. It crosses the current preserve land, rounds Cholla Mountain (Hill #3406 on the SLD's "Granite Mountain Multiuse Area" map) and returns, covering a boulder-and-saguaro-dotted landscape. Except for one very short, steep climb and descent, the grade is easy. There's NO shade, so this is definitely not a summer hike.


Not much info is available on the trail system in the McDowells, no doubt because the Preserve's future is still in limbo, so I figured the best way to find out was one of the McDowell-Sonoran Conservancy's free guided hikes. We set out from the TH about 7:30, heading north on TR 27. At this point it's more of a road than a trail. The MSC volunteers who do maintenance have put up stick barriers and scattered cholla buds at some points alongside the trail to discourage people from going cross-country. Most of this hike is on State Trust Land, so look out for motorbikes and ATVs.

About 1 mile in there's a gate marking the beginning of the Preserve. Go through the gate and continue on. Ahead and to the left you'll see a slanted, banded mountain; this is Brown's Peak. Continue on straight until you see the sign for Brown's Ranch, and turn right on the unmarked trail. Here's where the yuccas really start to pop up. The trail narrows and cuts across Brown's Ranch and pops back out onto State Trust Land at TR 24 near the foot of Cholla Mountain, a hill made of huge, smooth boulders. Boulders are everywhere, and the whole landscape looks like one of the tonier resorts.

Turn left on TR 24. The trail starts to undulate and there are several turns; just follow the trail markers. On this day the fairy dusters and hedgehogs were giving a good show.

Climb up the shoulder of Cholla Mountain to Gorilla Rock... this is the one serious grade in the hike and you're probably ready for a good ankle-stretcher by now. A few hundred feet on is another group of boulders, so have a rest and a snack and enjoy the view of Carefree and points north. At the bottom of the downslope, turn right on TR 28, that takes you around the back of Cholla Mountain, and right again on TR 30. A pair of rock climbers were trying their luck as we passed through. This is the stretch where you figure out how the hill got its name. On a right-hand spur just after you pass through the Ocotillo forest, there's a natural ampitheater that makes an interesting detour.

TR 30 T's into TR 24; turn right, and a few yards further on turn left on the unmarked trail. This takes you back into the Preserve. After some undulating, and crossing a sandy wash, the trail Ts back into TR 27, right in front of Brown's Mountain. Turn left and walk out to the TH.

No water or toilets at the TH, but there is a cleverly-disguised gas station on the SW corner of Alma School and Dynamite.
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Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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  • State Trust Map
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.

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Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
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
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