Tag Archives: Scottsdale Arizona

Hike: Thompson Peak in Scottsdale, Arizona

Typical Sonoran Desert flora on the gently rolling terrain of the first two miles

Typical Sonoran Desert flora on the gently rolling terrain of the first two miles

Thompson Peak is the third highest peak in the McDowell Range, at 3,982 feet above sea level. The highest elevation—East End—is 4,057 feet, and McDowell Mountain is 4,034 feet.

The antennas on top of that mountain are my goal

The antennas on top of that mountain are my goal

The trailhead after waking on subdivision sidewalk. You may find maps here, but I wouldn't depend on it. Bring your own.

The trailhead after waking on subdivision sidewalk. You may find maps here, but I wouldn’t depend on it. Bring your own.

The out-and-back hike is 9.5 or 10 miles, with a vertical elevation gain of about 2,000 feet. I did it in 4.5 hours, including a 20-minute stay at the summit. I didn’t fool around much. I would call it a strenuous hike, but it depends on your level of fitness.

The colors aren't vivid because it's 10 minutes before sunrise

The colors aren’t vivid because it’s 10 minutes before sunrise

Thompson Peak is on the right

Thompson Peak is on the right

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

The most memorable feature of the hike is the very steep concrete road that takes you to the top. There are three sections of concrete in the last mile of the 4.7 mile trek to the summit. I estimate the steepness at a maximum of 20% grade. That means for every 100 feet forward progress, you rise 20 feet higher. I found  a review by another hiker that estimated the maximum grade at 30%, or even 40%. I was quite glad I had my Leki hiking poles to help me both up and down that steep grade. My maximum heart rate while climbing this steep portion was 172. Slow and steady wins the race.

This moss is growing on the north (shaded) side of a rock since we head a good soaking rain a week ago

This moss is growing on the north (shaded) side of a rock since we head a good soaking rain a week ago

Dirt road in between concrete sections near the summit

Dirt road in between concrete sections near the summit

My hike a few days ago started at the Fountain Hills, Arizona, Dixie Mine trailhead, which is actually in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. After two miles you head east on the Thompson Peak trail and into the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Get maps of both areas. The start of the hike is a little confusing because you can’t drive right up to the Dixie Mine Trailhead. You drive through Fountain Hills to the end of Golden Eagle Boulevard, which terminates at a gated community. Just outside the gate, there’s a parking lot and public restrooms. Then you walk through the subdivision on a sidewalk for 10 minutes to the actual trailhead.

Four Peaks way in the distance to the east, on the horizon

Four Peaks way in the distance to the east, on the horizon

It took me 2 hours to reach the summit. Going down the steep concrete road was just as slow as climbing up. I had to be careful not to fall, and short strides were necessary to take some strain off my knees.

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About half way up

The first half of the trail to the summit is a great introduction to the Sonoran Desert. You won’t get much overall elevation gain, but lots of up-and-down through washes and small hills. You don’t have to be in very good shape to do it.  The trail is rocky, so you’ll want to wear thick- or stiff-soled boots instead of sneakers.

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3/4 of the way up

McDowell Peak on the left?

McDowell Peak on the left?

Judging from the soreness my legs the day after this hike, I got a good training effect out of it. Because of the uncomfortable grade of the concrete road sections, my initial thought was that I wouldn’t do this hike again. I’m not so sure now. Doing it gave me confidence that I could probably tackle Arizona’s Mount Humphreys later this year.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Summit selfie

Summit selfie

Scottsdale, Arizona, in the foreground; Phoenix way in the distance

Scottsdale, Arizona, in the foreground; Phoenix way in the distance

Looking south from the near the summit

Looking south from the near the summit

Radio and/or telephone equipment, and God knows what else

Radio and/or telephone equipment, and God knows what else

The fine print is a little disconcerting. Can you tell me more?

The fine print is a little disconcerting

Hike: Northern Region of McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Corral Trail: This is so green only because of the recent rain

Corral Trail: This is so green only because of the recent rain

This was another training hike in preparation for Troop 131’s 20-mile hike in March. Over the course of four hours and 10 miles yesterday, we covered much of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve’s northern region.

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We started at the tail end of 24 hours of drizzling rain and the sky was still overcast. There were very few others on the trails. Our course was fairly flat. All the trails are very well marked and are mostly gravel. Take a map or you’ll get lost.

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They call this “Balanced Rock”

 

 

I carried a 10-lb dumbbell in my pack to enhance my workout.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Details: We started at Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, taking the Upper Ranch Trail to Corral Trail, then Dry Gulch Trail, a detour up to Cathedral Rock, then
Cholla Mountain Loop Trail to Balanced Rock Trail to Powerline Road #2. Then 118th Street Trail to Latigo Trail back to the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead.

Update Feb. 3, 2013:

The day after this hike, I was mildly sore in my hips, thighs, and legs. I like that because it’s proof I stressed my body, which is a necessary for improved fitness. Also, I’m impressed by how sore my feet were during the last three miles of hiking. I hope I can toughen them up. The 20-mile walk is starting to look intimidating!

This bedrock metate was used by Indians (aka Native Americans) for grinding maize, acorns, and other foods

This bedrock metate was used by Indians (aka Native Americans) for grinding maize, acorns, and other foods. Rainwater fills this 4-inch deep rounded depression in granite.

The Amphitheater (all natural)

The Amphitheater (all natural)

Hike: Sunrise Trail, Scottsdale, Arizona

I’m preparing to hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim in May with a Boy Scout troop, so I’m doing a lot of walking.  I hiked Sunrise trail a week ago.  It’s in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  I am blessed to live near such a gem.

We started at the Ringtail Trail parking lot on 128th St., walked the 1,000 feet of vertical elevation to Sunrise peak, descended to Sunrise Access Area, then turned around and walked back to our starting point.  So a total of 2,000 feet vertical elevation over the 10-mile trip taking 4.5 hours.

It’s considered “difficult” according to the trail guide.  If you do it, wear good boots with stiff soles.  Much of the trail is rocky, with 2- to 4-inch diameter stones underfoot (my least favorite footing).

Steve Parker MD, hiking, hike, exercise, Sunrise Trail, Scottsdale Arizona

Scottsdale subdivisions, with Phoenix far in the distance.  You might recognize Camelback Mountain on the horizon: an iconic Phoenix hike.

Steve Parker MD, hiking, hike, Sunrise Trail, Scottsdale Arizona

View to the north, from the peak.  You can see the thin line of the trail coming in from the left.

Steve Parker MD, Sunrise Trail, Scottsdale Arizona, hike, hiking

The desert is green like this only for a month or two in the Spring, if we get enough rain.

Steve Parker MD, hiking, exercise, Pinnacle Peak, Scottsdale Arizona

Bonus picture unrelated to Sunrise Peak. Pinnacle Peak Trail. My sister and her husband and I walked it recently. Popular with young women who like to jog it.

Steve Parker MD, Scottsdale Arizona, hiking,Sunrise Trail, Arizona

Looking northeast from the peak