Be sure to bring plenty of water even for your four-legged friends!

Proper trail etiquette ensures a safe and enjoyable experience for all.


Frequently Asked Questions

Never been to a preserve and not sure what to expect, or are you new to Arizona and haven’t been out hiking in the Sonoran Desert yet?  To help prepare you for a memorable visit, the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy can answer these frequently asked questions.

How much water should I bring?

When hiking in Arizona, set out the amount of water that you think you’ll want, then double it. Even in cool weather, the desert dryness causes evaporation.  Remember that dogs need just as much water as you do.

What should I bring in my pack?

Even though you’re on the Preserve's hiking trails close to home, it’s important to remember to bring a fully charged cell phone. Also, remember extra water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a flashlight and batteries just in case you are delayed after sunset, and a first aid kit with tweezers.

Can I bring my dog?

Dogs on leashes are welcome in the Preserve. Take dog waste-removal bags with you; they are provided at most trailheads. 

What is the most common first aid need when hiking in the desert?

You may need to remove a cactus spine, if you brush too closely to a cactus. To remove small spines without cactus stems attached, pluck them out with tweezers. To remove large spines with cactus stems attached use nail scissors to cut the spines that are connecting the cactus stem to you. Use pliers to pull out the spines.

How will I know if I am getting dehydrated?

If any of the following begins to occur, you are overheating and / or dehydrated:

  • Your face is bright red and your neck is white
  • You stop sweating
  • You are sweating and feel chills
  • You are becoming slightly uncoordinated

If any of these symptoms occur, find shade, and rest. Sip water rather than gulp it. When you feel like you have recovered, return to the trailhead immediately.

What is the proper trail etiquette to use while hiking in the Preserve?

Whether you like hiking in the Preserve  on your own or with a group, walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy, to protect the fragile desert crust. Be considerate of fellow visitors by yielding to other visitors on the trail. Let nature's sounds prevail by using a soft voice and minimizing loud noises. Pack out all trash and litter you find along the trail.  Gateway, Lost Dog Wash, Brown’s Ranch and Tom’s Thumb trailheads have restroom facilities, but be prepared. Carry some Ziploc bags with toilet paper; pack used toilet paper out in the Ziploc. Don’t leave it under rocks.  Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them. Preserve the past by examining cultural or historic structures and artifacts, then leaving them where you found them.  Refrain from building cairns. Respect wildlife by observing from a distance. Don’t follow, approach, or feed animals.  Feeding wildlife is bad for their health and alters their natural behaviors.

Is alcohol allowed in the Preserve?

Alcohol is only allowed to be consumed in the Preserve if a permit has been obtained from the City of Scottsdale.