Insider Tips From Local Experts

Scottsdale Stories

The Three Best Easy Hikes in Scottsdale

Not every hike needs to be rugged. Sometimes you just want to enjoy the beauty of the desert without breaking a sweat. Try these easy Scottsdale hikes in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve for some gentle adventures. Just remember, easy doesn’t mean dull. These are also some of the best Scottsdale hikes you’ll find.  

Kovach Family Nature Trail

Kovach Family Nature Trail_Naylor

Family is not only a name but a theme of this peaceful trail at the edge of Lost Dog Wash. Interpretive signs along the route explore family relationships of the plants and animals that comprise this desert community.

Only 0.5 miles long, the Kovach Family Nature Trail is a double loop laid out in the shape of a scraggly figure-8 at the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead. Named for a family that championed Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve since its earliest days, the trail meanders among a fine assortment of cactus. Stately saguaros, burly barrels and adorable but ruthless teddy bear chollas rub spiny elbows with ocotillo, brittlebush and triangle-leaf bursage—all identified by helpful signs. The trail makes a sly and scenic classroom.

Best of all, everyone is welcome. With a level grade and firm surface, the Kovach Trail is ADA accessible, suitable for wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. Everyone can enjoy the picturesque desert setting beneath a broad sky making this trail perfect for you and your family.   


Fraesfield Loop Hike (Whiskey Bottle-Turpentine-Black Hill)

Black Hill_Easy Hikes_Naylor

Combine three trail segments to weave through a lush basin, shaggy with vegetation and bright with spring wildflowers. It also highlights mountain views, both near and far. From the Fraesfield Trailhead start on Whiskey Bottle Trail. It rambles for 1.6 miles making an easy climb along the east flank of Fraesfield Mountain. From this elevated perch you’ll see a valley floor veined by arroyos. Water collects in low-lying areas accounting for the density of desert scrub providing a buffet of browse for deer and javelina.

Hang a right on the Turpentine Trail as it crosses shallow washes, angling toward the rocky hump of Granite Mountain. Fine vertical notes adorn the landscape where saguaros mingle with tall yucca flower spikes, covered in white blooms like butterfly chandeliers. Desert marigold and globemallow add more splashes of spring color. Then in late summer the aromatic turpentine bush is consumed a cloud of yellow flowers. Anyone who claims the Sonoran Desert is drab hasn’t spent much time walking around it.

After 1.3 miles on Turpentine, make a final right on Black Hill Trail as it angles through the scrub back to the trailhead. Savor the views of a horizon capped by Four Peaks and the Superstition Mountains. Total for the loop is 4.6 miles.     


Brown’s Ranch Loop (Brown’s Ranch Road-Upper Ranch Trail)

Upper Ranch Trail_Brown's Mountain_Naylor

There’s a weird siren song to Brown’s Mountain that pulls hikers into its orbit. Don’t fight the urge; just enjoy the journey. The distinctive formation with the almost-flat-yet-slightly-jaunty top is a centerpiece of the northern section of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Combine two very different trails to understand it better.

From Brown’s Ranch Trailhead, start on Brown’s Ranch Road, a main artery that’s wide, smooth, and effortless, like hiking the moving sidewalk at the airport. As you begin to wrap around it, the mountain offers intriguing new looks. You’ll pass Brown’s Mountain Trail (the summit climb) in 0.6 miles but save that challenge for another day. As the path narrows vegetation crowds in so it feels like you’re burrowing through a tunnel of mesquite, creosote, and soaptree yucca. Remnants of the old ranch can be seen with a short stroll down the Corral Trail. 

At the Upper Ranch Trail, turn left climbing partway up the slope for views across the preserve. The trail swings south, navigating an elegant saguaro forest as it squeezes between Brown’s Mountain and boulder-crusted Cone Mountain. A series of undulating hills keeps things interesting while also providing a modest workout. Lots of little ups and downs but the scenery is so exquisite it’s worth the effort. Consider this an easy hike but with a plot twist. The Upper Ranch Trail finally rejoins Brown’s Ranch Road a stone’s throw from the trailhead for a 4-mile loop.    

Know before you go: Download our Hiking Safety Guide and Scottsdale Hiking, Biking & Trail Guide here.

Roger Naylor is an Arizona travel writer and author. His latest book is Arizona State Parks: A Guide to Amazing Places in the Grand Canyon State. He is a member of the Arizona Tourism Hall of Fame. For more info, visit