One of the amazing things about living in Arizona is just how close at hand amazing hiking trails almost always are. Nearly every suburb of Phoenix has a few trails if not several mountain parks, and the eastern town of Fountain Hills is no exception. Since the late 2010s, the city has been building trails through the southeastern part of the McDowell Mountains, and created the Adero Canyon trailhead. With less crowds than some of the city’s more marketed trails, hiking in Fountain Hills offers visitors and residents alike the opportunity for challenging climbs, easy walks, and beautiful views. Any local hiking fanatic should definitely check these trails off the hometown bucketlist. This guide will walk you through the main trails of the park and breakdown everything you need to know to visit.
Please remember when you come to take care of this beautiful landscape. It is the home of people, plants, and animals, and the care of every visitor will help protect this place for the future. In this guide, we will be covering Caring for Wildflowers.
- 1 Caring for Wildflowers in Central Arizona and Beyond
- 2 Planning Out Your Adero Canyon Experience
- 3 Need to Know Information
- 4 Promenade Trail and Easier Hiking in Fountain Hills
- 5 Western Loop Trail for a Challenging Trek
- 6 Quick Stops for Views of the Famous Fountain
- 7 Safety Considerations
- 8 Land Acknowledgement
- 9 Resume en Español
- 10 More on Arizona for Hikers, Explorers, and Travelers
Caring for Wildflowers in Central Arizona and Beyond
You might not imagine that the deserts of Arizona are home to a vibrant array of wildflowers. But every year there are seasonal growths of purple, orange, red, and yellow flowers which can be viewed when hiking in Fountain Hills and elsewhere. Not only are these a beautiful element of the landscape, but the diversity of plants is key to the health of the Sonoran Desert. Diverse flowers support diverse pollinators and herbivores. And the healthier insects and herbivores are the healthier our charismatic predators tend to be. Everything is linked in nature.
Likewise, wildflowers play an important role for indigenous and Western cultures. At the very least, the beautiful colors encourage folks in enjoying the end of the cooler season, and make preparing for the intense summer a little more enjoyable.
So, in support of the environment and all the people that you either call neighbor or who make your travels possible, let’s protect wildflowers together. Here’s a few tips for doing so while visiting Adero Canyon and anywhere else:
(1) Stay on trail!
This includes on those pesky switchbacks. Cutting trails and walking off them crushes wildflowers, other plants, and Arizona’s hard-to-see biocrust. Meanwhile, staying on trail keeps you and others safe by preventing confusing spider trails that arise when people wander off on their own. If there is a peak or area that you can’t see on trail, consider picking a park with a similar peak or view. I promise that you will be able to find one in Phoenix-metro.
(2) Do not pick the wildflowers.
Wildflowers are a food source for pollinators. Picking them removes a precious resource from the desert landscape. Furthermore, when we pick flowers we prevent that plant from reproducing. Arizona’s native plants are already struggling to compete with invasive species, and so picking them can further harm their populations. It might seem silly, but in the long-run, doing this could lead to the extinction of various plant species, when you add the impact of picking to other stressors.
(3) Support organizations working to protect wildflowers.
There are several in Arizona, but some that you might consider supporting with time, money, and/or awareness raising include:
Central Arizona Conservation Alliance
The Arizona Native Plant Society
Maricopa County Parks and Recreation
Planning Out Your Adero Canyon Experience
If you were to look at a map of Fountain Hills’ part of the McDowell Mountain, you would note that their park is longer than it is wide. While there are some off shoot trails, particularly towards the Adero Canyon trailhead/parking lot, there is primarily an eastern and western trail which weave their way from one end of the park to the other. These can be traveled in a large loop (6.1 miles), or, because, they intersect at regular intervals, as smaller loops or out-and-backs. This creates a highly explorable park, and allows for nearly all skill-levels to enjoy the Sonoran Desert here.
My way of planning around and thinking about hiking in Fountain Hills from Adero is to (1) consider how long of a hike I want to take, and (2) how difficult. You can tailor to either need. After you consider how long/far you’d like to go, you will have either the Promenade Trail or Western Loop to start out with. I will cover each below in more detail, but the Promenade Trail is the easier option and the Western Loop has more elevation gain. In the furthest northern parts of the park are the Sonoran and Lower Sonoran Trails. These form two consecutive loops that you can explore, depending on how far you’d like to hike.
Need to Know Information
As of: 2022
Trailhead Address: 14800 N Eagle Ridge Dr, Fountain Hills, AZ 85268
Trail Difficulty: Ranges from easy to moderately hard depending on route.
Bathrooms at the trailhead: Yes
Entrance Fee: None
Promenade Trail and Easier Hiking in Fountain Hills
From the Adero Canyon trailhead, you will have a few choices to make when you hit the trail. If you are looking for an easier trail with the option for a longer walk, the Promenade is the perfect one to take. This trail follows an old dirt road for a time, along the side of the mountain northwards. While there is a little bit of elevation gain here, it is fairly level. The width of the early parts of the trail also make it ideal hiking in Fountain Hills with family or larger groups, although it does narrow further along. It is a little less than a mile one way before you will meet back up with the Western Loop Trail and then have access to the Sonoran and Lower Sonoran Trails.
If you’d like to increase the challenge, you can always hike back on the Western Loop Trail. However, the conditions on this route are very different. The Western Loop trail has steep switchbacks and a very narrow, rough pathway. I would not suggest it for families or inexperienced Sonoran Desert hikers.
Western Loop Trail for a Challenging Trek
As mentioned above, the Western Loop Trail is your source for a challenge while hiking in Fountain Hills and it’s a great workout from the Adero Canyon trailhead. It is 0.4 miles long from one end to the other, and includes 573 feet elevation gain AND loss. From the parking lot, you will follow the trail up to the west when the Promenade Trail branches to the east. At this point, you will be climbing up, up, up using short switchbacks.
There is the West View Overlook at the top, where you can enjoy the satisfaction of your climb with some lovely views. But then it is back down whether you turn around or continue on the route north. Eventually, you will meet back up with the Promenade Trail, which you can use for an easier route back to the parking lot. Or you can also access the Sonoran and Lower Sonoran trails further north for longer routes.
Quick Stops for Views of the Famous Fountain
If you don’t have a lot of time for hiking in Fountain Hills, Adero Canyon trailhead also offers easy access to some short hikes with impressive views. In particular, the Overlook Trail, which is east of the parking lot, is a quick out and back. It will bring you to the top of one of the foothills to the McDowells and offer you some great landscapes. From here, you can see the famous Fountain Hills fountain, the mountains surrounding Saguaro Lake in the distance, and beyond that the towering heights of Four Peaks. This is a great place for pictures at any time, but it’s a particularly great spot for checking out the sunrise.
When hiking in Fountain Hills (and anywhere), you need to take responsibility for your own safety. This guide is not a guarantee that you will be safe on the trail. You need to assess your abilities, the conditions on the route, and how you are feeling before setting out and continuing on the trail. Do not hike if conditions are not ideal and turn around immediately if you feel in danger. In conjunction with that, here are some other considerations for the desert:
(1) Yes, Arizona has a “dry” heat, however, it is extremely dangerous. More people die in Phoenix from heat than anywhere else in the country on an annual basis. If you are hiking in the spring, fall, or summer, do NOT hike when it will be hotter than 90 degrees or above. Remember that temperatures will rise if you leave in the first half of the day, and the heat does not dissipate quickly in the evening.
(2) Bring water and snacks with you! And wear good, hiking shoes.
(3) Let someone who will not be hiking with you know your route and when you expect to be back. Check in with them when you return.
The lands that now make up the McDowell Mountains at Adero Canyon are a part of the traditional lands of the O’odham people (including the Tohono O’odham and Akimel O’odham) and others. They have stewarded these places that we now enjoy on the trail for many hundreds of years, and they continue to steward the land.
You can learn more about them at their tribal websites (http://www.tonation-nsn.gov/; https://www.srpmic-nsn.gov/), and may consider supporting them there as well.
Please help carry the burden of their legacy by caring for these lands with each decision you make on the trail.
Resume en Español
Los caminos en el parte de los McDowell Montanas en Phoenix-metro, Arizona ofrece algunos experiencias perfectas para hikers principiantes, su familia, y hikers expertos. El camino Overlook tiene vistas de la fontana de Fountain Hills, y los montanas mas grande en la área, Four Peaks. Es perfecto para fotografía.
El camino Promenade es fácil y un poco grande. Este es un camino muy bueno para la familia. Y el camino Western Loop es difícil y escarpado; este es para hikers expertos y es un tipo de ejercicio.
Algunos pautas para seguridad en el camino:
Cuídate. Consulta el tiempo y conoce tus límites. Esta guía no es una garantía de su seguridad.
(1) Si va de excursión en primavera, otoño o verano, NO camine cuando haga más de 90 grados F o más.
(2) ¡Lleva agua y bocadillos contigo! Y use buenos zapatos para caminar.
(3) Infórmele a alguien que no irá de excursión con usted su ruta y cuándo espera volver. Consulte con ellos cuando regrese.
Proteje los wildflowers con tres reglas importante:
(1) Manténgase en el camino.
(2) No recojas las flores silvestres.
La tierra de Adero Canon es en la tierra tradicional de la gente se llama Tohono O’odham y Akimel O’odham. Aprende mas aquí y aquí.
Para mas información sobre Arizona, lee nuestros guía de Arizona.
More on Arizona for Hikers, Explorers, and Travelers
If you’d like to explore more of Arizona, we have many more guides on the state. As locals, we have hiked, eaten, and explored many pockets of this land, and love sharing our experiences.
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