Well maintained trail with amazing views of the McDowell Mountains and the expansive Phoenix Metropolitan Area below. A quick in-town hiking escape!

The Gateway Trailhead is one access point into the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy in Scottsdale and is my favorite “Gateway” into the treasure trove of great trails and vistas in the McDowell Mountains. The Gateway Trailhead provides great accessibility for a quick hike or trail run at the end of the workday. 

The Gateway Loop Trail is 4.5 miles long and has 650 feet of elevation gain, which makes for a great moderate hike. The Conservancy’s trailheads and all trails within its boundaries are open from sunrise to sunset. Plan accordingly for getting your vehicle in and out of the trailhead parking area (there are 320 parking spaces plus 12 parking spaces for equestrian trailers). I have OCD tendencies and typically complete the loop trail in the clockwise direction, but depending on timing for the hike, sometimes I switch it up to maximize sunrise/sunset views or to minimize the sun being directly in my eyes.

Remember that pedestrians and cyclists both yield to horses and cyclists yield to pedestrians!

Some other options on longer trail alternatives sprouting from the Gateway Loop are available here.

Pack List

You can get by with minimal gear on this hike, assuming you are just doing the loop and none of the longer trails the sprout from it. 

  • Sturdy trail running shoes or hiking boots will do fine 
  • Bring plenty of water, particularly in the summer months! 
Show More
RT Distance 4.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 650 Feet
Activities Photography, Mountain Biking, Yoga, Hiking, Fitness
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Scenic
Wildflowers

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Inspiration Abounds

Nice challenge if you add the climb to Inspiration Point. Perfect for a half day-ish adventure. Eye-catching vistas of the city below. Plentiful interesting plants with soaring Saguaros reaching to the sky. Trail well maintained and watch-your-step rocky. People drop from the trail when the loop splits to Inspiration Point. Reward yourself and Add the 1.3 miles up to the point if you have time.

Great Urban Hike Option

We do this hike fairly often & have taken my 5 year old along multiple times as well. Great views of the McDowell Preserve. I've actually only done it clockwise (thank you random OCD tendencies), but it starts out very flat and easy as you approach the base of the mountain. Then it takes a fairly steady, albeit only moderate grade, incline as you curve around the NW part of the mountain. You eventually come to a sign prompting you to choose between continuing straight for Inspiration Viewpoint (an out and back ~5.6 mile hike option that I HIGHLY recommend) or making a right for this hike. You'll then climb again, this time a bit steeper, to the saddle and high point of the hike. From here you'll head SE down the other side with similar grade. You pass the junction where Bell Pass merges into Gateway Loop Trail which continues straight ahead to the right and loops all the way around to where you started. This trail is VERY well maintained and plenty of signs making it easy to follow. I've never done this at night but would be confident doing so. The City of Scottsdale's tax dollars are well-spent at this trailhead as well as it provides clean, beautiful restrooms, water fountains & even one for the pups. Try out this hike ASAP and then take a look at the map at the trailhead and plan a more ambitious hike from this trailhead for next time! :)

Best at night!

Very nice loop with great views of the valley. Downside is that the traffic can be very heavy! I enjoy doing this at night where you can appreciate the solitude and city lights!


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