★★★☆☆ Moderate / Phoenix Area
Nab a quick escape from Phoenix’s northern ‘burbs on these pretty desert trails! The combined Sidewinder, Ridgeback, Ocotillo Hiking Trail Loop crosses flat arroyos and Saguaro studded hills in the Sonoran Desert Preserve. At the highest point, 360° views stretch to Camelback Mountain, Crown King and Four Peaks. Hike early or late and you’ll likely see hot air balloons floating nearby.
TRAILHEAD: 1600 East Sonoran Desert Drive, Phoenix • DIFFICULTY: MODERATE • DISTANCE: 4.56 MILE LOOP • APPROX. TIME: 2.5 – 3.5 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 600 FEET (43 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 600-685 • BEST TIME OF YEAR: NOV. – MARCH • PETS: YES • KID FRIENDLY: A little long for kids • FACILITIES: YES but no water • FEES: none
With over 20 interconnecting trails, the Sonoran Desert Preserve offers a mind-boggling array of possible hiking mash-ups. An all-time favorite is the Sidewinder, Ridgeback, Ocotillo combo. This well-marked loop is wonderfully varied and a welcome escape from Phoenix’s northern sprawl. From the Apache Wash Trailhead, head right onto Sidewinder Trail. This leg curves around the preserve’s easternmost hill and offers sweet views of the area.
After less than a mile of moderate uphill, the Sidewinder Trail slowly descends and then flattens out to cross the desert floor. Just before this descent, a side trail leads to the Apache Vista overlook. Feel free to skip this, as better views are to come!
An easy stroll across the desert floor is followed by a winding hike through low foothills. Here Sidewinder intersects with Ridgeback. Turning left onto Ridgeback, the hike begins to climb as it loops back towards the start. This leg is the steepest portion of the hike. Make it to the top and you’re gold!
A short access trail leads to the top of Ridgeback and amazing views, stretching for miles in every direction. The full length of the preserve is visible, all the way to the satellite tower on the western side and beyond.
The Sonoran Desert Preserve is actually made up of two neighboring sets of hills, with no current connecting trails between them. The northern portion flanks Sonoran Desert Drive. While the southern portion is accessed through the Fireside Development.
Directions: From the intersection of I-17 and the northern loop of AZ-101 (in Phoenix) head north on I-17 for 7 miles to Dove Valley Road / exit 222. Turn right / east onto Dove Valley Road (which becomes Sonoran Desert Drive) and drive for 5.5 miles to the Apache Wash Trailhead Parking lot, on the left side.