FATMAP by Strava

Gateway Loop

The Gateway Loop is the gateway to the incredible hiking in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Hiking Moderate

7.2 km
218 m
219 m
1-2 hrs
Low Point
513 m
High Point
725 m
Gateway Loop Map

The Gateway Loop Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a great option for a moderate hike that showcases the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. You will see saguaro cacti, wildflowers, and rocky hills as you hike along this 4.5-mile loop trail, and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.


At the Gateway Trailhead, you can find restrooms, water, and a visitor center. You can choose to go either clockwise or counterclockwise on the loop. The ascent is more gradual and the descent is steeper if you go clockwise, while the opposite is true if you go counterclockwise. A panoramic vista of the preserve awaits you at a saddle point about 2 miles into the hike.

Watch your footing and wear sturdy shoes on this trail, as it is well-marked and maintained but also rocky and uneven in some sections. The trail is open year-round, but it can get very hot in the summer, so start early and bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Dogs are allowed on leash, but be aware of potential wildlife encounters such as rattlesnakes and coyotes.

This is a popular hike for locals and visitors alike, so expect some crowds on weekends and holidays. However, this scenic and rewarding loop in the heart of the desert is worth experiencing.



Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Family friendly