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Desert trails and rivers in Fountain Hills, Arizona

arrow Learn more about the 2013 American Trails International Trails Symposium...

arrow Books and resources for Arizona: Our State, Our Story - Celebrating 100 years of Arizona (pdf 618 kb)

arrow Saturday, April 13, 2013, the town of Fountain Hills, Arizona, will be closing several of its downtown streets to vehicular traffic, for its first "Cyclovia." Experience our “open streets” to learn about the community, enjoy local vendors, foods, and drinks, and participate in healthy activities, demonstrations, and entertainment.


Photo of tall fountain with bird sculpture


Base camp to desert adventures: Fountain Hills and Fort McDowell

By Francesca Carozza; trail photos by Becky Collman

arrow Inviting you to look skyward is one of the world’s highest fountains cascading into a blue lake ringed by a 33-acre green park with a 1.25-mile paved walking path. The town’s famous fountain marks time, sending a graceful plume of water up to 360 feet high at the top of the hour from 9 am to 9 pm.


Uncover the secrets of more than 36,000 acres of Arizona’s Sonoran desert? Impossible. But wouldn’t it be fun to try? And there is no better place to start than Fountain Hills and Fort McDowell. Here, within easy reach of wilderness, small town charms, and authentic history is your base camp for desert discovery.

Once you’ve taken in panoramic views of rugged mountains and slopes lush with vegetation unique to the Sonoran desert, choose from a network of trails for hiking, biking, and wildlife watching at McDowell Mountain Regional Park or Fountain Hills McDowell Mountain Preserve. Both the Park and the Preserve connect to Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Together, these three areas connect you to a total of over 36,000 acres of contiguous Sonoran desert.

photo of cactus and desert mountains

On the Trail at Fountain Hills McDowell Mountain Preserve

Thanks to the foresight of Fountain Hills residents determined to preserve natural beauty and wildlife habitat, today the Fountain Hills McDowell Mountain Preserve is 740 acres of open space and consists of four trails, with connectivity into the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. The Preserve runs adjacent to the southern, western, and northern borders of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Maricopa County’s McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

The McDowell Mountain Regional Park is a 21,099-acre paradise for hikers and mountain bikers and just four miles from Fountain Hills. McDowell Mountain Regional Park has over 50 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails through desert terrain found only in this unique part of the world.

Wildlife viewings are common; look for deer, javelina, coyotes, bobcats, and a multitude of bird species. A few trails are less than a mile; several are one to four miles; and the Pemberton Trail is 15.3 miles. Elevations rise from 1,600 feet to 3,000 feet at the base of the McDowell Mountains. One thing they all have in common is the awesome views of the mountains and desert.

Photo of bike on dirt trail

McDowell Mountain Regional Park has over 50 miles of trails for
mountain biking as well as hiking and horseback riding


Mountain bikers can choose three different loops, of 8.2, 3.0, and 2.9 miles on the competitive track. The 3.0-mile length is a sport loop and the 2.9-mile length is a technical loop. Challenge your biking abilities with obstacles, steep inclines, swooping turns, technical descents, and rugged terrain.

Desert discovery in the Fountain Hills Fort McDowell area means nothing if not variety plus choices for numerous paths to exploration. If you are looking for trails that are both easy and rewarding, you have found the right spot.

For example, the Lake Overlook Trail just off Panorama Boulevard across the street from Fountain Park is a readily accessed trail that rewards you with grab-the-camera-now views of Fountain Park set against hills and mountains jutting into the sky. From the trail overlook you have a bird’s eye view of the Town and Fountain Park as well as scenic vistas of the majestic Four Peaks Mountain and Fort McDowell Yavapai reservation.

photo of horses on trail

Equestrians will also find miles of trail riding opportunities

Make a five-minute drive and you can pair your Lake Overlook Trail hike with a stroll through the Fountain Hills Botanical Garden, just off Fountain Hills Boulevard. The garden is eight acres with elevations 1,696 to 1,800 feet. The perfect place to answer those nagging “I wonder what this one is called,” botanical questions, the garden helpfully identifies many Sonoran Desert plants for you along a half-mile meandering trail on the desert slopes. Take in views of rock formations, desert flora, animal life, and an abandoned P-Bar Ranch campsite next to an old constructed dam wall.

In Fountain Hills you can also tour the Town’s extensive public art collection beginning right outside the River of Time Museum. Brand new is the Centennial Circle, which includes a salute to the five Cs of Arizona – copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate, and more than a dozen sculptures.

Flowing rivers are rare in the desert, yet as home to the Salt River and Verde River, this area embraces two of the Southwest’s largest and most scenic waterways. And lovely Saguaro Lake is only a few minutes away. Its beauty can be appreciated from the Lakeshore Restaurant, a boat cruise, or by renting a boat from the marina. Tubing down the Salt River is a cool experience in summer. Tubes and kayaks can be rented from Saguaro Lake Ranch Resort and Salt River Recreation.

Photo of sculpture by lake

Public art can be found throughout downtown and around
Fountain Park


An Art Walk Guide is available online, at kiosks, and the Visitors Center. Public art can be found throughout downtown and around Fountain Park, enhancing the natural beauty of the downtown streets and plazas. The collection now totals more than 107 pieces by internationally recognized artists working in bronze, metal, and stone and is still growing.

For another kind of challenge, practice taking strokes off your game along the Sonoran Desert Golf Trail. It is made up of five of the West’s finest golf clubs: We-Ko-Pa, SunRidge Canyon, Desert Canyon, Eagle Mountain, and Vista Verde. These desert courses offer enticing golf with views that go on forever, but traveling between courses takes only minutes. Golf more and drive less.

Surrounded by beauty and connecting you to the desert, wilderness, relaxation, and history, the Fountain Hills destination is a delightful base camp to many memorable experiences.


For more information:

For more information on recreation opportunities and events in Fountain Hills, visit

Books and resources for Arizona from Maricopa County Library District: Our State, Our Story - Celebrating 100 years of Arizona (pdf 618 kb)

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