Brown's Ranch Mountain • McDowell Sonoran Preserve
• Maricopa County


Brown's Mountain
 

Looking back at trailhead. In back, from left: Tom's Thumb, Troon Mountain and Pinnacle Peak
 

Approaching the top
 

Summit view, looking south at the McDowell Mountains
 

North view, from left: Black Mountain, Continental Mountain, Butte Peak. In back is Humboldt Mountain
 

View of the old Brown's Ranch homestead
 

Sign at trailhead with history of the area
 

Montage: concrete pad with names written in from 60 years ago, trailhead map, and two summit views
 

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Date: March 10, 2016 • Elevation: 3,253 feet • Prominence: 473 feet • Distance: 3.2 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 543 feet • Conditions: Warm and clear

This peak lies in Scottsdale, about ten miles north of where we live. Despite its proximity, I was completely unaware of its existence until recently, when I was scanning topographical maps and "discovered" it. Overlaying it with the satellite images, I noticed a trail, an actual trailhead and all sorts of development in and around the area. I put this on my "something to do with no advance planning" list.

So today, I was home, kind of bored. It was warm outside, but nice, highs in the 80s, and blue skies. About 3 p.m., I decided to go hike this peak. I got my shoes, camera and a couple bottles of water, and set out. I located myself onto Dynamite Road in north Scottsdale, following this road eastbound to Alma School Road, then north on Alma School to its end at the new trailhead, the whole area now part of the Scottsdale Mountains Preserve.

In the early 1900s, this area was open desert, and the Brown family homesteaded here, building a ranch that in its heyday covered nearly 70 square miles. The ranch persisted until about 1970. Scottsdale incorporated much of this land and later (late 1990s) purchased the ranch and surrounding state lands as part of its preservation efforts. The hiking trails and trailhead are relatively new, being open since 2013. All of this is detailed in attractive displays at the trailhead. I knew none of this beforehand.

I rolled into the parking area about 3 p.m. and started walking about ten minutes later. The peak is immediately visible, a caprock forming the top from which the slopes drop uniformly. The peak was about a mile and a half distant, and looked interesting. I am surprised I had never noticed it before. I don't drive on Dynamite Road often, and even so, it's not immediately visible from Dynamite Road anyway. It hides in plain sight.

I walked north along a wide track. I was passed by a few mountain bikers, and it became clear fast that this area seems to be more popular with the bikers than hikers. I did not see too many hikers. There was one guy ahead of me, and I passed him early on.

Going by mileages on the trailhead map (part of which is seen in the montage image at left), I walked 0.7 mile north, then turned left onto the summit trail, the top being 0.9 mile away. The trail was still wide and very well-tended. I made good time, meeting just one hiker, a woman and her dog, coming down.

The last 0.2 mile was steep and loose. I hustled upward and was on top a little before 4 p.m., a 40-minute one way hike. The hard caprock covers most of the summit, with large boulders on its rim, and sheer cliffs to the north. The day was clear and I could make out peaks as far away as Table Top south of Casa Grande, Woolsey Peak by Gila Bend, the Bradshaws, the New River Mountains, the Mazatzals, the Superstitions and the McDowell Mountains.

Soon, the guy I had passed earlier arrived on top. We talked briefly. He was from Minnesota enjoying our lovely weather. I spent about 10 minutes on the top, admiring the views and talking with the other guy. He was friendly and interesting. After snapping photographs and drinking a little water, I started the downhill hike.

I got about 30 feet downslope when I slipped on the gravel covering a rocky segment. It wasn't a bad slip, more like a controlled "sit down", but my left hand landed on a cholla bulb. I wasn't wearing a glove. I got the whole damn bulb in my hand, and spent the next five minutes batting away the bulbs with my stick, and gently yanking out the individual barbs one by one. It hurt like heck.

After that event, the rest of the hike went without mishap. I met more hikers and bikers as I descended, and was back to my truck at 4:30, a round trip of just under 90 minutes. I spent a few minutes at the trailhead reading the displays before exiting.

Once back onto Dynamite, I turned left (east), the road now named Rio Verde Road. I drove east about five miles to another Preserve trailhead, near Fraesfield Hill. I just wanted to see what it looked like. This might be something to do when it's hot.

I continued east bound on Rio Verde Road. This road drops a lot, almost 1,200 feet in elevation, in about ten miles, before coming to the town of Rio Verde. I used to drive this loop when I had my motorcycle in the 1990s, but had not driven it in many years.

I then drove south on Fountain Hills Road, entering into the town of Fountain Hills and then to Shea Boulevard. From here, I simply drove home. The whole excursion, including the extra driving, took three hours, and was enjoyable. This was a fun trip for something that I had not pre-planned for whatsoever.

(c) 2016 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.