Lost Dog Wash Loop, McDowell Sonoran Preserve: Lost Dog Wash Trailhead, Phoenix - Scottsdale - Mesa, Arizona

Lost Dog Wash Loop - 4.25 miles

McDowell Sonoran Preserve: Lost Dog Wash Trailhead

A rare crested saguaro cactus just past the Chet Andrews Amphitheater

A rare crested saguaro cactus just past the Chet Andrews Amphitheater

Round-Trip Length: 4.25 miles (5.25 miles roundtrip with the Taliesin Overlook spur)
Start-End Elevation: 1,725' - 1,725' (2,146' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +421 net elevation change (548' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Lost Dog Wash Loop - 4.25 Miles Round-Trip

The Lost Dog Wash Trailhead is located along the southern edge of the McDowell Mountains and is considered the 'southern gateway' to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

This sustainably constructed trailhead provides access to a number of trails in the preserve including the Lost Dog Wash, Sunrise, Ringtail, and Anasazi Trails.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The 4.25 mile Lost Dog Wash Loop Trail explores the protected washes, bajadas and foothills of McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

This popular loop provides a rich introduction to Sonoran desert ecology with possible extensions to Taliesin Overlook (2,092') and the Quartz Trail.

Leaving from the trailhead, the Lost Dog Wash Trail heads north along an easy graded path towards its intersection with the Sunrise Trail access point (.25 miles : 1,753').

Bear left to remain on the Lost Dog Wash Trail and in .3 miles, the trail passes the Ringtail Trail Split (.55 miles : 1,827') before crossing Lost Dog Wash.

The landscape now begins to change as the trail continues northwest through heavy concentrations of mature saguaro and barrell cacti. Dense Teddy Bear Cholla gardens line the bajadas, which are flanked by large palo verde and ocotillo.

The Lost Dog Wash Trail intersects the Old Jeep Trail (1.7 miles (2,028') - which bends east to continue the loop. Turn right to to continue on the Old Jeep Trail.

After a brief descent, the Old Jeep Trail trail begins a steady climb to the loop's maximum elevation (2.1 miles : 2,146') before undulating downward across several washes to its intersection with the Ringtail Trail

At the Ringtail Trail split (3.1 miles : 1,970) turn right and the trail bears southwest across a broad bajada marked by impressive Sonoran vegetation. 

After .65 miles, the Ringtail Trail ends at the Lost Dog Wash Trail intersection (3.75 miles : 1851'). Turn left (south) onto the Lost Dog Wash Trail for the final half-mileback to the trailhead (4.25 miles : 1,725').

Those with time can add the worthwhile 1.0 roundtrip extention to Taliesin Overlook (2,092'). 

The Overlook is named for views of Taliesin West - a famous architectural landmark created by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s. Camelback Mountain (2,704'), Mummy Mountain (2,025'), Piestewa Peak (2,608') and the Taliesin complex are all visible from the Taliesin Overlook.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N33 36.026 W111 48.708 — 0.0 Miles: Lost Dog Wash Trailhead
  • N33 36.321 W111 48.833 — 0.55 miles: Cross Ringtail Trail and Lost Dog Wash
  • N33 36.597 W111 49.038 — 1.0 miles: Impressive Teddy Bear Cholla garden
  • N33 37.000 W111 49.198 — 1.7 miles: Old Jeep Trail Split - turn right
  • N33 37.051 W111 48.770 — 2.35 miles: Cross unmarked wash
  • N33 36.710 W111 48.510 — 3.0 miles: Descending towards Ringtail Trail Split
  • N33 36.639 W111 48.481 — 3.1 miles: Turn right onto Ringtail Trail
  • N33 36.320 W111 48.790 — 3.75 miles: Lost Dog Wash Trail - turn left to trailhead
  • N33 36.099 W111 48.708 — 4.25 miles: End Loop - Back at Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • The trail's main feature, Lost Dog Wash, is one of several vegetated alluvial washes which act as drainage chute for the McDowell Mountains. 
  • A rare crested saguaro cactus exists near the trailhead - Fasciation (or cresting) is a relatively rare condition of abnormal growth in vascular plants in which the apical meristem (growing tip), that normally is concentrated around a single point and produces approximately cylindrical tissue, instead becomes elongated perpendicularly to the direction of growth, thus producing flattened, ribbon-like, crested, or elaborately contorted tissue (source: wikipedia).
  • Saguaro, barrel cactus, cholla, ocotillo, palo verde and mesquite are primary constituents that thrive across the Preserve.
  • Resident wildlife includes rabbit, deer, javelina, quail, roadrunner, raptors and rattlesnakes.
  • The Lost Dog Wash Trailhead Pavillion features award-winning architecture for its environmental features - over 70 percent of the building materials were of local origin.
  • Frank Llloy Wright begand building Taliesin West in 1937 intended to be his personal winter getaway and studio.

Camping and Backpacking Information

There is no camping in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Fishing Information

There is no fishing in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Rules and Regulations

  • Preserve users must remain on designated and posted trails to prevent damage to flora and fauna.
  • No camping in the Preserve.
  • No fires and no smoking in the Preserve.
  • Plant material (dead or alive); sand, gravel, rocks or soil; and any item of archaeological significance, may not be removed from the Preserve.
  • The Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve is open for archery hunting.  Hunting with firearms is prohibited.  Rules and regulations for hunting are established by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  For information, visit: www.azgfd.gov.
  • Dogs must remain on a leash at all times in the Preserve, and on established trails (just like their owners!).   Animal waste must be picked up and disposed of in a trash receptacle.

Directions to Trailhead

The Lost Dog Wash Trailhead is located at 12601 N 124th Street, .65 miles north of E Via Linda.

From Highway 101, take exit #41 for Shea Blvd and head east for 2.2 miles to E Via Linda. Turn east on Via Linda for 2.5 miles to 124th Street. Turn left (north) and continue .65 miles to the trailhead at the top of the street.

Contact Information

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy

16435 N Scottsdale Rd. Suite 110

Scottsdale AZ, 85254


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