Travel Hooray – Arizona Hiking: Scorpion Point


Tarantula Trail “bear” overlooks Cone Mountain

Point doesn’t rise particularly high over the boulder-strewn flats of the far
west sector of Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  Yet, even without cloud-scraping height, the
weather-worn mound provides a platform for viewing a sprawling desert landscape
and  a concentrated maze of tightly-woven
trails favored by mountain bikers for their challenging turns and narrow

Sweeping mountain views from Scorpion Point

Point sits at the core of a vast field of granite boulders laid out in jumbled
piles, fortress-like walls and isolated pinnacles.  Some have been shaped into bizarre, often
amusing forms by millions of years of exposure and erosion. 

Watch for blind curves and oncoming traffic

Easily accessible by either the Brown’s Ranch
or Pima Dynamite trailheads, a hike to the point unspools in an environment of
rich botanical diversity and an outdoor museum of sorts with natural stone
sculptures.  From the Brown’s Ranch
trailhead, begin the hike on the Latigo Trail heading west. 

A stone “rabbit” on Tarantula Trail

From the start point, the trail dips into a
largely shadeless expanse of desert where sun-loving plants like Christmas
cactus, turpentine bush, jojoba, chuparosa, desert hackberry and desert
lavender stand out over acres of prime wildflower territory.  With ample rainfall, this exposed tract
produces carpets of colorful blooms in spring that creep up the slopes of
nearby Cone and Brown’s Mountain. 

Desert lavender blooms along the route

At the
1.2-mile point, pick up the Hackamore Trail, hike 0.2-mile, and turn left onto
the Tarantula Trail. The next half-mile is packed with whimsical stone

A tight spot on Dare A Sarah Trail

It won’t take too much
imagination to spot lumps of granite that resemble a rabbit, hog, guppy, hippo
and an enormous standing bear.  Once
through the rock art gallery, the trail encounters a sign warning of dangerous
conditions ahead. 

Christmas cactus is a type of cholla

Chuparosa grows in crevices throughout the hike

This is the
aforementioned bike maze where slickrock and blind curves warrant paying
attention to footing and oncoming traffic. 
Hikers will find the well-signed obstacles within the maze only
moderately tricky.  Just follow the Dare
A Sarah and Scorpion Trails to get to the point. 

Saguaros soar above the Hackamore Trail

Brown’s Mountain seen from Latigo Trail

A short spur path leads to the bald lookout
for unobstructed vistas that stretch all the way to the peaks of Tonto National
Forest in the north to the familiar profiles of Pinnacle Peak, South Mountain
and the distant Sierra Estrella range to the south.  

The route is well-signed and easy to follow

“Hippo” rock on Tarantula Trail

Make the Scorpion Point your turnaround spot or use
the excellent preserve maps available online to build your own loop or
car-shuttle hike.

“Hog” rock of Tarantula Trail

LENGTH:  5.3 miles round trip


2,513 – 2,732 feet


Ranch Trailhead:

30301 N.
Alma School Rd., Scottsdale.

From Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess exit 36,
and go 6.5 miles north on Pima to Dynamite Road.  Turn right and continue 2.7 miles to Alma
School Pkwy., turn left and drive 1 mile to the trailhead.  To reach the start of this hike, walk 0.1-mile
south from the parking area on Alma School (the road you came in on) to the
Latigo Trail access point on the right near the pedestrian crosswalk.

The preserve is open sunrise to sunset daily. There are
restrooms at the trailhead. There are no fees.


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