Hiking: Bootleggers Trail, Scottsdale, Arizona

  • Address: 31402 N. 136th St., Scottsdale, AZ
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset daily
  • Amenities: Passenger vehicle and horse trailer parking. NO RESTROOMS OR WATER

A couple of days ago I wrote about capturing my first “decent” photograph of a Phainopepla while hiking along the Bootlegger Trail off of the Granite Mountain Trailhead which is part of the McDowell Mountain Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Kudos to the citizens of Scottsdale for fostering efforts to support the acquisition of desert lands to be kept in their natural desert form. As you may imagine the population growth in the southwest is booming and native desert is disappearing fast. Land put aside to remain undeveloped is a treasure that can be enjoyed by everyone.

We have hiked other areas of the McDowell Mountain Presserve, but this was the first time at this particular location and we were not disappointed. Below is the view just a few yards away from the parking area.

View from the parking area

What helps to make this area somewhat unique and interesting are the boulders and boulder formations that populate the trail.

Numerous boulders along the trail

As we began to head west, the distant hills loomed large before us.

Granite hills rise up in the distance as we begin the hike.

The essence of the area really cannot be captured in individual photos so I hope the panorama below provides a sense of the expansive, hilly terrain.

A panorama reveals the full scope of the vista

To see a larger version of the panorama, click HERE

This was just one of the many boulder formations we studied as we hiked along the trail.

Interesting boulder formation

Boulder fields with rocks piled on top of each other often surrounded the trail.

Boulder fields with piles of rocks

As we hiked, I spotted a bird atop the granite hill far in the distance. Unfortunately my telephoto lens was not long enough to acquire a very detailed photo, but my guess is that it was a Harris’s Hawk (see the second image).

A distant bird; I think a Harris's Hawk

Closer view of the hawk

This is a description of the Harris’s Hawk from All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

“A handsome hawk of the arid Southwest, Harris’s Hawk is a standout with bold markings of dark brown, chestnut red, and white, long yellow legs, and yellow markings on its face. The most social of North American raptors, these birds are often found in groups, cooperatively attending nests and hunting together as a team. When hunting, a group of hawks surround their prey, flush it for another to catch, or take turns chasing it. This hawk’s social nature and relative ease with humans has made it popular among falconers and in education programs. “

While this trail is listed as moderate, we are inclined to label it more appropriately as easy. There were some inclines and the path does lead up to the distant hills, but we didn’t find any sections that we felt were strenuous.

Picture of the saguaros in the foreground of the mountains

More pretty boulders with the mountains in the background

The desert is a very harsh environment and death is often in evidence. Once stately saguaros often succumb to damage or drought. Even in death, they grace the area and give evidence to the beauty that is the desert.

Dead saguaro still graces the desert

This was a lovely area with the saguaro straight ahead and the boulder formation off to the right in the shade. There was a small “window” in the bottom, middle portion of the rock formation which enabled us to get a peek of the upcoming distant vista.

A bend in the path with a saguaro and boulder formation

As desert gardeners and proponents of native vegetation we always enjoy seeing clusters of greenery in areas that receive scant rainfall.

Green desert plants contrast with all the brown rocks and land.

At the start of the trail and then again as hikers make their way back toward the parking area, there are distant views of desert mountains and nearby housing developments.

Another set of mountains can be seen off to the south-southeast

We plan to return to the Granite Mountain Trailhead to take other hikes that lead to different areas of this interesting region.

  • Length: 2.9 miles
  • Elevation change: 175 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Use: hiking, biking and horseback riding


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