Overview(There used to be an East End page here on SP, but I recently noted it was taken down. So here's a new one.)
East End is the highest point of the McDowell Mountains, a small but impressive range located in eastern Maricopa County, within the city of Scottsdale. Over the past 20-plus, years, the city of Scottsdale has incorporated much of the range into the city boundaries, creating the McDowell Mountains Preserve with the express intent to protect the mountains from development. The range is crossed by an extensive trail network with two or three main trailheads that allow for a variety of options, including out-and-back, loop and shuttle hikes. The trails are well-maintained and are one of the more popular hiking areas in the Phoenix metropolitan area. On the north end, the range becomes very rocky, with cliffs, spires and pinnacles, offering fine rock-climbing routes.
Looking at the McDowells from the west side, you won’t see the summit. The big pointed peak with the towers on it is Thompson Peak, elevation 3,982. To its north is McDowell Peak, elevation 4,034. A handful of other peaks and spires jut above 3,900 feet. Hence, East End hides in plain sight, only visible from points along Dynamite Road on the north side, or from the town of Fountain Hills to the southeast. Even then, the rocky summit doesn’t stand out visually, and most people would probably not be aware of it without a detailed map. There are no trails to the top. Despite the popularity of the McDowells, only a tiny percentage go to the top. The log book averages out to about 10 visitors a month in the cooler seasons, a handful in the hotter summer months. Nevertheless, the hike to the top is short, steep with some minor scrambling, and quite fun. The views are outstanding.
Getting There The longer, less confusing way: From the Loop-101 freeway in north Scottsdale, take the Pima/Princess Road exit and go northbound onto Pima Road for about 7 miles to Dynamite Road. Turn right (east) and follow Dynamite up over Reata Pass, passing through the ritzy Troon subdivision with its PGA golfing. About six miles later, turn right (south) onto 128th Street, which is graded dirt. Go south on 128th for about 3 miles across rocky desert until you are forced to make a left turn. Follow the road left then right again, parking in one of two small parking areas.
There always seems to be something going on here, so don’t be surprised to see construction equipment or detour signs. The city usually has signs pointing to the “temporary” parking area.
The shorter, more confusing way: Loop-101 to Pima, north on Pima about four miles to Happy Valley Road. Go right on Happy Valley until you are up into some foothills. Keep an eye out for 115th Way, which may be signed as Alameda. Go right onto 115th/Alameda. Shortly, make another right onto 119th Way, and go south up this road to Casitas Del Rio. Go left and follow the winding road up past some nice homes, then make another left onto Paraiso Road. The pavement ends here. Follow the Paraiso alignment for another mile or two until you start seeing signs for the parking area.
Red TapeNone. The park is open sun-up to sun-down only. No overnight parking or camping allowed.
CampingNo camping immediate to the area. Instead, spend a few thou and stay a night at one of Scottsdale's many fine resorts.
The Princess Resort. Be sure to ask about the "peakbagger's" special.
External LinksTrip Report, www.surgent.net
McDowell Mountains Preserve
McDowell Preserve, Scottsdale page
Route to topFrom the parking area, find the Tom's Thumb Trail. Go west about 0.3 mile to a junction, then left, and left again about 0.5 mile later, always going up. The trail gains steeply but is an easy hike overall.
In time the trail levels a little, traverses across the rocky west-face of the East End massif. Keep going until you descend about 60 feet, directly below the summit itself.
Leave the main trail at the lowpoint and follow a rougher trail and small cairns up a steep, rocky slope. You gain about 200 feet to come to a saddle. Keep an eye out for the cairns.
At the saddle, follow the trail through the big boulders another 200 feet. It ends at a small saddle and a solar-panel collector. The summit is an easy walk on your left. The USGS benchmarks are set in some lower rocks. The map says 4,057 feet elevation, assuming these to be the BM. If so, the real summit is about 10 feet higher, or 4,067 feet elevation.
The views are great in all directions: McDowell and Thompson Peaks to the southwest, Tom's Thumb spire and Pinnacle Peak to the northwest, the New River Mountains to the north, Mount Ord and Browns Peak to the east, and the Superstitions, Goldfield and Usery Mountains to the southeast. The fountain in Fountain Hills may be jetting if you catch it at the right time.
The one-way distance is 1.5 miles, with about 1,100 feet of gain. Summer gets hot, but people still hike it. Go early and watch for snakes. Wear long pants and beware the usual desert obstacles.