The Desert Vista Trailhead offers access to the south end of the Sonoran Desert Preserve Trail system. There are 10 intersecting trails for over 13 miles of singletrack. The system is multi-user, shared between bikes, hikers and equestrians.
Need to Know
The Great Horned Owl trail is somewhat steep in rocky in places and is at an intermediate riding level, but most of the trail is easy/moderate singletrack.
Park at the free Desert Vista Trailhead - 1900 W Desert Vista Trail. The ride starts uphill, covering half of Hawk's Nest
. About .25 miles up, take a right on Desert Tortoise
. The trail will end at a T-junction, go right on the Valle Verde Trail
. There are a couple of looping options available here. On this ride, we took Valle Verde all the way to the Great Horned Owl loop, then took the left-hand (or clockwise) turn. There is a decent elevation gain here, and the climb to the first false summit is fairly steep.
After a nice descent, take a left on Canyon Wren back to Valle Verde all the way to Dixie Mountain loop. At this point, you could have the option to go right for a longer ride back to the trailhead, or take the left on Dixie Mountain for a short ride to Hawk's Nest
and back to the trailhead.
This trail system has very clearly marked trail markers with QR scans to see both the color coded trail map and the exact point you are on the map.
History & Background
This area is the newest addition to Phoenix's vast desert preserve system. Purchased with voter approved funds and state grants, the new preserve has added a whole new element to the city's expansive desert preserves -- and we're still adding land.
Much of the Sonoran Preserve is located in the transition zone to the Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert, which has higher amounts of rainfall per year (up to 12.5 inches per year). This increases both the lushness and diversity of plant life. South Mountain, Camelback Mountain and Squaw Peak, on the other hand, are located in the Lower Colorado River Valley, the largest and most arid subdivision of the Sonoran Desert. With only 7.5 inches of rainfall a year, vegetation in these areas is sparser and less varied.