Completion of Escondido Trail in December 2013 opened up access to the eastern section of McDowell Mountain Park east of Lousley Hills. It also now provides a trail link between camping areas, Pemberton trailhead, and the competitive tracks, meaning you no longer need to put your he-man mountain tires on pansy asphalt to connect these areas.
The improved trail building skills of the good folks at the park really shows on this trail. More fun, winding sections, great runs at moderate angles into the washes, and the easy to moderate climbing is broken up with flat or downhill sections to let you catch your breath before the next hill.
The trail is a joy in either direction. Technically, it is an out-and-back roughly connecting Pemberton and Four Peaks staging areas, but many combine it with the Cinch and Scenic Trail
to make a loop. The northern end of the trail branches off from Pemberton just over a mile north of the parking lot and starts out as a gradual two-mile descent on decomposed granite through classic Sonoran desert. Much of the eastern portion of the trail is a starker, barren landscape, almost a badlands feel, and the terrain is a lot of short, twisting climbs followed by downhill runs. There is some mild exposure and a few blind corners, and you are often within earshot of McDowell Mountain Road.
Just before the southern end at the Four Peaks staging area is a sign for the Cinch Trail. This is a flat, sandy connector to Scenic Trail
, which leads back to the Pemberton parking lot if you choose to make a loop.