Arizona Mountain Biking

Sunrise Trail, McDowell Sonoran Preserve

View McDowell Sonoran Preserve – South in a larger map

The sunrise trail is awesome. Nestled in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Sunrise is a gem of a trail. After the first half mile it’s not at all tame like Lost Dog Wash. If you’re in the mood to climb steadily and be rewarded with fast steep singletrack…Sunrise is for you. It feels kind of wrong to tell you about the climb. It’ll be like reading a spoiler for a movie you want to see…so skip the next few paragraphs if you want to be surprised.

The climb from Lost Dog Wash TH: With an elevation gain of nearly 1,100 feet in just under 3 miles, Sunrise isn’t too burly, but surely burly enough, especially if you left your legs or lungs at home on the couch. Lucky for me my legs were ready to hammer. As I ascended the double track picking my line up the small loose rocks I wondered if it’s double track all the way up…but to my relief, just past the Ringtale junction, the double track gives way to a forgivingly wide singletrack that twists and turns up the mountain.

There is only one spot of let up on the ascent. A quick 100 feet of downhill that’s hardly enough to give momentum for the switchback climb that stares you down from the top. Pedal after pedal I worked my way up as the beads of sweat worked their way down. At last I round the last switchback and sprint to the top only to find the trail wind up again. This time a clear line of sight to the saddle with plenty more climbing.

I was lucky, I was prepared for the false summit. I knew there would be more than the eyes could see from the bottom. But still. After all the effort, seeing another uphill stretch was quite the sight for my sweat filled eyes.

Phase two trail to the saddle is still steep, but there are few breather spots where you can soak in the scenery for a few seconds at time. I made it up to the saddle, where there is a real live hitching bar, and then around the mountain bypassing the foot trail to the summit. I was so ready to cash in on the 1.7 mile decent that I had clearly earned.

The backside of Sunrise is steep, fast, and fun. There are a couple of tech spots and tight switchbacks that kept my speed under control. The extra-wide singletrack gave me wings, less risk to the exposure and more time to react to the trail. Thirteen minutes later I dropped in to the Sunrise TH parking lot. It’s a quick 4 mile road-ride back to Lost Dog TH. If you’ve still got legs, head back up to the saddle and enjoy three miles of downhill. MTBR poster, Enel, rode Sunrise both ways on his singlespeed. Animal, that’s all I have to say about that.

Overall, Sunrise is a sweet trail. Be ready to climb and you’ll have a blast. The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is still fairly new for valley mountain bikers. If you haven’t climbed Sunrise, set the alarm.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve Interactive Map

UTRider’s Sunrise Peak trip report

waltaz’s review of Lost Dog and Sunrise on MTBR

Photos of Sunrise from Hiker Adam’s perspective

One thought on “Sunrise Trail, McDowell Sonoran Preserve

  • Kathryn Fellows

    I just want to THANK the bike riders on the preserve. I ride my horse out of Briwn’s Ranch trailhead a lot. The bike riders are all incredibly courteous and safe when I have encountered them on the trail. I live down in Queen Creek and my encounters there are very different. I sincerely appreciate the bikers at the Scottsdale Sonoran Preserve. You guys and gals are the best! Thank you !!!

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