Even if you’re not a “hiker,” visitors to Scottsdale  won’t want to pass up the chance to explore the Sonoran Desert on foot. The challenging Camelback Mountain (www.phoenix.gov/parks/hikecmlb.html ) is a must-climb destination for hikers, with two summit trails scaling the 1,200-foot slopes in a little over a mile.
The popular Echo Canyon Summit Trail starts at the “camel’s head” in the Echo Canyon Recreation Area (5700 N. Echo Canyon Pkwy., 602/256-3220, www.phoenix.gov/parks/hikecmlb.html ). Expect rough terrain and loose rocks as you climb the trail, but the hidden caves and rock formations like the 80-foot-tall Praying Monk make the effort worthwhile. For an easier trek, try the quarter-mile Ramada Loop Trail.
The less popular Cholla Trail at the “camel’s hump” offers a manageable ascent to Camelback’s summit and views of the Eden-like Phoenician Resort. The trailhead starts on Cholla Lane; note that parking is limited.
Hikers, climbers, and horseback riders of all skill levels can trek through the McDowell Sonoran Preserve (480/998-7971, www.mcdowellsonoran.org ) on the eastern edge of Scottsdale . The protected park serves as a wildlife corridor for the McDowell Mountains and Tonto National Forest, making it an important habitat for a host of desert plants and animals.
Hikers may explore the area on their own or join a guided tour for a more educational experience (call ahead for times or to create a customized tour). The 16,000-acre preserve has eight access areas, like the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead (on 124th St., just north of Shea Blvd.).
The new Gateway Access Area (on Thompson Peak Pkwy., west of Bell Rd.) has desert exhibitions, an amphitheater, lots of parking, and an ADA-approved trail—an accessible trail for those with limited mobility. Climbers wanting to scale one of the preserve’s rock formations should contact the Arizona Mountaineering Club (www.amcaz.org ) for information about choice locales or to book one of its beginner classes.