Flashback Hikes

A walk along Southwest desert trails will whisk you into America’s past.

Ghost towns aren’t the only places frozen in another time. On certain Scottsdale-area trails remains evidence of the past. Added bonus: the scenery of jumping cholla, saguaro, smoke trees, mesquite, and herds of javelina (small desert pigs).

An ancient tool “factory.” Within the 21,000-acre McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the Lost Dog Wash Trail was once hunting grounds for Native Americans. They ambushed game from the steep banks with primitive—and sharp—tools made from rocks.


A 1900s ranch. In its heyday, Brown’s Ranch supported roughly 4,000 heads of cattle. Then, in the 1970s, it became more profitable to develop the land than to ranch on it. You can still see some of the ruins of the original buildings from Brown’s Ranch Trail, located within the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.


A pre-Columbian ball court. Near Phoenix Sky Harbor International is a site less modern than the high-tech airport: a Hohokam ball court, along with replicas of village houses of the Native Americans that lived there about 1,000 years ago. The Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park’s trail winds by the partially excavated site. To see the more mansion-like abode of a 40-room Hohokam village, you’ll need to travel about 30 minutes north of Scottsdale to Sears-Kay Ruins, near Carefree. These are, though, as the name hints, ruins.


Cliff dwellings. Fans of archaeological sites should put Tonto National Monument’s cliff dwellings on their must-see list. While the lower cliff dwelling is open to the public, the spectacular upper cliff requires reservations. Only 15 people are allowed per day on this moderately strenuous hike.


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