Even in an average wildflower year, this hike delivers. How to see the blooms.

Mare Czinar
 |  Special for The Republic

With ample winter rain, the desert in springtime can be an enchanting place. Moisture coaxes the color out of myriad wildflowers, blooming shrubs and trees.

While this past winter offered sporadic showers, it wasn’t quite enough to deliver a superbloom year. Yet, even in drier conditions, wildflowers still manage to make a moderate showing in the wash-riddled hills of Scottsdale, Arizona’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

The preserve’s southern region is a study in the power of water, and the Lost Dog Wash Trail gives a tour of how flash floods and storm runoff have shaped the foothills of the McDowell Mountains range in the northeast Valley.

In addition to carving the terrain into a landscape of corrugated gullies, ravines and ragged washes, running water that pools in disturbed soils and rock crevasses stokes colorful blooms year-round.

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Although the showy annual blooms are sparse this year, the trail is flanked by numerous perennial specimens. Lupine, scorpionweed, desert chicory, chuparosa, fiddleneck, desert hyacinth and wolfberry shrubs make a fair showing among acres of hardy and prolific brittlebush.

The moderate-rated Lost Dog Trail makes a steady ascent alternating between paloverde-lined washes and open fields punctuated with huge saguaros and ironwood trees.

Throughout the hike, views of the McDowell Mountains and 3,969-foot, antenna-topped Thompson Peak dominated the eastern horizon. As the route gains elevation, the distinctive tip of Red Mountain peeks out above an urban-suburban valley.

At the 2-mile point, a short spur path leads to Taliesin Overlook, a scenic ledge with views of the north and West Valley.

The trail continues downhill for another half mile to meet the Quartz Trail, which connects with the preserve’s popular Gateway Area. Many hikers make the overlook their turnaround point for a quick workout and walk through a natural desert botanical garden.

Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve: Lost Dog Wash Trail

Length: 2.6 miles one way or 4 miles round trip to the overlook and back.

Rating: Moderate.

Elevation: 1,755-2,092 feet.

Facilities: Restrooms, water, ramadas, hitching posts.

Hours: Sunrise to sunset.

Getting there: Use the Lost Dog Wash trailhead, 12601 N. 124th St., Scottsdale. From the Loop 101 in Scottsdale, take Exit 41 (Shea Boulevard), turn east (right) and go 4.2 miles to 124th Street. Turn left (north) on 124th Street and go 1 mile to where the road dead-ends at the trailhead.

Details: https://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/preserve.

Read more of Mare Czinar’s hikes at http://arizonahiking.blogspot.com.

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