January 31, 2023

Top Spots to Watch the Sunrise and Sunset at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

With 30,580 acres and more than 235 miles of trails, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve has several top spots when you’re considering where to watch the sunrise – or sunset – in Scottsdale! The Preserve has trails that sprawl in every direction, so your choice depends on the type of experience you’re hoping for.

If you simply want to watch the sunrise, pick a trail or viewpoint that faces east. For sunset, you’ll want to face west. For photography, you might prefer a softer, more indirect glow rather than facing the sun head on. In that case, pick a trail with a vantage point opposite the direction the sun will rise or set and have your camera ready to capture that magical desert light!

Here are our top picks for where to watch the sunrise and sunset in McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

  • Granite Mountain Loop Trail (sunrise) – 5.1 mi/8.2 km; moderate
  • Sunrise Peak via Sunrise Trail (sunrise) – 4.4 mi/7.1 km out-and-back; difficult
  • Tom’s Thumb (sunrise or sunset) – 5.0 mi/8.0 km out-and-back; extremely difficult
  • Ringtail Trail (sunset) – 2.2-mi/3.5 km loop when combined with Lost Dog Wash; easy


(Source: Experience Scottsdale)