Super fast, very runnable singletrack. An awesome run for newbies and experienced runners alike. This is the home of the Javelina Jundred, Pemberton 50K and many other ultra marathons and trail races.
There is a small park fee to enter the park. maricopa.gov/parks/mcdowell
From the trailhead, you can start the loop in either direction at the west end of the parking lot. This description is based on running the loop clockwise.
As you leave the parking lot, you'll run on easy hard packed sand trail for about a quarter mile and cross over the main road. Once over the road, the trail starts in earnest with an awesome section that rolls down through several large, sandy washes and passes the trails that cut across the loop (Granite Trail
, Tonto Tank, etc).
After passing Pemberton Pond, the trail makes a righthand bend and starts a long, lazy climb up a rocky slope before leveling out (mostly) to run past the Dixie Mine Trail
and Coachwhip Trail
which lead further into the McDowells.
After Coachwhip, the trail becomes more rolling as you cruise up, down, and around the terrain, across several washes, and past the other end of the Granite
and Tonto Tank trails.
A little past the half-way point, the trail takes a hard right turn and switches to a jeep road with a downhill tilt.
Once you cross the main road again, you're in the home stretch. The last mile or two is desert brush running down the windy trail back to the parking lot.