Lovely McDowell Mountain Park

A gorgeous regional park with 50 miles of trails in the mountains just ENE of Phoenix, AZ.

Link to campground here: McDowell Mountain Regional Park, AZ
Link to map location here: McDowell Mountain Regional Park, AZ

  1. Site Quality = 3.5/5
    Decent to fabulous site quality here depending on which loop you’re in. All sites are hard gravel and have lovely “sitting areas” with picnic table, fire-pit and grill. Selection of back-in or pull-in with good separation, 50Amp/water hookups and generally lovely views all-around. For big-rigs however it does matter which loop you choose:
    ->North Loop (sites 3-40) – This seems to be an older loop and although sites are long and spacious enough, many have very step/uneven entrances with rather short, flat sections for parking. In our spot (#28) ~half the site was so strongly sloped that we would have been unable to level if Paul hadn’t been able to move the heavy concrete parking barriers in the back. Only a handful of sites comfortably flat and long enough for bigger rigs here (recommend sites 6, 11, 20, 23, 31, 35, 37).
    -> South Loop (Sites 43-80) – This seems to be a newer loop and has simply gorgeous sites all-round. All are very large, flat and very spacious with simply oceans of space in-between. ANY site is lovely here. Definitely the spot to book for big-rigs!
  2.  Facilities = 3.5/5
    Simple, but very nice facilities. Large, clean flush toilets and individual (very spacious) shower stalls with separate bench area. Only slight ding is regular showers have those annoying timer buttons and spray heads with no temperature control (Note/ the disabled shower has a detachable head & temp-control). On-site dump station.
  3. Location = 5/5
    A really gorgeous location here. You are right at the base of the McDowell Mountains with gorgeous views and access to ~50 miles of excellent hiking/biking trails including a competitive mountain biking circuit right on-site! Play-ground and picnic area, plus you are only a few miles from Fountain Hills for shopping needs.
  4. Pet Friendliness = 5/5
    Lovely pooch park. Plenty of space to hang out in camp, plus pooch is welcome on all the trails. DO be aware of coyotes however. Lots around in the park & area, and they’re not shy of walking through camp.

Overall Rating = 4.25
BONUS ALERT =
 Camp with sweeping mountain views and 50 miles of rocking trails!

Summary: This is a wonderful gem of a park located just ENE of Phoenix at the base of the McDowell Mountains. Sites are very nice with wonderful mountain views, lovely “sitting areas” and lots of space in between. The North Loop (#3-40) has rather slooped sites many of which would be too unlevel for “beast size”, but the South Loop (#43-80) has lovely, spacious (enormous), flat spots that would fit any size rig. This is a mountain bikers “hot-spot” and has over 50 miles of wonderful multi-use trails as well as a competitive track on-site. Beautiful sweeping desert and mountain views all-around with lots of nature (expect to hear packs of coyotes at night and maybe even see them by your campsite!). Nearby Fountain Hills provides basic shopping needs with ~30 min drive to Scottsdale or Phoenix. Park is very popular in winter so book ahead. Overall a very peaceful, natural park and a spot we’d definitely revisit.

Extra Info:  Decent 3G Verizon signal with 1-3 bar signal variation. 64 total sites, all reservable on-line. $25/night with electric/water (50Amp). Park is popular so reservations are recommended, but there is an overflow parking lot if main sites are full. On-site dump station.

Typical site view in North Loop (#24). It’s hard to see in the pic, but this site has a downward front slope.

View of another very sloped North Loop site (#16)

View of our site (#28). Very private site, but we would not have been able to level if Paul hadn’t moved the heavy concrete parking blocks in the back.

View down North Loop (RV in site #10 on left, #8 behind)

One of the enormous sites  in South Loop (#68 shown)

View of spacious pull-ins in South Loop (#44 on left, #43 on right)

Another view down spacious South loop (RV in site #54 on left, #52 behind)

Typical “sitting area”. #31 shown. The covered sites in background are the host sites.

View of facilities

View of covered playground between the 2 loops

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19 Responses to CP Campground Review – McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Fountain Hills, AZ

  1. Sue Bank says:

    I hope I’m not being too nosy – but so many of the pictures of “the beast” in a campground setting show your ladder out, next to the motorhome. I’m remembering the “ahem….fight” it had with your slide one time and wonder what you use it for so often. We rarely use ours so I’m curious…sorry!
    Sue

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s a perfectly fine question :) Paul likes to use the ladder to access the Motorhome roof, so we “usually” just take it down from the back ladder (where it’s attached while driving) and open it up there to be ready to access the roof if he needs to go up there. In the above picture Paul was actually messing w/ the door awning so that’s why it was set-up there. It’s not usually right next to the slide unless we’re doing something silly :)
      Nina

  2. Sue Bank says:

    Thanks! That explains it….our ladder is in one of the side compartments and isn’t very easy to get at.
    Your post on this park is very interesting to us and we plan on making it a stop next winter. Keep up the great work, we both look forward to reading your blog every day!
    Sue

    • libertatemamo says:

      This is really a beautiful park (esp. in winter of course) and definitely worth a stop! We were tipped off to come here from 2 RV friends (Alex & Ellen) without whom we’d never had found it. We maxed-out our 14-day limit here it’s just so nice.
      Nina

  3. That is one of our favorite desert parks, and although we don’t have real mountain bikes the trails are easy to ride. We spent a month there in January when Jim had emergency gall bladder surgery at the Mayo Clinic. Nice to be near Scottsdale!

  4. jil mohr says:

    I think there are also some really nice county parks that are “in” Phoenix that friends of mine stay at all the time…but since I am having yet another senior moment I forgot the name but when I get it I will post it…

  5. bob says:

    We live in Phoenix and the Maricopa County Park system is great. If you have difficulties getting into McDowell, Cave Creek is a great option and is about 20 miles west of McDowell. Very good sites, close to shopping/restaurants, and great hiking. One thing you did not mention in the write-up. McDowell is notorious for its coyotes. They are everywhere and wander/hunt at all hours so you really need to pay close attention to your pets.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Cheers for the tip on Cave Creek. You’re right about coyotes! I mentioned them in the “summary” but didn’t put it in the pet section so that’s a good idea. I’ll update the review with the info.
      Nina

      • bob says:

        Oops … I missed the summary comments on coyotes (I jumped from the ratings to the pictures) . As usual a great review. Enjoy your wanders.

    • jil mohr says:

      that’s the one!!!!!!!!thanks bob

      • bob says:

        Another great Maricopa County option is Usery Mountain Park which is south/southeast of McDowell — I’m guessing about 20 miles. I have not been to that one yet but have a reservation for end of January. Another setting with lots of hiking.

        And while I’m at it Lake Pleasant is the county park on the far northwest side of Phoenix/Maricopa County. The lake is huge but not much hiking trails . We’ve never camped there but do make occasional days trips over to kayak and relax. Camping sites appear to be a bit more on top of each other than we like but are definitely big-rig friendly, I suppose because many people bring boats.

        • libertatemamo says:

          Thanks so much for all the extra recommendations! There’s no doubt we’ll be back in Phoenix and these are all fabulous tips for the area!
          Nina

  6. Lew says:

    Great looking campsites. We travel with our Siberian Husky named Boo. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that breed but there’s nothing more that she would like than to run off with a cute looking coyote. Very sociable bread but difficult to keep at home when the grass is greener looking on the other side of the fence.

    Not so sure who comfortable I would be with Boo in that environment. How did your dog react to the coyotes?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hi Lew,
      I know Husky’s quite well having worked with several of them during my many years in dog rescue. Such lovely dogs, but they DO love to run and explore hehe
      Our doggie was OK w/ the coyotes. She wasn’t sure whether to chase them or growl at them. She’s a mixed herding-breed so she basically loves anything that moves (squirrels & rabbits drive her nuts), but we’ve worked hard to control her chasing-instinct and she knows not to go after anything unless we give her the “OK” command. She tried to chase the first coyote she saw at McDowell, but we held her back and once she understood not to go after them she would just watch them (and growl a little) from the RV campsite.
      Nina

  7. […] 2 wonderful weeks in McDowell Mountain Park we stocked our liquor cabinet, loaded up the fridge and got ready to roam far-far-away back into […]

  8. I was just there for one night, but I’m pretty certain I was at McDowell Mountain the same time you were there. Remember seeing an Airstream and a Touareg? I’m over at Usery Mountain now. Both are great parks! Happy travels, and maybe we’ll cross paths again on the road.

  9. […] Mountains. The sites don’t have quite the majestic valley views of McDowell (the spot we stayed at last year), but they’re spacious with lots of natural surroundings and some fabulous hiking (around 30 […]

  10. […] Pass Mountain hike with me and pooch (lots o’cactus folks). Then this morning I shot up to McDowell Mountain (my FAV county park in the whole area) to hang with Alex&Ellen as well as go for a doggie play […]

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