Favourite Hikes – Marcus Landslide, McDowell Sonoran Preserve, AZ

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If you are a geology buff, simply curious about the forces that shaped Earth, or eager for a scenic hike in desert surroundings, Marcus Landslide is for you.Not too easy, but also not too difficult, the 7 km loop trail offers spectacular views as it skims over rolling hills, dips into small valleys, and skirts around boulders, some the size of a house. 

We discovered Marcus Landslide three years ago when an interpretive guide at another trailhead suggested Jo & I give it a try.  Right off, we fell in love with it and have returned numerous times.  This year, it was the first trail we attempted during our escape from winter.

The rich deposits are the result of a colossal landslide that occurred 500,000 years ago when 5.5 million cubic meters of granite slipped off a mountain and left a kilometer-long swath of debris.  Scientists speculate that a heavy rain, bolt of lightning, or an earthquake triggered the event, releasing energy equivalent to an atomic bomb.

Boulders of all shapes sizes line the trail. Jo named this one “the fish”.

Some of the boulders have descriptive names posted on placards bedside them, but most are unnamed and seem to be begging for similar attention. Jo christened quite a few of them with quaint names, and each time we revisit she adds new ones.

Interpretive signs highlight geological information.

Along the trail, interpretive signs explain geological terms and provide background information. On our first ever hike there, we read each sign, gawked at the scenic views, and took scores of photos so it took over two hours to make the trek.  Now, stopping just for lunch midway, it takes us closer to 1 ½ hours.

Anyone wanting something more challenging need not go far.  The trailhead begins at the same location as Tom’s Thumb, a more difficult hike.  For rock climbers, there are places set aside for you too, where you can scale steep grades and practice your rappelling skills.

Take your pick. Many different trails to choose from at the trailhead.

Marcus Landslide is located in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve north east of Scottsdale.


  • MaryLou

    February 2, 2017 at 9:55 am Reply

    Thanks for this Larry. I am learning lots about geology from our hikes here too. It was a subject I didn’t much care for in university but it is a lot more interesting when you are seeing the stuff in person.

    • Larry Verstraete

      February 2, 2017 at 3:14 pm Reply

      Thanks, MaryLou. I, too, am discovering a lot that I didn’t know before. The desert landscape is fascinating.

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