Brown’s Ranch Peering & hiking into the ever-changing history of the Sonoran Desert. Take a trip to the ranches ruins

The Proper Function

The Ranchers

Brown’s Ranch Trail in Arizona contains multiple sandy paths that have been used by the Hohokam Indians, Mid-Century Ranchers, Hikers and Mountain Bikers alike. Archaeologist Thomas Write published data suggesting the earliest existence of human life on Brown’s Ranch date 7000 BC [3]. Hohokam is a Pima word meaning “those who have gone”. The Hohokam indians were farmers and were successful in their adaption to the harsh desert landscape at Brown’s Ranch. Their skills for building irrigation systems from canals coined the tribe as “masters of the desert”. The Hohokam people disappeared from the Phoenix area by A.D. 1450 and there is no consensus on what happened to them.break_line_mtn


Brown’s Ranch was later founded in 1917 by E.O. Brown and was a working cattle ranch until 1970. At its peak Brown’s Ranch encompassed 44,000 acres supporting 3,000 to 5,000 head of cattle [2]. The ranch house, which the foundation can still be seen, is located at the northeastern base of Brown’s Mountain. You can also see other structures that were once used as a bunkhouse, shed, chicken coup and stock tank. Cattle purchased would arrive in Phoenix by train and would often take two or three days to drive the cattle to the ranch. In fact, the exact stretch of road from Dynamite Boulevard to the parking lot is the exact route used for the cattle drive.

In 1999, the land was acquired by the City of Scottsdale for $3.8 million to further develop the McDowell Mountain Preserve.


Brown's Mountain.

Move ’em on, Head ’em up

At the trailhead there is a video and educational area to provide information about the history of Brown’s Ranch. While there are several trails that intertwine with one another, this guide will provide you with directions on how to discover the foundation to the old ranch house. Follow the signs for Brown’s Ranch Road trail. At 1.4 miles, you will come across the Corral Trail intersection (#CL1). At this point, start off-trail walking towards Brown’s Mountain and you will find the ruins of the ranch house, stock tanks and bunk house. The old chicken coup is located a short distance down the Corral Trail on the left.

At this point, you can continue to round Brown’s Mountain the trail will lead you back to the trailhead. If you choose to summit Brown’s Mountain, you can catch Brown’s Mountain Trail which begins a 2.4 mile climb to the saddle. The summit sits at 3,253 ft and offers expansive views of the North Valley. The decent will take you down the South side of the mountain on Brown’s Mountain Trail 1.4 miles back to the trailhead.




“Yup, we’ll start driving these ill-tempered, longhorn cattle through wild and desolate country. There’s coyotes and rattle snakes. There’s the blistering sun, blinding dust storms, and wild rivers to cross. Then sometimes, just sometimes, there’s a double-crossing thieving cowboy riding right along beside you.”

– Connie Anderson, Haunted Cattle Drive

Git Yer Cattle Drive On

Move ’em on, head ’em up, head ’em up, move ’em out! City slicker or not, you should at some point get them doggies rollin’ through the Sonoran desert on a cattle drive. It’s a once in a life time experience and several ranches in the state of Arizona offer opportunities for the solo rider or large groups. Here are a few companies offering this service:

  1. Fort McDowell Adventures
  2. Beaver Creek Guest Ranch
  3. Arizona Cowboy College
  4. Tanque Verde Ranch
  5. Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch

Leave your plugged-in life behind you and enter yourself into the wide-open spaces of the Sonoran Desert. Whether you’re a ‘newbie’ or a seasoned rider I would encourage everyone at some point to join a cattle drive or spend some time on a dude ranch.



Function Details

Take AZ-101 Loop North and Exit Pima Road. Travel North and head East on Dynamite Boulevard. Turn North on Alma School Parkway which will end at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead.


This Proper Function
(Approximate Data)
Party Cloudy
2,315ftElevation 13.7hrsDistance From You
State, RegionArizona,Central
Coordinates33.761468°, -111.842022°
DirectionsView on Google Maps
Time2 Hours RT


Dan is an explorer for The Outbound and founder of The Proper Function, an outdoor editorial. He is passionate about exploration and can’t stay put for more than a week.