As cities develop and expand, it is our responsibility to actively protect, restore, and maintain the natural areas in and around them. Not only do preserves maintain habitat diversity and critical ecological functions, they also offer essential recreational and educational opportunities.
At 30,500 acres, Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the largest urban land preserve in the country. Its series of trailheads contribute to the protection and advocacy of the preserve, with close to one million visitors per year, ensuring that use doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the sensitive desert ecosystem is both a priority and a challenge.
The design of two unique, picturesque, and disturbed trailhead sites would provide a one-of-a-kind design opportunity to restore the natural habitat while expanding and facilitating access into the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Through an integrated design process, the team was able to work with the natural processes of the land as an understanding of the natural environment guided the design of sustainable amenities that provide, refuge, shade and shelter.
Two complimentary yet contrasting designs each drew inspiration from the uniqueness of their respective sites with one site featuring 360-degree panoramic views, while the other provided an immersive experience through boulder lined trails. Situated on top of a plateau, Fraesfield Trailhead integrates itself into the panoramic viewshed, imposing minimal intervention to the landscape while opening the surrounding views. In contrast, the siting and design of Granite Mountain Trailhead slowly reveals the desert via a choreographed path which celebrates the granite boulder outcroppings, aligns you toward a saguaro forest, and finally unveils the striking view of Granite Mountain.