The 1st time Ruth and I drove the Desert Foothills Scenic Drive we were not impressed. In fact, we wished we hadn’t bothered with it. But something made me come back to re-evaluate it, and I had a slightly different impression the 2nd time. I recommend it only for first time visitors to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area because it’s now barely a 3 Compass activity. However, I can see that it was once a Five Compass, worth doing adventure, before urban sprawl mostly put it out of business.
When I first noticed the sign for the Desert Foothills Scenic Drive near the intersection of Scottsdale Road and Happy Valley Drive last year, I was determined to learn about and do it when Ruth and I returned to Phoenix a few months later. It’s only an 11½ mile roundtrip on busy highway connecting the town of Carefree to the megalopolis that Phoenix has become. About all that’s left of the original concept are some signs about desert flora and examples of them between shopping centers and some quiet, affluent communities that have developed since Desert Foothills Scenic Drive was conceived. I did enjoy occasional glimpses of natural features like Pinnacle Peak and Lone Mountain.
When this scenic byway was first developed way back in 1963, this must have been a wild and natural Sonoran Desert landscape. Many apparently still had faith in this project because trails along Scottsdale Road were not competed until after voter approved bonds were issued in the year 2000. Locals still use the trails to walk their dogs and enjoy the disappearing desert landscape.
The Desert Foothills Scenic Drive has now become what one woman on yelp described as a “nice little outing”. See it only for chain fruit and teddy bear chollas, wildflowers, a sort of desert stroll on a busy path, and a chance to shop at Penneys.