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While 2020 doesn’t seem to be high on anyone’s list of great years, it was a good time to get outside and hit the trails. Hikers were outdoors and easily spaced from companions.

The trail counting equipment for the Fountain Hills McDowell Mountain Preserve and other town trails bears out that the numbers were significant.

During the 2020 calendar year, the electronic trail counters recorded nearly 156,000 people passing through. That was an increase of roughly 20,000 over the 2019 total.

The Lake Overlook Trail that crosses the ridge behind Fountain Park received the greatest number of hikers with 65,000.

There were 21,000 visitors to the Desert Botanical Garden off Fountain Hills Blvd.

Construction on Eagle Ridge Drive leading to the Adero Canyon Trailhead made reaching the preserve trailhead difficult much of the year, but did not deter many. Even with the restricted access more than 33,000 people passed through the gate out of the trailhead leading to the Promenade and other trail access. As of December, the road construction was complete and a counter at the entrance to the trailhead parking lot counted 9,500 vehicles. Another 9,800 crossed that line in January 2021.

As hikers dispersed on different trails, more than 11,000 used the Western Loop and Andrews-Kinsey trails. Another 7,500 went out the Overlook and Ridgeline trail access.

There were 8,700 who accessed the preserve from the north on the Sonoran Trail.

The numbers for January of 2021 indicate the new year is off to a good start for visitors. There was a total of 42,000 visitors counted, three times as many as January 2020. That is presumably due largely to the improved access to the trailhead.

At the March 30 session of the McDowell Mountain Preservation Commission, Community Services Director Rachael Goodwin expressed her appreciation to the commission for its efforts to maintain the trail counters.

“I thank you for making that a priority,” Goodwin said. “This is very valuable information to reflect the trail usage and increases.”