American Trails presents the National & International Trails Awards Program to recognize the tremendous contributions of volunteers, professionals, and other leaders who are working for the betterment of trails both nationally and internationally in both rural and urban settings. American Trails honors the contributions of leaders who are working for the advancement of trails across the country and around the world.


Desert Mountain, Scottsdale, Arizona

Hiking in the community's part of the Sonoran Desert

Desert Mountain is a golf and active outdoor lifestyle community in North Scottsdale, adjacent to the 3-million acre Tonto National Forest.

The community is planned for 2,426 residential units. Currently there are approximately 1,657 completed residences, with an additional 108 residences either in design, remodel, or under construction.

Desert Mountain contains 8,000 acres. Within its borders are six championship Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses; six distinctive clubhouses and restaurants; a central fitness campus with grass, clay and hard surface tennis courts; family, children, and sports lap pools; various golf and boutique retail venues; and 30 miles of walking, jogging, and biking paths integrated into and through the various villages, golf courses, and clubhouses.

Desert Mountain transitioned from a developer-owned community to a member-owned community in 2010. As part of the transition, the Desert Mountain community received title to approximately 3,000 acres of pristine upper Sonoran Desert wilderness as dedicated natural preserve and perpetual open space. Recognizing the tremendous health, recreational, and spiritual benefits of a 3,000-acre desert wilderness preserve within the community, Desert Mountain formed a Desert Mountain Trails Committee to promote and preserve this land acquisition as an additional outstanding and remarkable community amenity.

Desert Mountain promotes the benefits of trails

Desert Mountain promotes the benefits of trails

The committee hired Okanogan Trail Construction to first study, and then construct, a multi-use trail system that would appeal to the broadest spectrum of potential trail users of varying abilities. This 3,000-acre natural preserve and the desert wilderness trail system within it – the Desert Mountain Trails – is the subject of the American Trails Developer Award nomination.

The trail system

The Desert Mountain Trails Master Plan is a "stacked loop" trail system. By design, trails emanate from and return to a single trailhead. Fully built, the system will include more than 14 miles of trails. Currently, Okanogan Trail Construction has completed three wilderness trails – the Sunset Summit Trail, the China Wall Trail, and The Hohokam Camp Trail – for a total of 6.6 miles.

The Sunset Summit Trail represents the trail Master Plan's spine from which most of the trails originate. For the first mile, the Sunset Summit Trail is built upon a reclaimed two-track road once used for cattle ranching. The balance of the trail features a multi-use, four-foot tread width that climbs a small summit to a beautiful panoramic overlook. Breathtaking views include Quien Sabe Mesa, Skull Mesa, New River Mesa, and Gavilan Peak in the foreground, with distant silhouettes of the Harquahala, White Tank, Sheep, Heiroglyphic, and Bradshaw Mountains on the western horizon. Departing the summit, the trail makes a looping traverse and descent back to the reclaimed two-track road for a total of 2.8 miles. Trail users are walkers, hikers, runners, and mountain bikers.

Trailhead information for hikers and bicyclists

Trailhead information for hikers and bicyclists

The China Wall Trail adds another 1.3 miles. Like the Sunset Summit, it is built to a multi-use, four-foot tread width. However, the China Wall Trail has a steeper gradient that climbs a series of 17 switchbacks and nearly 800 vertical feet to the southern portion of the China Wall, a natural geologic formation that resembles a giant man-made wall. Because of China Wall's steeper grades, most users will be hikers, followed by runners. All but the strongest mountain bikers will find the trail too steep to negotiate. The trail's additional elevation allows the hiker to gaze as far south as the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson, and southeast to the Superstition and Pinal Mountain ranges.

The Hohokam Camp Trail adds another 2.5 miles to the trail system. Built to a four-foot multi-use tread width, the Hohokam Camp Trail departs from the Sunset Summit Trail and maintains a steady but rolling traverse along Continental Mountain's east slope before descending into Grapevine Wash and returning to the Sunset Summit Trail. Together with the two-track portions of the Sunset Summit Trail, the Hohokam Camp Trail will appeal particularly to walkers, hikers, and families with children desiring a less demanding trail. Mountain bikers and runners too will enjoy Hohokam Camp Trail's rolling traverse high on Continental Mountain's east flank.

The Desert Mountain Trails are located in the northern and most rugged portions of the Desert Mountain campus, contiguous to the Tonto National Forest. Certain trails, the China Wall Trail for example, provide a link between Desert Mountain's 30 separate residential villages and 3,000,000 acres of Tonto National Forest lands to the north.

Desert Mountain commissioned the McMahon Group to conduct a “2012 Membership Survey Board Report.” The survey, among other tasks, obtained input on issues related to future improvements and strategies the community might consider. In terms of community member satisfaction, Desert Mountain Trails are at the top of the highest-ranking amenities. Furthermore, numerous real estate and development publications note increasing trends that today’s buyers desire communities that offer an active outdoor lifestyle, including hiking and biking trails. In Desert Mountain’s onsite sales office, the completed trails are marked on the sales office’s center selling piece: a large three-dimensional and topographically accurate model of the entire 8,000-acre Desert Mountain community. This model is very effective in showcasing the amount of natural area open space within the community, as well as the community's proximity to the Tonto National Forest.

The Desert Mountain trails system

The Desert Mountain trails system

"Humanity, We Have Lift-off”

Troy Gillenwater tells how the trail system provides an escape from the digital world to a walking meditation.

Right now, today, our humanity is rocketing through a transitional epoch perhaps more profound than when mankind evolved from the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Industrial Age combined.

We are accelerating ever faster into the Age of Technology’s orbit. Some call it the Age of Interruption. Regardless, our trajectory into this technological frontier is exponential. There’s no turning back now. The mission has launched and it is sure to be an exciting and remarkable journey.

In the past, however, mankind transitioned from one Age and into another in a much slower pace. Men and women’s brains worked pretty much the same way on either side of the transition. The great technological advances of the past were far simpler and less profound.

Not so much anymore.

Welcome personal computers, iPads, Blackberrys, iPhones, Kindles, iPhones and X-Box. Today we email, we text, we Skype, we Tweet, we Facebook, we Google, and we instant- message. Our lives now are harnessed to a flashing digital screen. We find it unsettling to be separated from our technology.

Yet lurking somewhere in the back of our thoughts, we know something vital is changing. Our human neuroplasticity -- now under relentless technological arm-twisting -- is changing not what we think, but how we think.

Today our brains buzz with billions of bits of information arriving instantaneously. Our constant interruptions are interrupted! At the click of a mouse or the flick of a scroll- down menu, we now have more information quite literally at our fingertips than all the information ever acquired since mankind slogged from the primordial swamp. But whatever information we instantly glean from the screen vanishes just as quickly from our short-term memories...precisely because it can. Whatever piece of information we sought, and then lost, we can simply retrieve over and over again. We don’t need to remember much of anything.

Futurists cheer the coming singularity: the moment when our technologic machines match our human intellect and meld us into part-human and part-machine. Yet as we streak toward ever greater, ever faster technology, our species is left with little time for reflection or introspection. Critical thought, contemplation, and deep understanding are human traits left behind in the technological jet blast.

This is why, perhaps subconsciously, many of us return over and over again to the sanctity of our Desert Mountain Northern Properties. Deep within the canyons, on top of the peaks, gravity, like an unseen umbilical cord, bounds us to our humanness. How ironic that of all the endangered species and threatened environments worthy of preservation, our humanity tops the list.

We need to preserve ourselves from ourselves.

The Northern Properties help us do this.

As soon as we leave the trailhead and venture forth into the Northern Properties, we deploy technology’s thrust reversers. Somehow we float slowly back to earth. Silence envelopes us. Our minds empty. We unplug.

Instead of our eyes itching and watering from digital images flashing ceaselessly across backlit computer screens, our eyes rejuvenate when watching the slow pace of monsoon clouds inflating in the east and boiling over the mountain crests.

We can hike for miles and miles without interruption, like a walking meditation. Or, we can ponder the intricacies of the last book we’ve read or contemplate what we wish to write in the next letter to a close friend.

On the trail, disconnected from technology, we are self-reliant again. We are not tethered to a power cord and outlet. Without a screen, we make our own decisions and as a result either suffer the consequences or enjoy the benefits. Pushing a button or scrolling through menu options does not help us climb the next ridge. It’s the blood coursing through our veins and arteries, the oxygen in our lungs, the power in our legs that have served us so well through this deep and rich human journey.

For me, the awe-inspiring vistas at every turn remind me of my tiny place in the universe, and how, in the end, technology will never surpass the miracle of simply being alive.

We, as humans, are already on the ride of our lives on this little planet whirring about the galaxy. This realization, as we hike over one pass and into a distant valley, forms a technological antivenin that, at least for a short time, helps preserve our human soul.

More winners of this award

2015: Steve Griswold

2015: Mel Huie

2015: Oregon

2015: Northwest Youth Corps

2015: South Carolina: Archie Thompson

2015: New Hampshire: Bruce Stuart

2015: Washington: Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance

2015: Indiana: Roy Garrett

2015: Louisiana: Scott Schilling

2015: Alabama: State Representative Terri Collins

2015: New Hampshire: Silas Chamberlin

2015: California: Andrew Fulks

2015: New Hampshire: Emile and Rita Croteau

2015: Nevada: Jeff Potter

2015: Colorado: Ken Neubecker

2015: Indiana: Mike Kuepper

2015: Georgia: Mike Rooks

2015: Louisiana: Raymond Pellerin

2015: Washington: Sam Jarrett

2015: Arizona: Shawn Redfield

2015: New York: Tate Connor

2015: REI

2015: Michigan Trail Riders Association

2015: Karl Knapp

2015: Wildlands Conservancy’s Bike and Boat Program

2015: Governor's 100 Missouri Miles

2015: Northumberland County Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area

2015: Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway

2015: Putah Creek North Bank Trail

2015: Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission

2015: American Conservation Experience and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

2015: City of Asheville and New Belgium Brewery

2015: Single Track, LLC

2015: City of Redmond

2015: Red Latinoamericana de Senderismo (Latin American Hiking Network)

2015: Pemberton Camp School, Australia

2013: Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, REI, Chipotle Mexican Grill

2013: Alabama: Danny J. Hubbard

2013: Steve Elkinton

2013: South Korea - Jeju Olle Foundation

2013: Missouri

2013: Pinetop-Lakeside TRACKS (AZ White Mountain Trail System)

2013: Roger Sabine

2013: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

2013: High Trestle Trail Steering Committee and Partners

2013: Chinese Mountaineering Association

2013: Gerry Wilbour and the Northwest Trails Crew

2013: Colorado Responsible Recreation Foundation’s “Stay The Trail” Campaign

2013: Home Place Adventures

2013: Salida to Leadville, Colorado Trail Corridor Feasibility Study

2013: Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A.

2013: The Parkway at Blue Ravine, Folsom, California

2013: Arizona: Troy Dymock

2013: Alaska: Barth Hamberg

2013: Pat O’Brien

2013: Arizona: Dave Hicks

2013: Arkansas: Mayor Patrick Henry Hays

2013: California: Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich

2013: Colorado: Dave Wiens

2013: Delaware: Karl Lehman

2013: Florida: Mickey Thomason

2013: Georgia: Terry Palmeri

2013: Idaho: David Gordon

2013: Louisiana: Jimmy L. Anthony

2013: Kansas: Cecilia Harry

2013: Michigan: Jim Radabaugh

2013: Minnesota: Mary Straka

2013: Missouri: Dan and Connie Burkhardt

2013: Montana: John Brewer

2013: Nevada: Bill von Phul

2013: New York: Parks & Trails New York

2013: North Carolina: Morgan Sommerville

2013: Ohio: Robert A. Fonte

2013: Oregon: Chuck Frayer

2013: South Carolina: Staci WIlliams

2013: Tennessee: Daniel Reese

2013: Texas: Friends of Northaven Trail

2013: Virginia: Larry Miller

2013: Wyoming: Jeff Wiggins

2013: Alabama: Erin Wiggins

2013: California: Bill Carter

2013: Connecticut: Russ Waldie

2013: Delaware: Meinrad Leckie

2013: Hawaii: Fred Bannan

2013: Florida: Charles and Anne Thrash

2013: Illinois: Eileen Weyhrich

2013: Indiana: Milan Kruszynski

2013: Kansas: Bunnie Watkins

2013: Kentucky: Mike Bossert

2013: Louisiana: Freddie Paul

2013: Maine: Sally Jacobs

2013: Massachusetts: Scott Monroe

2013: Michigan: Ed Morse

2013: Minnesota: Jeff Klein

2013: Missouri: Russell and Tammie Martin

2013: Montana: Hillary Hanson

2013: Nebraska: Dale Rabideau

2013: Nevada: Suzanne Shelp

2013: New Jersey: David and Monica Day

2013: New Mexico: Tom Mayer

2013: New York: Jane Daniels

2013: North Carolina: RG Absher

2013: North Dakota: Jamie Wetsch

2013: Ohio: Greg Jackson

2013: Pennyslvania: Stephen P. Pohowsky

2013: South Carolina: Christine Ellis

2013: Tennessee: Jim Johnson

2013: Utah: Adam Stoldal

2013: Washington: Robert Pacific

2013: West Virginia: Charles L. Dundas

2013: Wisconsin: Dick Kroener

2013: Wyoming: Bruce Burrows

2010: Minnesota

2010: Kurt Loheit

2010: Tennessee Valley Authority and the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association

2010: Coal River Group

2010: Senator Robert H. Plymale

2010: Bob Fulcher

2010: Slavic Village Development and Cleveland Public Art and Parkworks

2010: City of San Jose, Department of Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services

2010: Ride With Respect

2010: Student Conservation Association

2010: Tennessee Riverpark

2010: Lyndhurst Foundation

2010: The Woodlands

2010: Carroll Vogel

2010: Alabama: Rob Grant

2010: Alberta TrailNet & Alberta Tourism

2010: California: Beverly Lane

2010: Colorado: Kevin Pellini

2010: Connecticut: Stan Malcolm

2010: Florida: Herb Hiller

2010: Illinois: Bev Moore

2010: Indiana: Lori Keys

2010: Iowa: Carl Voss

2010: Kentucky: Steve Barbour

2010: Louisiana: Kevin Davis

2010: Massachusetts: Wayne Feiden

2010: Missouri: John Roth

2010: Minnesota: Ron Potter

2010: Nevada: Clay Grubb

2010: New Hampshire: Charles Martin

2010: New York: Ivan Vamos

2010: North Dakota: Keri Wanner

2010: Montana: Gene Townsend

2010: Pennsylvania: David Buck

2010: South Carolina: City of Charleston

2010: Tennessee: Bob Richards

2010: South Dakota: Perry Jewett

2010: Utah: Lynne Olson

2010: West Virginia: Ben Stout and Bob Scatterday

2010: Wisconsin: Menomonee Valley Partners

2010: Alabama: Debbie Quinn

2010: Alaska: Mike Shields

2010: California: Robert Griffis

2010: Connecticut: Joe Hickey

2010: Delaware: Delaware Trail Spinners

2010: Florida: Helen Koehler

2010: Idaho: Kristin Lundstrom

2010: Illinois: Steve Buchtel

2010: Louisiana: John C. Leslie

2010: Minnesota: David Halsey

2010: Missouri: Kathie Brennan

2010: Iowa: Carol Williams

2010: Montana: John McBride

2010: Nevada: Jeremy Vlcan

2010: New Hampshire: Lainie Castine

2010: New Jersey: Lew Gorman

2010: New Mexico: Kerrie Brokaw Pattison

2010: New York: Eddie Walsh

2010: North Carolina: Hillrie Quin

2010: North Dakota: Marc Brown

2010: Pennsylvania: Terry Wentz

2010: South Carolina: Don Watts

2010: Tennessee: Ken Jones

2010: Utah: Max Reid

2010: Virginia: Sam Jensen

2010: West Virginia: Ella Belling

2010: Wisconsin: Rich Propp

2010: Wyoming: Tony Simek

2010: Washington: Joan Melcher

2010: Ohio: Royce Wood

2008: Ronald G. Strickland

2008: Florida

2008: Jim Meyer, Trails4All

2008: Lakewood Ranch, Summerlin, Woodlands Edge

2008: Leff Moore

2008: Adventure Cycling Association & The University of Pittsburgh's Center for Minority Health

2008: Senator Tom Torlakson

2008: The Tennessee Conservationist

2008: Pinellas County Environmental Lands Division

2008: Judge "Buddy" Villines

2008: John and Annette Schnatter, Evergreen Real Estate LLC

2008: Chris McNeil

2008: Bill Manning

2008: Alabama: Sammie K. Danford

2008: Arkansas: Greg Butts, Director - Arkansas State Parks

2008: Arizona: Dale Shewalter

2008: California: The Redding Foundation, Brent Owens and Kimberly Hawkins

2008: District of Columbia: Julie Childers

2008: Delaware: Paul H. Morrill, Jr.

2008: Florida: Linda Crider

2008: Illinois: Kandee Haertel

2008: Kentucky: Mike Dulin

2008: Louisiana: John Tarver

2008: Massachusetts: Craig Della Penna

2008: Montana: Bill Howell

2008: North Carolina: Jeff D. Brewer

2008: New Hampshire: Tom DiMaggio

2008: New Jersey: Wally Tunsion

2008: New Mexico: Deirdre Monroe

2008: Nevada: Elise McAllister

2008: New York: Irene Szabo

2008: Oregon: Gary Chapman - Corvallis to the Sea Trail Partnership

2008: Pennsylvania: Ron Steffey

2008: South Carolina: Berkeley Soil and Water Conservation District

2008: South Dakota: Kim Raap

2008: Texas: Howard Peak

2008: Utah: Sandy and Geoff Freethey

2008: Virginia: Sally Aungier

2008: West Virginia: Kathleen Panek

2008: Alabama: Thornton Clark

2008: Arkansas: Bert Turner

2008: Arizona: Dale Shewalter

2008: California: Ted Schofield

2008: Colorado: Kym Williams

2008: Delaware: Thomas "Chip" Kneavel

2008: Connecticut: Ann Colson

2008: Florida: Renee Blaney

2008: Illinois: Brian Bourne

2008: Louisiana: Richard Kittok

2008: Massachusetts: Colleen Abrams

2008: Montana: Gary Vodehnal

2008: North Carolina: Jim Horton

2008: Nebraska: Lynn Lightner

2008: New Hampshire: Erik Anderson

2008: New Jersey: Janice Elsishans

2008: New Mexico: Dr. Richard Kozoll

2008: Nevada: Steve Hale

2008: New York: Edward Holmes - Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway

2008: Pennsylvania: Jim Holden

2008: Tennessee: Robert Richards

2008: Texas: Mike Cox

2008: Utah: John Knudson

2008: Virginia: Brian Detweiler

2008: Washington: Tom Mix

2008: West Virginia: Bill Queen

2006: Bill Blass

2006: Tom Ross

2006: American Discovery Trail, Quad Cities Section

2006: Steve Anderson

2006: Des Moines Register, Iowa

2006: Back to the River, Inc., Iowa

2006: Fantasy Island Task Force, Prairie Pathways Interpretive Project

2006: Principal Riverwalk, Des Moines, Iowa

2006: Cedar Valley Trails 911 Signs Project, Iowa

2006: Ann Hill, BLM Training Center, Phoenix

2006: Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, Missouri & Illinois

2006: Arkansas: Jerry Shields

2006: Arizona: Sue Clark & Linda Anderson-McKee

2006: Florida: Ken Bryan

2006: Iowa: Mark Ackelson

2006: Illinois: Chuck Oestreich

2006: Kentucky: Nina Aragon

2006: Maine: Sally Jacobs

2006: Montana: Darlene Tussing

2006: New Hampshire: Gail Hanson

2006: Nevada: Erin Casey

2006: Utah: Ann Parr

2006: West Virginia: Martha Ballman

2006: Arizona: Mark Flint

2006: California: Ray Ford

2006: Alabama: Brooke Beazley

2006: Florida: Tom Daniel

2006: Iowa: Gerry Rowland

2006: Illinois: Jerry Yockey

2006: Indiana: Greg Midgley

2006: Kansas: Frank Meyer

2006: Kentucky: James Stapleton

2006: Montana: Jocelyn Dodge

2006: New Hampshire: Dianne Raymond

2006: Nevada: Janet Carson

2006: Oregon: Jim Talburt

2006: South Carolina: Bill Victor

2006: Washington: Sid Knutson

2006: West Virginia: Doug Wood

2006: Wyoming: Matthew Shannon

2006: Wisconsin: William E. (Bill) Schumann Coalition

2004: Deb Schnack

2004: Hudson River Valley Greenway

2004: Tom Gilbert

2004: Joli Harrington

2004: Barbara Krebs

2004: Connecticut Impressionist Art Trail

2004: Hall Bargainer Inc.

2004: Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc.

2004: City of Austin

2004: Jefferson County Open Space, Colorado

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