Hiking is one of my favorite free activities in Phoenix. Our desert valley is surrounded by mountains providing stunning views and wildlife. South Mountain Park/Preserve in the heart of Phoenix is over 16,000 acres, approximately 20 times the size of New York’s Central Park, it is the largest municipal park in the country! Now is the perfect time to Go Take a Hike!
South Mountain Park is easy access from anywhere in metro-Phoenix and offers trails for every level of athletic ability. Horses, dogs, and mountain bikes are all welcome on the trails.
With nearly 60 miles of trails, I like to map out the hike before heading to a trail head. Most trails are easily followed with metal signposts along the trail as a guide, and many of these were recently updated with trail name, QR code, elevation, and specific trail post information. I always bring a hard copy trail map of the area I plan to be in. A recent hike with friends was so beautiful we decided to add another couple miles to our hike, which was easily accomplished with a brief look at our trail map.
There are at least 4 main parking lots, and many more parking areas near perimeter trail heads.There are excellent maps and detailed descriptions of trails provided by National Geographic at All Trails website. Here is more information about the beautiful desert trails including petroglyphs and ruins.
Pima Canyon entrance is accessed from I-10 and Baseline road, just off of 48th street and Guadalupe. This popular parking lot is usually packed with cars, and offers restrooms, water fountains, shaded benches, and areas for cooking/grilling.
Desert Foothills Parkway is a smaller parking lot located at the Southern tip of the park and offers shaded area, water fountains, and portable toilets.
A brief description of some of the trails:
- Alta Trail – 4.5 mile difficult ridge trail offers spectacular views from the far Southwestern edge of the range.
- Bajada Trail – 2 mile difficult hike that can be accessed from Alta, or National for a more moderate loop.
- Beverly Canyon Trail – 1.5 miles of moderate elevation into the heart of South Mountain. The trail head is located off of a large parking area hidden between residential apartments and business complex at 46th street.
- Desert Classic Trail – 9 miles along the Southeast foothills with quick access from the Desert Foothills or Pima Canyon parking lots. More difficult trail sections can be added to this otherwise easy trail. Great for beginners, dogs, and children.
- Geronimo Trail – 1.6 mile ascending to the Buena Vista lookout for spectacular views, a difficult trail to challenge hikers.
- Holbert Trail – 2.5 miles the Holbert route takes hikers 800 feet up into the hills, beginning near the park entrance and reaching Telegraph Pass Road near Buena Vista viewpoint after 2.5 miles.
- Javelina Canyon Trail – 1.7 miles this is one of several routes that link with the National Trail. Javelina trail offers a more difficult hike than Beverly Canyon from the 46th street parking lot.
- Kiwanis Trail – 1 mile of short, easy path linking Telegraph Pass Road to anterior road close in the center of the park.
- Mormon Trail – 1.1 mile moderate route that climbs about 1,000 feet from the 24th street entrance to loop up with the National Trail at the edge of Hidden Valley.
- National Trail 14.3 miles of moderate to difficult trail running through the center of South Mountain range
- Pima Wash/Pima West Loop – 1.4 mile easy loop for beginners, the challenge is following the not-always-clearly marked trail.
- Ranger Loop – 3 mile easy to moderate loop, near the Kiwanis trail.
- Ridgeline Trail – .8 mile accessed from Beverly Canyon or Javelina Canyon trails, often combined as 3.5 mile moderate loop.
- Telegraph Pass Trail – 1.5 miles starts from the paved trail head at Desert Foothils, then forks into Desert Classic or the more difficult Telegraph Pass. A steep climb along a narrow trail, use caution with children and small dogs.