South Mountain Park | Hiking in Central Phoenix, Arizona

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
South Mountain Park

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.

Desert Classic Trail
Desert Classic Trail

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.south-mountain-park-map



There are at least 4 main parking lots, and many more parking areas near perimeter trail heads.2015_SM1There 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 from Guadalupe
Pima Canyon entrance from Guadalupe

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.

Pima Canyon Gazebo
Pima Canyon Gazebo


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.

Desert Foothills Parking and Gazebo
Desert Foothills Parking and Gazebo



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.

59 thoughts on “South Mountain Park | Hiking in Central Phoenix, Arizona”

  1. I think this is one of the most important info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The website style is great, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  2. 60 miles of trails? Wow that’s a lot! Thanks for listing each trail and giving it a brief description. We enjoy hiking so we’ll keep this in mind if we ever go to Phoenix!

    1. The entire park is FREE! There are nice ramadas, picnic areas, and picture perfect ruins all maintained and available to everyone.

  3. I’m really loving how you summarise the trails in one brief list! As a hiker, its so hard to find such clear information about hikes and their details anywhere on the internet, takes so long figuring out! Phoenix looks stunning, would love to hike some places in USA some day

  4. Wow, how have I never heard of this park, its huge!!!! Will deginitely visit one day (hopefully sooner rather than later). Which is yoru favourite trail?

    1. There are so many great trails to choose from! Telegraph is probably my favorite, it is a tough workout with amazing views of downtown Phoenix to the North and stunning desert to the South.

  5. Looks like a great park to hike in. The parks are so well set up in the US, am really impressed by all the facilities they have and well mapped out hikes of different lengths for you to do 🙂

  6. Jen there done that! I absolutely love the name !!! How did you think of it?? Thanks for giving me a list of the trails it’s exactly what I was looking for!

    1. My Sister and I were talking about all the places that I have traveled and explored, then we both hit on the name. Glad you enjoyed the post!

  7. I have fond memories of South Mountain Park from when I lived in AZ. So nice there are so many great trails that are so convenient!

    1. I loved growing up near this park! Our last home in AZ was 5 minutes from a trailhead at South Mountain. My favorite hiking trails!

  8. It’s so nice that the sign posts have QR codes on them. It’s a great safety feature just in case folks get lost or something happens in an emergency.

    1. Yes! It is a huge park and can be quite dangerous in the summer heat. The QR codes and the trail signs are a great safety feature.

  9. Looks like a perfect spot for hiking! I haven’t visited Phoenix as yet, nor have I hiked previously. But since you’ve mentioned that they have trails for all fitness levels, I might give this a shot when I’m there. Thanks for sharing.

    1. South Mountain Park is perfect for beginners. Pick an easy trail to walk and enjoy the spectacular desert views! There are plenty of moderate and advanced trails that you can add with experience.

    1. It is scorching from May until September, it is better to explore other hiking trails with cooler temperatures in summer. October through April are perfect hiking days in the Arizona desert! I wish I was hiking there this weekend!

  10. I always love hearing more about lesser-known hiking locations, especially in the SW – my favorite region of the U.S. . I can’t believe that I’ve never heard of it with that massive of a size!! 20x bigger than Central Park?! Craziness! I also love that there’s such a variety of lengths of trails as well. Thanks for sharing a great new hiking location to add to the list!

  11. Hiking is such a great thing to do but I always look for tips from those who have done it before, prior to me choosing places to go. Your tips and hints are really useful. Looks like a great place to go.

  12. South mountain park looks so amazing and I love hiking. Def on my list if I ever make it to Phoenix. How long did you hike for and do you hike regularly?

    1. South Mountain is one of my favorite parks, when I lived in Phoenix I would go a few times a month (non-summer months). There are short hikes perfect for after work, or pack a lunch a hike all day. We hike every week, gotta have my mountain views!

    1. The best part, is this mountain preserve is located 10 minutes from downtown. It is at the South end of the city!

  13. I only visited Phoenix for a very short time and didn’t get a chance to get outdoors but I’ve heard that it is amazing! We were couchsurfing there and our host told us that he goes almost every weekend. Will have to go on this hike next time I am in town 🙂

  14. Hiking is also one of my favorite activities! I come from Illinois, which is one of the flattest states in America! Did you know that hiking is the national sport of Korea too? I think you would love that! I like how you highlighted all the different trails. I would definitely pick the harder ones just for the great views!

  15. Wow there are so many trails!! Hiking is a great workout and so rewarding. I’m not much of a hiker but when I do it it’s always an accomplishment

  16. I’ve heard such great things about Phoenix, especially about the surroundings. I would love to do some hikes there one day, and oh my god, I just read your answer on someone elses comment, people who wear flipflops? My god haha.

  17. I absolutely love hiking. It’s great exercise and the view + scenery is always more than worth it. This seems really fun and I’d love to make it back out to Arizona for a road trip with lots of hiking!

  18. I love hiking, thanks for giving loads of information on all the different trails!! I must try to incorporate hiking and walking into my daily life more often. I’m moving to Canary Islands this year though, so I don’t have long to wait!

  19. I really want to see those huge cacti! I would love to go hiking in the valleys in Phoenix. What’s the temperature like during the day and night?

    1. 2 days ago it was 102 degrees. It is desert, so plan on it being warm to HOT during the day and cooler at night.

  20. It looks like a remote place but perfect for hiking. And I have to say that hiking is a passion of me. I’ve been hiking during my move abroad in Israel, and there are AMAZING places to go for hiking! I Love finding new one!

  21. People wearing flip flops on the trail? Sounds more like Australia 😀
    I really like how much information you gathered together. It is saved for the time I will go for a trip around this area. Did you see a lot of wild life during your hike?

    1. Puerto Rico is full of wild life, and El Yunque is no exception. There are tons of birds, frogs, and lizards, especially on the less traveled trails. I will try to capture my photos and video of the little critters (all of them are harmless and pretty darn cute).

  22. I love hiking but usually we go in the woods or mountains! This looks like a fun and different way to hike, especially with some easier trails! We must have easy trails with the kid in tow!

    1. South Mountain has some great kid friendly hikes! There are plenty of places for picnics and benches to rest and enjoy the views.

  23. I love this post as much as I love to read posts on hiking/trekking. Especially the “brief description” part. Very informative

  24. Love Phoenix, one of my favorite drives is through the Joshua Trees. We have not been able to travel much in the local area but lived near in Las Vegas. I have to say that I don’t know how you do it in the heat you have. Perhaps we can stop off on a visit back to Texas and try one of the short trails when we return home to Vegas.

  25. Super informative. I will be saving this post!! I really need to get to AZ to explore.. it looks so beautiful.

  26. This is super informative – I’d love to hike here. Awesome cacti and desert spaces 🙂 I wonder why Mormon trail is called that? I imagine a ton of Mormons trekking there and being like, “tsk tsk, this is the Mormon trail you’re on… carry on to Ranger Loop…”

  27. I love hiking and have always been jealous of the hiking opportunities out west. We have trails here on the east coast but it’s just not the same. I went hiking in Big Sur last year and the trail took us up over the mountain to ocean views. It was just stunning – plus the weather was perfect and dry.

  28. Wow, this sounds adventurous. We love trekking/hiking and have done more than dozens of them in India during the rains. A day amidst nature is great fun. Your detailed post of trails would be handy for the ones interested in hiking.

  29. Wow, although I am not really for hiking, I think it would be so nice to walk one of the many trails. Lots to see and explore along the way, and I liked how you laid it out for each one with a quick description.

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