15 Mar South Mountain State Park – The Ultimate Hiking In Phoenix Guide
About South Mountain State Park
South Mountain State Park, officially known as South Mountain Park/Preserve is over 16,000 acres and is the largest municipal park in the United States. The thing we love about South Mountain State Park is that it has a little something for everyone! There are easy to difficult trails for horseback riding, mountain biking or just plain hiking.
Oh, and you can drive up too! That’s right. If you take the main entrance on Summit Road you can take a drive up to Dobbins Lookout and see some pretty awesome views of downtown Phoenix, and the entire valley. If you keep driving you can also reach Gila Lookout for views of the Gila River.
Want to learn more? Check out this South Mountain State Park video:
South Mountain State Park Hiking Trails
Use our interactive South Mountain State Park Hiking Trails Map below or keep reading to text descriptions of all South Mountain State Park’s hiking trails.
View South Mountain State Park Hiking Trails in a larger map
- Alta Trail, to us, is the most challenging trail in South Mountain State Park. It is VERY DIFFICULT. Those who can handle the trail get blessed with a stunning desert summit view. You can access Alta Trail across the street from the parking lot on San Juan Road. The trail ends when it meets National Trail. This 4.5 mile trail is very steep and loose from beginning to end. It is not a good idea if you are on a horse or on a bike.
- Bajada Trail is an easy to moderate 3 1/2 mile trail. The best part of Bajada Trail is the rolling foothills which give a great workout for all fitness levels. This trail starts at the 1/2 mark on the Ranger Trail and ends at San Juan Road.
- Beverly Canyon Trail is a moderately difficult short trail that has a rocky terrain and some steep areas. There are some quick uphill climbs as you approach the ridgeline. You can reach this 1.5 miles moderately difficult hike at 8800 S 46th Street. Also, be careful at the beginning and the end of this trail, there are some trails that are not marked. You can easily get off the path and end up lost in South Mountain State Park.
- Desert Classic Trail is a moderate to difficult trail and a mountain biking paradise. If you love mountain biking this will be a favorite of yours. The reason bikers love this part of South Mountain State Park is because of the different terrain. For 9.2 miles it goes from rough and rocky, to smooth… plus lots of ups and down so you can get some air on your bike. Again, there are a ton of ways to access this trail.
- Holbert Trail is a 2.5 mile difficult hike. You can access the trailhead by taking the 1st immediate left turn after entering South Mountain State Park on Central Avenue. This trail is difficult because it is a steady climb to the top, its steep and its long. To get the view you are working so hard for you need to take the Dobbins Lookout extension trail. You won’t regret that! You’ll get a spectacular view of the valley below.
- Javelina Canyon Trail is also located 8800 S 46th Street just like Beverly Canyon Trail. This South Mountain State Park hiking trail is 1.7 miles long and is considered to be an easy to moderate hike with at 440 foot change in elevation. This trail also leads to Mormon Loop and National Trail. Just like Beverly Canyon Trail you’ll need to be careful here. Some parts of the trail does not have markers.
- You can find Judith Tunnel Trail at 10409 S Central Avenue just south of Dobbins Road. This newer trail is 1 mile long and has a number of amenities including covered sitting areas, water fountains, park benches and a few rest stops. There are 2 loops on Judith Trail. The Interpretive loop (1/2 mile), which reminds us of a zoo because they have signs along the trail describing everything, and the Challenge Loop (1/2 mile) with is a little more difficult. Overall this is an great trail for any fitness level.
- Kiwanis Trail is a 1 mile moderate trail just past the ranger station at South Mountain State Park. This trail is really popular because because all fitness levels can be comfortable. Its also perfect for those who want to get an introduction to hiking. Kiwanis trails offers a number of things including a rock canyon full of desert plans and wildlife and man made rock wall dams.
- Los Lomitas Trail is a 2 mile hike that’s easy to moderate. The fun and challenging part can be the sandy washes. This route is great for horse back riding and is popular among horse riders.
- Morman Trail is the trail that got Vertical Hiking Tours started! It’s the first trail that husband and wife team, Anderson and Tierra Wilson, hiked in Phoenix. It’s located at the bottom of South Mountain State Park at 24th Street and Valley View Avenue. This trail goes 1,000 feet above sea level and is a great way to get to National Trail or Mormon Loop. It is short, at 1.2 miles, but its has a moderate to difficult rating.
- National Trail, a moderate to difficult trail, is a favorite of ours! It’s diverse, unique and loved by hikers, mountain bikers and horse back riders. There are so many ways to get to National Trail that we can’t really choose a place or a trail head. Almost every trail leads there. Many use Pima Canyon to start. National Trail is unique because it travels along the ALL of South Mountain State Park, a total of 14.5 miles plus a 1 mile dirt road. This trail is well worth the work because the views are absolutely breathtaking.
- Ranger Trail is a 1.6 mile moderate trail with steep switchbacks at the summit. This trail takes hikers on a slow climb through foothills and is used to access National Trail and Bjada Trail. You can take a few loops as well! Try Derby or Las Lomitas Loop for a longer hike.
- Telegraph Pass Trail is a 1.5 mile trail can be accessed at 7th Street and Desert Foothills Parkway. This trail easy to moderate hike is really interesting for a number of reasons. First, the beginning .5 miles is concrete. This is really good for those wanting to take an easy scroll. After that the trail splits. You have two options. 1. You can continue on the trail to Telegraph Pass or 2. you can hike Desert Classic Trail. If you continue on Telegraph Pass Trail its a one mile hike to National or Kiwanis trail. If you decide on option 2 and take Desert Classic Trail then you have a 9 mile hike through the foothills that ends at Pima Canyon south ramada.
- Corona de Loma Trail is a 2.3 mile moderate to steep trail that starts on the south west of Buena Vista Trail. This trail goes down the south side of South Mountain State Park through some steep switchbacks and washes.
- Geronimo Trail is a 2.5 mile moderate trail north of Buena Vista Trail. This trail is another popular trail for mountain bikers who enjoy descending down the mountain.
South Mountain State Park Nature
South Mountain State Park is mostly made of layered sandstone and its popular hum is made of granite. When hiking, besides coyotes, don’t expect to see any large animals moving around! There are smaller desert animals including rabbits, lizards, squirrels, birds and Rattlesnakes. Desert plants are plentiful on South Mountain State Park. Expect to see a few of our favorites including the octotillo plant, prickly pear cacti, palo verde and more.
South Mountain State Park History
- 1924 – Senator Carl Hayden brings buys 13,000 acres (South Mountain State Park) from the US government for $17,000. The park has 3,000 visitors a month
- 1935 – The National Park service develops a master plan for South Mountain State Park, and the Civilian Convservation Corpos follow that plan. The plan that included hiking trails, horse riding trails, picnic areas, and viewing overlooks.
- Today – 3 million people visit the park each year
Caution – Hiking in South Mountain National Park?
Hiking in South Mountain State Park can be dangerous if you are not physically fit and prepared. If you have any chronic health conditions you should limit your activity and heat exposure. Because of the possibility of dehydration and heat, you should be cautious and stay within your limitation.
Many hikers get stranded on mountains because they don’t understand our famous “dry heat”. It may not feel like you are dehydrated but you are loosing liquids 2xs faster than normal! If you are thinking of hiking a mountain in Phoenix for the first time, please consider using on of our hiking guides. Our hiking guides are trained to know the mountains and trails and will know how to act in a time of need.
[box color=black] To safely hike South Mountain State Park, please contact Vertical Hiking Tours today. Our guided hikes are one of a kind and include a CPR and First Aid Certified hiking guide, fun activities, booksack cooler with built in chair and cooler, cold water and healthy snacks. For more information book a hike today or contact us today at 1-602-696-7349 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[/box]