Post Date: November 6, 2014

Hiking in South Phoenix

Before you tie up your weekend with commitments, consider tying up the laces on your hiking shoes and enjoying the cooler temperatures at some of my favorite spots in the South Mountain Preserve.

Mormon Trail is one of my favorite places to take friends and family because I can adjust the distance to match their preferences. The trail can be seen from the south end of 24th Street, just before the merge with East Valley View Drive. Do not let the overflowing parking lot deter you from visiting; this trail’s population is significantly less compared to Awhatukee’s trails. To find the best parking place, I recommend parking on Euclid Avenue, which is a short walk northwest of the trailhead.

Near the trailhead, there is a ramada that provides shade for a pre-hike stretch or point-of-location if you want to hike with a group. The trail varies between rocky inclines and flat footpaths, as it follows the side of the mountain.

I love the fact that the mountainside provides shade for the majority of the hike, as this extends the hiking season for me. The trail is wide enough to allow a couple to hike alongside each other while conversing. There are plenty of places to step aside and relax while letting the occasional biker or horseback rider pass. The trail is also pet-friendly, so feel free to grab a leash and bring Fido along with you.

Mormon Trail is 1.25 miles long, with an elevation change of 1,000 feet. The end of this trail marks the beginning of two more, Mormon Loop and National. From this junction you can return the way you came or continue on with the other trails. Whatever option you choose, make sure you carry plenty of water for yourself (and your dog, if applicable). For those looking for higher elevation without the labor, I recommend driving up the mountain via Central Avenue.


Apart from Mormon Trail, I love the drive up South Mountain primarily because of the winding roads and natural landscaping. From the Central Avenue and Baseline intersection, drive south for 1.5 miles. The two-lane road will merge into one lane as it nears the mountain. Past the second stable, you will reach the park entrance at the guardhouse.

Here, Central Avenue becomes Summit Road. The road continues past the entrance for 5.5 miles with a maximum speed limit of 25 miles per hour (15 miles per hour on the curves). There are a few lookout locations that are great for taking photos or providing relief for anyone experiencing motion sickness. It makes for a calm, scenic drive without leaving the city limits. If you make the drive after a seasonal rain, you will marvel at the effervescence of the mountains that manifests itself in the form of blossoming shrubs and cacti.


At the top of the mountain, parking spaces are usually plentiful, as are trailheads. The rock ramada at Dobbins Lookout is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch or to congratulate the few determined cyclists who pedaled to the top. Of course, the summit also offers the best view of the mountain and all its trails.

Perhaps you will find a few new trails to try on your next outing. If you do, please share them in the comments!

Photos by Summer Montoya

Kelly Van Liere

Kelly is a wife, mom, equestrian, and admirer of nature.

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