South Mountain Park
View Across Phoenix From South Mountain
With close to 17,000 acres, South Mountain Park is the world's largest city park. It's one of the Phoenix icons like "Camelback Mountain" and "Superstition Mountain". From a distance, South Mountain looks like one big dead mountain, but those that hike it realize that it features some gorgeous scenery and great horizon views in all directions. South Mountain features some of the most popular urban hiking and biking trails in the city and also very enjoyable horseback riding. The mountain is 11 miles across and is home to more than 150 animal species and two mountain ranges including "Ma Ha Range" and "Guadalupe Range".
There's A Lot of Ancient History Here
Petroglpyh At South Mountain Park
The ancient Hohokam Indians and possibly prehistoric peoples before them roamed this area as evidenced by the petrogyphs carved into rocks almost everywhere you look. Enjoy these artifacts left as a gift by the ancient Native Americans and try to imagine what life was like thousands and thousands of years ago. Ruins of stone structures also speak of other people in another time. Please don't touch the petroglyphs. They have been worn down through human touching and we all want to protect these relics to be enjoyed by future generations.
The Mystery Castle
Located within the park's foothills is the famed Mystery Castle. This dwelling is home to the founder's daughter. The structure is a conglomeration of stone, adobe, cement, and some say goat milk that forms a castle-like home. Built for by Boyce Gulley during the 1930s for his daughter, the home's interior is no longer open for tours, but many visitors still marvel at the exterior view.
South Mountain Picnic Areas
South Mountain Park Saguaro Cactus
There are over 50 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trials and more than 2 million visitors trek this mountain preserve every year. But whether you hike or just want to picnic and enjoy the scenery and the great outdoors, the park has many large and small ramada covered picnic areas that include picnic tables, barbecue grills and restrooms. The smaller group areas are available on a first-come basis. Larger group areas, one of which will accommodate 5,000 people must be reserved in advance. There are even concrete dance floors. Although some areas permit alcohol and music entertainment by permit, a couple of areas do prohibit alcohol and music. The views across the Valley below are incredible from these view points. For more information and reservations, call (602) 534-6324 or visit the South Mountain Environment Education Center at 10409 South Central Avenue.
Scenic Drives at South Mountain
There are several scenic drives that originate from the park's main entrance at Central Avenue. Just take Central Avenue South from Baseline Road and you'll run right into the entrance. Dobbin Lookout is a scenic 5.5 mile drive. Stay on the main entrance road and it will become Summit Road.
Dobbin's Lookout Point
The San Juan Road follows a valley between the two ranges at South Mountain. Stay on the main road and at the 1.5 marker, the road turns left where a marker designated San Juan Road. Follow the main entrance to Big Ramada which will reward you with the best views of the city. Find the communication towers with the red lights on top, then turn right and another right will take you to Gila Valley Lookout on the south side of the towers. From here on a clear day you can see Tempe, Chandler and Mesa. On a really clear day one can see Picacho Peak almost to Tucson, Arizona.
Horseback Riding At South Mountain
A guided walking tour through South Mountain is $16 an hour (first-come, first-served). Sunset ride to T-Bone Steak House, 10037 S. 19th Ave., available for $22 plus the cost of dinner. (Reservations required; must include at least two riders.) The stable offers breakfast, hamburger/hot dog meals or steak cookouts for groups of eight (reservations required). Riding lessons are $25 an hour (reservations required).
Horse rental is $15 per person (reservations not required). Hayride to Box Canyon, which includes hamburger/hot dog meal, is $20 (reservations required). Three-hour ride and dinner at the T-Bone Steak House is $22 (reservations required). Riding lessons are $25; call for appointment.
Rides are $25 for 1 hours, $39 for two hours, $60 for four hours, and $80 for six hours (including lunch). The horse outfit also hosts birthday parties and other special events.
Hiking Trails At South Mountain
Beverly Canyon Trail
Javelina Canyon Trail
Pima Canyon National Trail
Desert Classic Trail
Telegraph Pass Trail
South Mountain Hiking Trail Map
Photos from South Mountain
*All photos Creative Commons