This fall, the City of Phoenix is offering a range of hikes meant to help hikers explore South Mountain with the expertise of a park ranger to guide them.
It’s been said South Mountain Park is the nation’s largest municipal park, spanning more than 16,000 acres, or greater than 25 square miles. The park, bordering Ahwatukee to the south and east, is about 16 miles west of downtown Mesa, 14 miles west of downtown Gilbert and 12 miles from downtown Chandler (through parts of Tempe and West Chandler up to Interstate 10).
There are six hikes scheduled at South Mountain for the fall season. Those who are interested can sign up online at phoenix.gov/parks in the “Classes and Programs” section. The hikes all cost $5 and are not meant for children under 8 years old.
The first hike took place on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, with the next outing coming Saturday, Oct. 5 from 8 to 10:30 a.m. hikers can join a park ranger on a challenging 5-mile hike meant to prepare participants for the 15-mile National Trail Trek event in January. The hike will leave from the Five Tables Area.
On Sunday, Oct. 27 park rangers will lead two separate hikes on South Mountain from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first will leave from the Mormon Trail parking lot, 8610 S. 24th St., and will be a 7-mile hike showing off the hidden gems of South Mountain Park.
The second is a 15.3-mile hike leaving from the Holbert Trailhead, located at 10919 S. Central Ave., and will include two of the South Mountain Summits included in the annual Phoenix Summit Challenge.
In November hikers can join a ranger for a 6-mile all uphill hike on Veterans Day morning. In December, hikers will be led on a 4-mile hike at sunset and have a chance to enjoy a Full Yule Moon on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
“We take it as an opportunity to be with the public,” said park ranger Liz Smith. “Along that hike we’re able to share a lot of knowledge about the hikes and the preserve, and impart some information about safety for hikers and staying on the trail and leave no trace aspects. It’s kind of fun to have one-on-one with a whole bunch of users of the park.”
South Mountain Park has 10 full-time park rangers. Daily the rangers try to patrol parking lots and trail heads, but they also hike popular trails during peak times to try to be available for hikers.
The city tries to keep groups on guided hikes to less than 15 people, so space is limited.
The guided hikes are part of the city’s FitPHX initiative. For more information, visit phoenix.gov/fitphx.