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Gila Trail - South Mountain, AZ

no permit
225 92 1
Guide 92 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > South Mtn
2.5 of 5 by 8
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 4.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,306 feet
Elevation Gain 465 feet
Accumulated Gain 668 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.83
Backpack No
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
2  2019-08-29
Bursera - Gila loop
1  2019-02-01 LindaAnn
1  2018-03-14
Night Goat
3  2017-11-18
Maricopa Peak via Pyramid Trailhead
8  2017-10-28
Gila-National-Lost Ranch SOMO Loop
1  2017-05-29
Pyramid Trail - South Mountain
13  2017-02-19
Maricopa Peak
5  2017-01-27
National Trail - South Mountain
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author LindaAnn
author avatar Guides 20
Routes 357
Photos 2,270
Trips 936 map ( 6,909 miles )
Age 39 Female Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:36pm
Official Route
21 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Popular social trail in the southwestern part of South Mountain Park.

History & Future Use
What is commonly referred to as the Gila Trail runs from 5th Ave & Chandler Blvd west to Dusty Lane past the western edge of the park boundary. It is not an official park trail, but is well defined, and sees frequent use. The South Mountain Park Master Plan shows the Gila Trail being assigned in the future as an official trail--the western part of the trail retaining the Gila name, and the eastern part of the trail being renamed 5th Ave Loop. The description below describes the two most popular starting points, which converge in a large wash below the Lost Ranch Ruins area.

5th Ave start point--As of right now, the 5th Ave start point crosses private HOA property for the first 500' or so of trail. There is no parking area to start here. Parking in the Dove Canyon neighborhood across 5th Ave is an option, but the least intrusive parking option is on Central Ave just south of Chandler Blvd. There is on-street parking for at least 6-7 vehicles there, and is a 5-10 minute walk to the trailhead on 5th Ave. The starting point is directly behind the church (the church is north of the townhomes on the corner) on the west side of 5th Ave just north of Chandler Blvd.

Go west on the dirt path along the boundary of the church, then a 90 degree right turn to stay on the dirt path. After going north for a couple hundred feet, you leave the HOA property and are now on what will be the future 5th Ave Loop trail. The trail heads north, then meanders west, with slight ups & downs for approx 1.25 miles to reach Pyramid trail.

Upon reaching Pyramid, turn left (west) and take Pyramid trail down into a wash and up the other side. Upon climbing out of the wash, you will reach a low saddle. At this point, you will have been on Pyramid for just over a tenth of a mile. In the saddle, the trail forks--the right fork will put you back on Gila Trail. After another 1/4 mile or so, you will drop down into a large wash with numerous other trails both entering and exiting the wash. See below for the continuation of the western 2/3 of the trail description.

19th Ave start point--Starting from the trailhead at 19th Ave & Chandler Blvd, you will take Pyramid trail for about 3/4 mile. At this point, the trail forks, take the left fork and head northwest for another 1/4 mile or so until dropping down into a large wash. This first mile is mostly level, with minimal elevation gain. See below for the continuation for the trail description.

Once in the large wash--Once you are in the wash from either starting point, you will head west in the wash for about 1/3 of a mile. Unless it has recently flooded, there will be an easy to follow path in the wash. You will notice several side trails on your right, leaving the wash to the north. After passing about 5 of those side trails (all of those trails lead to the various Lost Ranch/Lost Mine trails, which are good loop options), start looking to your left for the one side trail that leaves the wash to the left. It climbs steeply out of the wash, then levels out on the left (south) bank of the wash, climbing up (gradually at first, then more steeply) to the saddle directly ahead of you. After a few lazy switchbacks, you will reach the saddle, and the highpoint of the Gila Trail. A connector trail heads south, steeply up to Bursera, but Gila continues straight ahead to head west and down from the saddle, steeply at first, then leveling off. At this point, you are in a valley with Bursera paralleling you to the south, and National paralleling on the north.

Continuing west in the valley, you will pass a few mining prospects along the trail. One has a rather dramatic entrance for what is a relatively small prospect; if you explore it, watch for snakes, as they like to rest in the cool shade of the adit. After passing the prospects, you will reach Bursera trail, turn left and stay on Bursera for a little over a tenth of a mile to a fork in the trail. Bursera makes a sharp left and drops into a large wash, but you will take the right fork to stay on Gila and continuing west.

Ahead, at the end of the valley will be a new subdivision and the new Loop 202 just beyond. This new development eliminated where Gila continues in this valley, but before reaching the houses, the trail will fork again; take the right fork and head up the ridge and over a saddle and down the other side. In this next valley, there are old mining buildings off to your west and some old mining roads climbing some of the hillsides. Staying on the trail, you are heading north at this point. You will climb to another saddle and again, the trail forks. Making a sharp right will take you over to National about 100' away, which is where the posted route ends. From there, you can take National either direction depending on how far you want to hike. The left fork at the saddle continues over to the houses on Dusty Ln near the Vee Quiva Casino. The residents don't seem to like hikers passing through their neighborhood, so that short section of Gila does not appear to get as much use as the rest of the trail.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2019-02-11 LindaAnn

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent of 38 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Bursera - Gila loop
    Thursday morning sweatfest. Looked like parts of SoMo got plenty of rain last night, which knocked a few degrees off our starting temperature. Still felt like Florida though. Partway up Bursera, Denny started talking about this being perfect weather to see snakes. I told him about some genius I encountered recently who told me that I’d never actually seen a speckled rattler on SoMo, that they were all tigers and I just didn’t know the difference.

    Drenched in sweat on the way up Bursera, the few spots of shade on the descent were a relief. Once heading back east on Gila, full sun and no breeze made for a tough walk up to the saddle. New sign at the saddle closing off the connector trail to National that I really liked. The descent back down felt a lot better. Dropping into the wash, we got a courtesy rattle. After several seconds of looking around, Denny spotted a healthy looking tiger. We got a few pictures as he moved around some rocks and tree roots. Easy hike back to the cars after that, especially once the breeze picked up. Great hike & great company!
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Headed up Pyramid, but since I stopped to chat for a while, I turned around sooner at the top to cut a mile off the hike. Took a slight detour on GilaTrail on the way down, just for the heck of it. Even though it’s still hotter than Satan’s asshole, there was a slight coolness to the breeze this morning. I’m betting that two weeks from now, the mornings will be getting a lot nicer again. No other cars left at the trailhead by the time I finished.
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Maricopa Peak from Pyramid TH
    Started from my house and walked over to the Pyramid trailhead, headed up Lost Ranch Mine to National. East on National to Goat Hill, then down Ranger. West on Bajada to Alta, then up the eastern ridge to Maricopa Peak. Down the west side of Alta, then the boring west of of National to the saddle where I got on Gila, and took that west back to where it met up with Pyramid. Lots of people out today, including several people who felt compelled to ask me if I knew where where I was going, which warranted nothing more than an eye roll and a 'Yep' from me. Felt pretty warm at the finish.
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Maricopa Peak via Pyramid Trailhead
    A few weeks ago, I said something along the lines of "There's a wash below us." Me, waving into the darkness. "And I think I can get to this ridge right here from it. So I want to try that soon. We can connect it to some other trails." Not only did I get to do that today, I got to do four of my favorite things while hiking:
    1-Complaining about forgetting my sunglasses
    2-Complaining about my knee hurting
    3-Making fun of weekend hikers on SoMo who get lost
    4-Walking twenty feet behind the person in front of me, while still giving nonstop directions. My version of backseat driving

    We started from Pyramid at 6:30, and took it just over a mile to the big wash, then followed the wash northeast. After a while in the wash, we headed north up the drainage that basically comes down from Goat Hill. We followed that drainage north, which was very fun, with some nice dry falls to climb over, until I decided I was at the correct ridge (I was) and we followed it up to connect to National near the junction with Ranger. We went down Ranger, then west on Bajada to Alta. Up Alta, then up the east ridge to Maricopa Peak. Snack break on Maricopa, then down the west side to reconnect with Alta and down to San Juan Lookout. We took National to the first saddle, giving directions to a large group of hikers along the way. From the saddle, we got on Gila, and followed it east all the way to connect with Pyramid again near Lost Ranch, giving directions to a biker who was greatly overestimating his abilities. From there, we took Pyramid back to the trailhead, finishing up a little before 1:30.

    The last few miles were a little warm, but overall, it was a great day. And nice to get a good hike in within a three minute drive from my house.
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Daniela had never been on the Gila Trail from 5th Ave, so we decided to start from there this morning to get to Pyramid. We started at 5 as usual; warmer than yesterday and no breeze. Went to the top and turned around. I pointed out the ridge I'm going to make her hike with me up to the top from the south side this winter. Her only comment was "That's a lot of cholla." We only saw 3 or 4 people today, and that was all in the last mile or so. Lots of cicadas.
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Another 5am Pyramid hike. This time, I parked off 5th Ave, and took Gila Trail for about a mile (despite the two decorative signs stating there was no trail access), then up Pyramid. Stats are similar to starting from the Pyramid trailhead, and the drive for me is only an extra minute or two. Saw nobody on the way up, but several people on my way back down.
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Pyramid-Alta-Bursera loop
    Spent the day working on my shorts-knee brace-socks tan lines. Headed up Pyramid, stopping about a mile in to take off the long sleeve shirt, I shouldn't have even brought it in the first place. From Pyramid, I headed west on National, decided to skip Goat Hill since I wasn't sure where I would be on time today, then down Ranger. After crossing the road, I cut across a little bit, then got on Bajada and took it west to Alta. Up Alta, then around and up to Maricopa Peak from the west side. I thought about going up Maricopa from the east side, but I just did my nails last night and didn't want to chip the polish on the rocks the very next day. Laugh all you want, but the struggle is real. Quick lunch on the peak, then down to San Juan Lookout. I picked up National again from there, for the most boring two miles of my life, then at the saddle, jumped on Gila and took it over the ridge and connected with Bursera. Took Bursera all the way back. Only saw a few people today. Saw plenty of lizards, but luckily none of their slithery cousins. A little on the warm side for me, I wish we had last weeks temps again.
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    I had planned to hike to Peter's Cave, but I figured the water might be up a bit too much with the recent downpours, plus my right arm is messed up and I did not want to do any excessive scrambling. Since it has been six years (and 12 days) since I was last did this loop, I figured I would make another visit. Plus, it would give me a chance to do an interim survey of some of the areas at the far end of the park, midway between my semiannual (April & October) Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway right-of-way hikes.

    San Juan Road was closed off. Again. Is it ever open?

    I parked at the "triangle" (the intersection of San Juan Rd and Summit Rd). At 0730, it was 42 in Phoenix, but only 35 at South Mountain. I wore a windbreaker. I went east down Bajada, then up Ranger. After I crossed Summit Road, the shooting started at the nearby range. I also heard coyotes.

    I skipped Goat Hill last time; this time, I initially walked by the trail. The short summit trail was steep & slippery. Great 360 views.

    On the way west on National, I checked out every prospect / mine, all of which I had merely eyeballed six years ago.

    When I got to Bursera, I turned left/south. After descending into the valley, I turned west on Gila Trail, which at that point is a jeep trail. As I walked along Gila to the housing development, I realized my crappy Garmin 62S was going haywire, tracking me on top of a nearby ridge, instead of along the rather deep wash.

    The housing area does not appear to have changed much in three months. After tearing down all the houses along Pecos Rd and in the Dusty Lane community behind the Vee Quiva Casino, it seems kind of wierd that a *new* development would go in between the two. Or that they would build it nearly up to the edge of the soon-to-be north bound lanes of the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway.

    Since I've been in the area so many times, I knew where I was despite my crappy Garmin 62S being so off, and I eventually found my way back onto National, and then Bajada, which is a drag with it's constant wash crossings.

    Hike Video: [ youtube video ]
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Gila-National-Lost Mine loop
    Morning hike with Daniela & Celina. About a mile in, I asked "You two are okay with some off-trail, right?" This is why not very many people like me anymore. We took Gila west from Pyramid, over the saddle, then north up the fourth minor drainage on the west side of the saddle. It was very easy to make our way up the rocks to the ridge, then we followed the ridge east, and then north to where the Ruins trail connects to National. We headed east on National, then down Lost Mine to complete the loop. On the way down, I pointed out my plans for us for next Thursday; I wish I had taken a picture of the look on Celina's face. Nice cool morning, only saw a few people, no wildlife besides some squirrels, and what looks like a lot of bobcat evidence along that ridge.
    Gila Trail - South Mountain
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    Gila saddle to National-Lost Mine loop
    My original plan today was Harquahala, but I didn't feel like driving back across Phoenix again, so I decided to stay close to home today. Then I had four chocolate donuts for breakfast, so hiking was necessary. Started from the Pyramid trailhead, and then took Gila west, paralleling Bursera, up to the saddle. At the saddle, I turned north and went up the ridge directly toward the top of the Ruins trail and National. Very steep and slow going through that little section, with a lot of loose rock, but it was okay. I certainly wouldn't want to go downhill on that, but uphill was doable. I met up with the Ruins trail just short of National, then east on National, then down Lost Mine and back to the trailhead. Nothing spectacular, just enough to loosen up the legs and back muscles. Nice day, plenty of people out on the main trails, not too many where I was most of the time.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Take I-10 to Chandler Blvd. Take Chandler Blvd west from I-10 to either 5th Ave or 19th Ave.

    Parking for 5th Ave is described in the trail description. 19th Ave has a gravel parking area on the north side of Chandler. The gate is usually open from 5:00am-7:00pm, there is additional parallel parking available on Chandler Blvd.
    page created by joebartels on Feb 11 2019 8:53 pm
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