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.
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.