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Alta - Bajada Loop, AZ

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Guide 42 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > South Mtn
3.1 of 5 by 15
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 9.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,153 feet
Elevation Gain 1,390 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,996 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.38
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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13  2018-06-03 DarthStiller
34  2018-03-03 tibber
5  2018-03-03 chumley
2  2018-03-03 Tortoise_Hiker
4  2018-03-03 LindaAnn
8  2017-02-22 Tortoise_Hiker
9  2016-04-23
Bajada - Alta Loop
10  2016-03-27 Jim_H
Page 1,  2,  3
Author outdoor_lover
author avatar Guides 5
Routes 8
Photos 11,077
Trips 507 map ( 6,066 miles )
Age 56 Female Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
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Preferred   Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar
Seasons   Early Winter to Late Spring
Sun  6:13am - 6:32pm
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1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Rocky Rollercoaster with Poppy Power
by outdoor_lover

If you want to see some serious Flower Power, then do this loop in the Spring at the height of wildflower Season. The scenery and vista views are good all year, but if we've had good winter precipitation then this area is amazing in the Spring. This Loop or a variation of it seems to be popular with hikers at the West End of the South Mountain range. It encompasses three trails. The Alta, Bajada and then the National Trail completes the loop. It's a nice hike and can be done either clockwise or counterclockwise with different starting points. In this description, I will be summarizing the hike going clockwise, starting from the National TH on Estrella Road just East of 43rd Avenue. San Juan Lookout is only open and accessible the first weekend of every month, whereas the actual National TH is accessible 24/7. I will also post the statistics from the "Y" at the San Juan/Summit Road intersection and the Alta TH at the San Juan Lookout Location. This loop has alot of diversity to it. You get your workout and full vista views from the Alta Trail, while enjoying the valley between the Ma Ha Tauk and Gila Ranges. If we have a decent amount of precipitation in the winter months, this area absolutely explodes with wildflowers in the Spring. The views of the Estrella Range are also phenomenal from the valley. If you like loose, rocky trails, then this Loop is your dream come true. There are small to medium size rock practically paving portions.

The National Trail TH is located on Estrella Road approximately 1/8 of a mile East of 43rd Avenue. Please see driving directions for details of this site. Even with limited parking, this is a great place to start the loop. After you park, go through the opening in the barbed wire fence and start hiking! The trail starts with a gradual ascent that steepens slightly as you approach a small saddle. This is a great warm up for the ascent on the Alta Trail. When you reach the Saddle, it is bare rock and you need to turn right, follow the ridge and then pick up the trail going south along a small mountain. There is another trail that connects in this area and descends into the valley. Stay high and follow the trail around to the South and then descend slightly to the San Juan Lookout area. South of the parking lot is the National/Alta Junction. Take your pick. You can elect to get the uphill section out of the way now, or wait until the last 1/2 of the hike. I recommend ascending Alta here and doing the loop clockwise.

The Alta Trail climbs a pretty steady clip. It is full of loose rock, some high steps and light scrambling in a couple of areas on this northwest section. I have found that trails of this type are actually easier to go up than down. When the Alta goes over the top and descends down the backside, there are a series of switchbacks. It isn't as rocky and steep, making for a smoother descent. Be forewarned, the trail going up on the front side is cut right into the side of the mountain and in spots, is very narrow with a steep drop to the deep ravine below. A fall here could be disastrous. You get a small sense of exposure. Another argument for going up this section, instead of down. You will hike uphill until you hit the ridgeline and the area of Maricopa Peak. Then as the Trail winds around the Peak, you start a descent so gradual that you hardly realize it. You actually end up a couple of hundred feet below the Ridgeline and then as you come hiking around a large point, reality hits and you are staring at another good uphill back up to the ridgeline. Once you get past this next ascent, you've got it made. You start hiking on the South side of the ridge, enjoying the vistas of the valley below and the Estrellas to the West. The descent is smooth. Some of the rock on the trail thins out and you are down in the valley in no time. San Juan Road runs the length of the valley right down the middle. Seeing and paralleling a paved road can be a turnoff for some, but this road is only open one weekend a month. The Valley typically stays quiet, with no car traffic to disrupt the solitude you will feel on this Hike.

After you cross the road, you will find the Alta/Bajada trail junction. Take the Bajada Trail south and west to meet up with the National again at the West end of the Valley. The Bajada climbs up and away from the road and runs along the foot of the Gila Range. Going the clockwise direction, you will, in the beginning, be hiking up and down quite a few ravines and drainages on the Bajada. There is a lot of loose rock on this trail so watch your footing. There are very few markers on this trail, but it is well defined and easy to pick up coming out of the ravines. The up and down continues for about 2/3 of the length of this trail and then you move further away from the base of the range. The trail begins to flatten out and does a very gradual descent. The vegetation and flora in the Bajada section of the loop is sparse. Yet quite the sight during wildflower season. Thick carpets of poppies and lupines blanket the valley floor. The sun setting over the Estrellas and the sharp late afternoon sunlight will light up both ranges and provide some wonderful lighting opportunities. You may see some javelina and coyotes in the valley as well. There seems to be a bunch of quail in this section too, I flushed several coveys in the ravines on my hike.

You descend back down to San Juan Road at the West end of the valley and arrive at the Bajada/National junction. Take the National Trail heading North across the road and follow it around the western edge of the Ma Ha Tauk Range. This trail is extremely rocky. It almost seems like they "poured" the rock down to help with erosion. Once around the corner you turn back to the East and arrive back at the San Juan Overlook. From here, turn left and head back up the hill and hike along the hill back to the first saddle and then down to the TH.

Stats for other Starting Points:
From San Juan Lookout: 8.50 Miles 1750 AEG
From "Y" Intersection of Summit and San Juan Roads: 9.50 Miles 1750 AEG

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2012-01-23 outdoor_lover
    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 16 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    An enjoyable loop with a great group of people. I really like the Alta trail, and Maricopa Peak beats any other in the park in my opinion (sorry @trekkin_gecko! :oops: )

    It was a nice day, but actually got a bit warm on the last couple miles down on the plains where the buffalo roam.

    If you weren't able to join us, be assured you were not forgotten (or unmentioned) :sweat: .

    Great to hike with Denny and Angela again. And I guess 9L and Linda too. I wish hiking partners would bring snacks to share as a regular occurrence! :)
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Yes, I was hiking with the gazelles today but they were moseying on my account I'm sure so I appreciated not being left too far behind as bait :lol:. It was a nice morning for my fifth time hiking in South Mountain Park.

    Alta Trail from east side The hike starts off on a very slight incline until it starts going up the side of a mountain switching back and forth in a very nice and pleasant grade. Linda led the way and was keeping a very moderate pace as we made our way up to a bit of a ridge crossing on both sides of it. She pointed out some items of interest and Denny showed us his favorite tree as it appears a few times along here. I heard the group speaking about someone down below but I thot they were talking about any hiker, I didn't realize they were talking about John9L and suddenly he was at my six as they say. He was breathing hard though as he had made quite the effort to get caught up as he had started on the wrong trail.

    And now there were four ducks in a row hi ho, hi ho....oh wait, that's dwarfs, hi ho, hi ho (channeling my inner Joe Bartels :D ) We continued along the upper side before crossing over to the north side with views of the city and ahead to the Estrella. You could see the peak right in front of you and I thot, not too far but then John informed me we would be going all the way around and up the back side. Well shoot. And now we're going down and down and back up and then down again before we finally just continued up the back side. Todd did a little stop for me to catch my breath during all this.

    Finally we arrive at the saddle looking at the west side of Maricopa Peak and a ridgeline hike up slightly to it. So over we went, John was already there by the time we got done chatting at the saddle. The view from the saddle is 360 so it's pretty nice. We made our way over to the peak and up on top. We hung out for longer than I thot they would. Chumley fixed Joe's hat (my hat) as the rim had separated from the body. They each took the opportunity to see what they would look like in the hat [ photo ] with great results I think.

    And now to get down from here and down and down and down. We paused at the saddle to make some observations and then started the switchbacks to the valley floor... This took awhile as the footing is not the best in some areas and it's just a longer trek than it looks from the saddle. We encountered quite a few hikers on the way, passed one group on their way down otherwise everyone was headed up. We reached the bottom and headed southish on the National Trail. From here it is a slog just as promised. As we were going thru this one section, Chumley mentioned something about buffalo.

    We took a break at the big wash where I explained that there aren't any buffalo here, it would be bison :) . Todd warned me that for the last two miles there was 300 feet of negligible elevation gain and he was sure right. I mostly noticed it because I was a little tired. I still don't have my stamina up to where I would like it and I think that's just a matter of consistently hiking more higher mileage hikes. John took off and I didn't see him until we got back to the TH. Soon Linda and Chumley also built up space between me and Denny. Denny was kind enough to hang back which was nice as the conversation made those two miles go by faster and easier. It's actually not a bad grade but it seemed a bit warm, even with the breeze.

    Finally we crossed over the wash and to the cars. While having some Tibber snacks and a beer and gatorade I shared, we saw a hang glider in the distance and watched him sail with the wind until he didn't and he came to the ground. It was a good hike but I agree with the others, an out and back to the Peak via Alta would be the preferred route. I thot the hike to the Peak was pretty cool, especially the first up on the Alta to that ridge.

    Thx Todd for putting this together. It was great to finally hike with Linda for the first time altho I feel like I somewhat knew her already. And good to catch up with John and Denny too. The drive on 7th St from the freeway to the Park is always interesting too. And as promised, a video of the hike and some hang glider at the end. The new stabilization on youtube starts the pics out a little blurry and then brings them into focus. It didn't used to do that so hopefully they'll get enough complaints. Update, I learned that it was my slide transitions that caused the focus issues so I adjusted the transitions and now it's much better. Here is the new link - [ youtube video ]
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Bajada - Alta Loop
    I've been wanting to hike the Alta trail for some time. I started from the Y intersection of Summit and San Juan roads and decided to do the Bajada Trail first. Bajada isn't all that interesting so I figured I would get it out of the way quickly while I was still fresh and then do Alta which would take me back to the car. I think that was a good call, but I will probably try it the other way too just to see.

    Bajada was boring except for when the PO'd rattler decided to let me know that I was in his area. Otherwise pretty uneventful. This was my first time on the extreme Western end of National Trail as well. I made good time to the San Juan Trail head and stopped and had a snack before starting the climb on Alta.

    The Western end of Alta Trail is fairly steep and it seemed like I was climbing forever. About 2/3 of the way up another rattler became annoyed with me, and after that I imagined I saw rattlesnakes behind every rock and under every bush for the rest of the day. Finally I made it to the top of the ridge line and took the side trail to the top of Maricopa Peak. It wasn't much of a trail, but it looked worse than it was. There were several places that looked like there was no way past, but when I got closer it turned out not to be too bad. The last bit getting up to the top of the peak was steep and tricky, but very doable. I was glad that I took that side trip and felt a real sense of accomplishment standing at the high point of the Ma Ha Tuak range looking down on the world.

    Alta drops down a ways on the North side of the mountain and then pops up on the ridge again before the descent. It seemed to me that the East end of Alta isn't as steep as the West end, so it might be easier going around the other way (like most of the other trip logs). I'll give that a shot some time.
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I did the loop counter-clockwise because I wanted the views on the ridge facing west. Really enjoyable hike, and it felt like I was really far from the valley, yet I was so close. Good trails, good views, and quiet except for the Jets, but they are variable. Saw hardly anyone, not at all like the peaks and trails in the city. Tagged Maricopa, saw where the other member dug for the benchmark. I think, with an early start and enough water, this could be done in hotter weather.
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I had the day off and wanted to spend a few hours hiking relatively close to home. I've never hiked the Alta Bajada loop and decided to check it out. I made the drive to the park and noticed the summit road is closed due to storm damage. I parked and was on my way.

    I started on Bajada Trail because it looked relatively flat and mundane. I wanted to get it out of the way first. The going was easy and I had nice views of the Estrellas. I continued on and started looping around to the San Juan Lookout. From there the trail climbs up the Alta Trail. Once up top I detoured over to Maricopa Peak where I took a few pics and started my return.

    While on my way down from Maricopa Peak I brushed my left leg along a rock and felt sharp cut similar to a cactus cut. I looked down and noticed I cut my leg fairly bad. I expected it to gush blood but it was a slow bleed. I left it as is and set a brisk pace back to the trailhead. I didn't have any issues and was back to the jeep early afternoon.

    This was a nice hike and only took a few hours. The views up top are nice and I only saw a handful of people. I went home and cleaned all the coagulated blood off my leg. I have a three inch gash on my leg. It's gonna leave a nice scar.
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    This was a really nice day for this hike. I met up with Linda at the triangle parking lot. When I arrive the parking lot was empty then Linda arrive and off we went.
    It was very nice hike with some great views. We really did not see another hiker until we were back at the parking lot. And we both wonder if this guy had a clue of where he was going.
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrating optionrated 1
    Took this loop today in 100 plus degree heat. Started Clockwise tackling the "up" on Alta first from the San Juan Lookout Trailhead. The trail was not in great condition, I had intended to run parts of it, but was only able to run about 10-20 percent of it, most on the downside of alta before it connected with Bajada. I don't love this trail. After cresting Alta and traversing on the ridgeline this trail is painfully boring. Too rocky and uneven to run, absolutely nothing to look at and overall just not my favorite. I took 70 ounces of water and drank almost all of it, I started later than I should and the temp was 103 when I finished. No wildlife with the exception of a katrillion millipedes (yuck) barely even a bird. No snakes, although I imagine in the cooler temps this would be a haven for snakes. I saw one solo hiker right when I started, then one group of hikers (3) about 1/2 mile from the trailhead and 2 mountain bikers (replacing tire tubes) and that is it. Very isolated. The group of hikers coming down Alta looked "white knuckled" and I would say that this trail on the "down" is not for the faint of heart due to the steep dropoff. You can't afford a mistake. I literally cannot imagine Mountain biking this unless they did this part as a hike and bike. Overall, it would be a while before I would do this trail again. If I am going to do 10 miles, I prefer Cave Creek or McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Well it started off great and I was really excited about getting some great shots from the top. But that changed once I reached the top as it was very smoggy looking over Phoenix.
    Other than that it was a nice hike. I did meet three different couples along the way as I started my hike going up the Alta Trail as everyone else came up from the National Trail. I decided to hit Maricopa Peak but as I started up I notice parts of it had been washed out from the last rain and some over grown Ocotillo and Chollas growing close together. I did squeeze between a few and decide to give it up and head on down.
    Once we reached the National trail and started heading back it got real boring as there was just nothing to see. I am glad I had a cold one in my car as it gave me something to look forward to.
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I knew this was going to be my 100th triplog, so I wanted to make it a good one. Stats-wise, probably the hardest hike I've done yet. My first visit to the west end of South Mountain. Started from the 43rd ave/Estrella TH. One other car parked there. Started around 8:30am while it was still pretty cool out. Right away you can tell this end of the mountain has a different feel to it. A LOT of ground cover all over the place, something I'm not used to seeing elsewhere on South Mountain. I can see how this would be a great wildflower show in the spring. Even now there are some wildflowers out there.

    Started out climbing towards the sun, but once passing the ramada I was in the shade for the whole north side climb. The first couple miles were pretty steep, but for some reason it didn't seem too bad. Not as bad as I was expecting. A couple spots were washed away from the monsoon storms and some minor scrambling was required. A lot of interesting weeds and ground cover I wasn't familiar with growing along this part of the trail. After that initial steep climb it was a series of ups and downs along the ridge. Really nice views in all directions from up here. The area was FULL of grasshoppers, some of which were jumping all over me. Ran into a group of about 10 hikers on the ridge, the first hikers I'd seen so far. Made me wonder where they started from, since they were going the same direction I was and there was only 1 other car in the parking lot.

    Descending from the ridge I passed a few more hikers. It started to warm up at that point. The view of the valley below was nice. I was hoping to make better time than this today, but going back on Bajada was pretty slow going. VERY rocky trail with a lot of wash crossings, and a lot of the trail was pretty beat up from the monsoon storms. Lots of spots washed away. Honestly, Bajada wasn't fun at all. I was glad to get off it and join the National. The National had some severe storm damage as well, but was a lot less rocky. Actually, the National was completely destroyed in some spots, with 2-3 ft deep ruts washed right through it. Definitely needs some major repairs. Despite all the damage to the Bajada and National trails though, I had no real route finding issues.

    I was pretty tired when I got back to my car, and it was getting pretty dang warm. Overall this was an awesome hike despite the long slog through Bajada. I'll definitely have to come back here.
    Alta - Bajada Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Starting to hit some better weather, crisp mornings are right around the corner. Felt really nice on the shady parts of the run. Started off the 43rd Avenue and Estrella Road trailhead. Told my running partner that had never been on the trail that we might have to walk in a spot or two, but for the most part you can run the whole loop. Well I was wrong on that description. This year's monsoon has absolutely trashed this loop. Ended up having to do a slow jog and/or hike on most of the trail due to trail conditions. A few spots the trail was washed away down to the bedrock underneath, a depth of 1-2 feet of trail was gone.

    At best was able to run 20-100 yards at a time, then stop to pick our way over or around loose rocks or missing chunks of the trail. Hope they are able to get a trail crew out to fix, this was one of my favorite runs, but it was tough to run most of it this morning.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From the West Valley, take I-10 to 51st Avenue. Go South on 51st Avenue to Estrella Road. Turn East on Estrella Road and follow it until it intersects with 43rd Avenue. From the East Valley, take I-10 to the I-17 Bypass (I-17 North). Take 1-17 North to the 19th Avenue Exit. Go South on 19th Avenue to Baseline Road. Take Baseline Road West to 35th Avenue. Turn South on 35th Avenue and follow it all the way down. It goes over a small hill South of Dobbins Road and then it turns towards the West becoming Carver Road. Continue West on Carver Road to 43rd Avenue. Turn South on 43rd Avenue to the Intersection with Estrella Road. This is not a true intersection, 43rd Avenue just turns West and becomes Estrella Road. Instead of making the turn West, turn East onto a Gravel Road that lines up with Estrella Road. This is an extension of Estrella Road and provide access to 43rd Avenue to the residents living along here. Follow this narrow Gravel Road for approximately 1/8 of a mile and you'll see a small widened area of the Road. This is the National TH. Parking is very limited as there are only a few wide spots in the road to pull over far enough to park, but I don't think this TH gets very heavy use. A Traffic Note on the Park. The Park has "Quiet Sundays" on roughly the 4th Sunday of every month, so all of the access roads into the Park are closed. San Juan Road is closed from the Summit Road intersection to the San Juan Overlook except for the 1st Weekend of every month. Check the Park's Website for more information and dates.
    page created by outdoor_lover on Jan 23 2012 6:14 pm
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