Squaw Peak is often touted as the busiest inner-city trail. South Mountain is only being held back by a lack of parking. On a Saturday morning in June with an expected high of 110 degrees, parking was backed up nearly a mile before 8am. Holly cow you'd think you're at the beach in California, not! Luckily I arrived pre-dawn. The park attendant usually opens the gates around 4:45am and it loads up quick.
This hike is referring to the Guadalupe Ridge-Ridgeline not the better know "Ridgeline Trail" which connects Beverly and Javelina canyons. From the Marcos de Niza trailhead cut through the ramadas and head over and up to the Marco de Niza inscription rock. Grab a copy of "Day Hikes and Trail Rides in and around Phoenix" for information on the rock and the history of Guadalupe. From inscription rock a trail continues up to the left. This is your access to the Guadalupe Ridge. Which was obviously named before the sprawl of Ahwatukee. Follow this bad boy 2.6 miles. It's a rollercoaster ride but most certainly worth the effort. The accumulated elevation gain is comparable to that of Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback. Here it's stretched out over 5.5 miles so it's nothing as brutal.
The first section of the ridge takes you up and back down to the telephone lines at a junction with the Beverly Canyon Trail. This first slice of the ridge is very different from the mass of South Mountain. The terrain is similar to Squaw Peak. Represented by small jagged rocks and a lack of those huge blackened boulders typically seen on these ranges. The trail is well worn and easy to find.
Continue west and up from the telephone lines. It's steep going up. Amazingly, it's often mountain biked. The ups and downs continue. You will need to pay attention to keep on the ridge. The trail most easily follows back down to the Pima Canyon Trailhead, so if you find yourself going OVER and down it's time to backtrack.
Did I mention the views are top notch! You even have the San Tans in view. Which tend to be a spec on the horizon from most other Valley peaks. Okay so you're past the turnoff down to Pima Canyon Trailhead. You won't find any crowds up here but you never seem to be "alone" on South Mountain. The trail narrows. It's continues to be fairly easy going. The tricky spot has already been passed. There are a few areas that become non-distinct due to the rocks and/or boulders. Basically, just keep up on the ridge. I believe I took every "sucker" path on my first attempt. The trail holds up pretty well to a section where you pass between two bathroom sized boulders. After which cairns come into play due to the lack of vegetation and abundance of small boulders.
Maybe now would be a good time to mention you'll need a good grasp of the Hidden Valley area to complete this hike. Continue on until you see the Hidden Valley signed junction way down below. You may have to squint but I didn't think it was too difficult to spot. A rock-ridge takes you directly down over Fat Man's Pass. If you have a good grasp of the area as mentioned above you know the way home. If not, you really shouldn't be here. If you continued on along the ridge you'd drop off into Eagle Pass. Actually the National Trail swings over but I think the rock ridge down to Fat Man's Pass is best!
Please Note: Many trails in the park have been staked with yellow off-limit signs or camouflaged. As of this writing, the entire length of this route showed no signs of being closed to the public and is a well beaten path in areas of vegetation. If that changes you shouldn't cross off-limit areas.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.
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