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National Trail - South Mountain, AZ

no permit
2.4k 1.4k 8
Guide 1,386 Triplogs  8 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Phoenix > South Mtn
3.2 of 5 by 74
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 14 miles
Trailhead Elevation 1,387 feet
Elevation Gain 1,256 feet
Avg Time One Way 7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.19
Backpack No
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Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
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Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,262 map ( 21,474 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Co-Author Jame
co-author avatarGuides 1
Routes 0
Photos 154
Trips 12 map (61 Miles)
Age 47 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 7 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  6:17am - 6:23pm
Official Route
265 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
World Class City Trail
by joebartels & Jame

Described here from the popular east end to the quite west. This long trail has many faces. While it likely won't be on your top ten list it can be subtly enjoyable. Timing is everything. With it's close proximity, short evening hikes in the upper reaches are phenomenal during monsoon season. The western park can light up brighter than Broadway in wildflower season.

Like most trails in the Sonoran Desert, you'll find bursage, brittlebush, creosote cush, palo verde trees and saguaro cactus. More than 300 species of plant life are found in the park. The park is also abundant with wildlife - rock squirrels, desert tortoises, chuckwallas, great horned owls, rattlesnakes, coyotes and red tailed hawks to name a few. There are petroglyphs hidden throughout the range, courtesy of the Hohokam Indians.

0.0 Mi TH to Old Pima TH
The east trailhead at Pima Canyon is often the meeting point for mountain bikers and hikers alike near the ramadas. Get there early because parking fills up fast! It's not uncommon for this lot to fill up by 6am in the summer. Get started by simply following the old dirt road.

1.2 Mi Old Pima TH to Buena Vista
After an easy 1.2 miles over on the fire road you come to the old Pima Canyon Trailhead. It is well marked with a sign and map of the entire South Mountain trail system. Be sure and check out the old stone houses located at the beginning of the trailhead. Directly behind the trailhead sign is a large unmarked boulder which has great petroglyphs hidden on the west side away from the trail.

The trail starts off rocky and steep but soon levels off. Beware of mountain bikers in this technical area. A favorite spot on trail has been named the waterfall. It's not an actual waterfall, rather a boulder strewn area that's quite steep and technical. It's fun to watch the mountain bikers transverse this section. Because National Trail allows both mountain bikers and hikers, it's always a good idea for both parties to be alert for one another. There are many blind turns and accidents have occurred.

4.5 Mi Buena Vista to Telegraph
Views of downtown Phoenix open up to the north as you come to Buena Vista. Finding the trail for the next few miles can be tricky where it crosses or utilizes the road for short distances. It's nothing overly difficult if you pay attention. The trail is more level here transversing countless drainages to Telegraph Pass. While near a road you don't see it much. Wildflowers during a good year are outstanding along this stretch. The closer you get to Telegraph you will find the mountain bikers more experienced and courteous. Along the way be sure to check out the radio towers - the infamous red lights you see blinking on top of the mountain at night time.

7.5 Mi Telegraph Pass to Ranger
This short section is sweet. It is steep for about a half mile then relatively flat for a mile to the Ranger Trail. Here you find views of the north and south valley with a real sense of being away from it all. Wildflowers carpet these upper hills before the rest of the mountain in early January(given a wet December). Mountain bikers are few if any, just be on the lookout as they can really pickup speed in the flats.

8.75 Mi Ranger to Bajada
This is the least used section of trail. You quickly pass Goat Hill. Chances are you won't see a soul further out. You're chance for spotting javalina, snakes and such greatly increase in this remote western section of the park. You will pass some obvious old mining sites. With a keen eye you will see many more sites in the distance. The Sierra Estrella Mountains dominate the western horizon. You get nice views of Butterfly Peak.

12.5 Mi Bajada to Alta TH
Here the trail practically follows the road with a few variations. You finish near the San Juan lookout which is located near 35h Avenue. It should be noted there are no facilities at San Juan which is closed to vehicular traffic for resource recovery efforts except for the following times: the first weekend of each month (Saturday and Sunday from 5 am - 3 pm) and during wildflower season (Saturdays and Sundays, February 23 to March 30, from sunrise to 5pm). One of the park rangers suggest an unofficial alternate option: 43rd and Estrella in Laveen, adds 0.4mi

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2009-11-06 joebartels & Jame

    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 201 deeper Triplog Reviews
    National Trail - South Mountain
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    South Mountain Lollipop
    I almost decided not to hike this morning. There was other things I wanted to do - study Python OOP, joule thieves, PIR sensors, fun stuff like that. I'm so glad I decided to go!

    I started out at the Pima Canyon parking lot, and headed up the road to join the Javelina Canyon Trail. Then down towards the Beverly Canyon parking lot. Almost there, and I see another hiker coming towards me. He looks familiar. I stared harder. I know him! As he got in talking range, I blurted out, "I recognize you! You're... You're... Turtle! No. Lil' Tortoise! No. Uhhhh..."

    He graciously offered, " @Tortoise_Hiker ?" "Yeah, that's it!" :doh:

    I babbled on, telling him that he was one of my HAZ heroes; that I'd been reading his triplogs for years; "watching" him hiking the AZT with his friends, etc., etc.

    He kindly asked about my AZT hikes, and I blabbed on and on about what I've done. He kindly listened and made the appropriate comments, as heroes always do. (My kids would ask, "Did you go all fan girl on him?")

    Needless to say, I was on Cloud 9 for the rest of my hike up the Beverly Canyon Trail, and then down the National, back to the parking lot.

    It was a great day to hike, cloudy the whole time. Never saw the sun, even on the drive home. What great day! :y:
    National Trail - South Mountain
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    Mormon - National - Geronimo
    met john at 0520 to do the loop
    just light enough with a nice orange sunrise
    mid 80s and humid for the entire hike, much of it in the shade
    haven't been on mormon or geronimo in a few weeks
    didn't even mind the street walk back to the trailhead with company
    overflowing parking lot when we finished
    only saw about ten people during the hike
    thanks, john!

    using john's route scout mileage and aeg
    i have tracked this several times, usually around 6.3 miles and just under 1300 feet aeg
    will have to look at what others recorded
    National Trail - South Mountain
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    National Trail Trek 2019. This was fun and well organized. The parks folks provided coffee and breakfast at the parking lot before the start which was great since it was dark and cold. They also had a nice lunch near the half way point and free massages at the finish. I'm definitely going to do this one every year going forward. I had hiked all segments of the National Trail in the past, but never the full trail end to end because of the logistics and distance between the two ends. The NTT provided the transportation which made it easy.
    National Trail - South Mountain
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    Wellness Wednesday Hike
    Great after work hike with Dave. We were talking and almost went past the ruins. On the way back, I noticed a couple taking a photo of something on the ground. I thought they'd found a baby something or other. We got to talking and found out that she is a former and soon to be again supply management practitioner (currently doing more engineering type stuff) and that he is a former supply management practitioner. He spoke about a couple of brothers from MSU that came out and started/helped start the supply management program as ASU. They knew about the Report On Business and how ISM used to be in the ASU Research Park. We told them about the new headquarters location. She might get in touch with us if she returns to supply management. They thought Wellness Wednesday was a great idea.
    National Trail - South Mountain
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    Wellness Wednesday Hike
    Tune-up hike on one trail for a Wellness Wednesday Hike. Because it rained so much today, I wanted to make sure the trail was not washed out. The trail was in good condition and being used by hikers and mountain bikers. Posted a route (linked above) and a photoset (linked above).
    National Trail - South Mountain
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    Javelina Lollipop
    met fletch and john at 0445 this morning for our second annual fourth of july hike :)
    up javelina and mormon loop, down national and javelina
    shaded much of the way
    didn't see many people on the way up, but heading down it got pretty crowded
    both lots were full when we finished
    overnight low temps and dew point creeping up a bit but still very pleasant
    had fun with two of my favorite partners
    home by 0700 :D

    National Trail - South Mountain
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    Buena Vista Lookout
    made it out right after work this morning
    mormon trail to national to bv lookout and back
    ran some of the nice singletrack on the way down
    using stats from last time; twice i've had 7.0 miles on this hike
    route scout went a little crazy toward the end today
    hope it's temporary insanity

    must see tv this afternoon: ncaa track & field championships
    men's finals today, women's tomorrow

    National Trail - South Mountain
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    Buena Vista Lookout
    sundays are not usually for south mountain hikes
    after a few hours of overtime, breakfast at the brass rail and a nap, hit one of my regular routes
    up mormon, west on national to bv lookout and back
    sunny skies and a cool breeze
    saw two chuckwallas, a dozen hikers, three trail runners and only one mountain biker

    National Trail - South Mountain
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    Started the day early as an airport shuttle driver and with the temps a little better decided to hit south mountain park while in the neighborhood. Started at pima trail head,took the road to the start of national trail ,turned around at the buena vista trail head.. On the return took Mormon loop,javelina,ridge line,Beverly canyon and west end loop. Had to estimate stats from my fit bit as route scout got tired and paused at 7.587 miles and never restarted. Usually avoid these popular trails on the weekends , quite a few bikers and trail runners but less than a month ago. Still no rattlesnake sightings this year and it’s about time to vacate the area. Wish the air quality had been better.
    National Trail - South Mountain
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    The winds seem to clear out a lot of the haze but it was still windy today and much cooler.Headed out on National Trail to Buena Vista trail head.In order to get to double digit miles made a figure of 8 return using mormon trail,javelina trail,ridgeline to beverly and then back on marcos de niza. Parking lot had plenty of spots when arriving at 0630 but on leaving about 1100 a few parking spots still open.Bike traffic was light, enjoyable morning hike in cooler weather.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix, head straight down Central Ave, keep going and going until it hits South Mountain. The road curves west passing an entrance gate. Keep going to the information/bathroom center. Continue on all the way to the Alta Trailhead
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