Nestled in the foothills of the Valley of the Sun, South Mountain Park is one of Arizona’s most popular attractions. This desert mountain preserve is the largest city park in the country and makes a perfect vacation day trip. The outdoor park radiates with life, beckoning visitors from near and far to come and spend some quality time with nature. You can leave the hustle and bustle of Phoenix behind to embark on a tranquil desert exploration.
South Mountain Park was formed when President Calvin Coolidge sold 13,000 acres to the city of Phoenix in 1924. The Park covers over 16,500 acres of desert landscape and its lookout point rises 1,000 feet above the desert floor. The vast size of the park makes it larger than New York’s Manhattan Island.
A bountiful ecosystem
Three mountain ranges make up the Park—the Ma Ha Tauk, Gila and Guadalupe. These mountain ranges stretch diagonally from northeast to southwest. Diagonal mountain ranges are a hallmark of the Sonoran Desert, and a popular site for vacationers to the area. Over 300 species of plant life call South Mountain Park home, including a variety of cacti, elephant and ironwood trees, and the octillo plant. Scorpions, beetles and ants are common residents of the Park, appearing mostly at night when the temperature cools off. You will hear the sounds of rattlesnakes hissing while you watch lizards slither around the desert landscape. Don’t be alarmed when you spot jackrabbits and javalina scurrying about the grounds.
Mount Suppoa represents the highest point of the park at 2,690 feet. Although it is not accessible to the public, the antenna towers atop the mount blinking with red lights, illuminating the night sky over the Valley of the Sun. The highest accessible point by trail is Dobbins Lookout, which reaches 2,330 feet. Metamorphic and granite rock line the western half of the mountains, while the terrain in the eastern part is flatter.
Outdoor activities at South Mountain Park are limitless. You can hike, bike, horseback ride, or just drive to the top. Take it one step at a time and hike along the 58 miles of South Mountain hiking trails, ranging from easy to hard. Climb the rugged, rocky terrain to get the most breathtaking views the Sonoran desert has to offer! Hop in your car or jump on your bike to ride along Summit Road, the main road through the park, up to the top of the ridge.
A treat for all is Silent Sunday. Every month, for one Sunday, the roads are completely closed to car traffic. The picturesque setting at the Park provides an extraordinary backdrop for a family picnic or barbecue. Be sure to take along plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen.
More than 3 million visitors come annually, and it’s no wonder why. Nature lovers flock to South Mountain Park to witness the vast beauty of the desert landscape.