South Mountain Park in Phoenix: The Complete Guide

South Mountain park

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South Mountain Park and Preserve

10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042, USA
Phone +1 602-495-5458

South Mountain Park is one of the largest city parks in the world. At nearly 17,000 acres, it certainly covers a lot of ground, although it isn't a park in the sense of grass, playgrounds, lakes, and ducks, as one might think. South Mountain Park is a desert mountain preserve. There are more than 50 miles of trails at this park, and there is no entry fee to visit.

The gated roadways, trailhead parking areas, restrooms, and ramadas are open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., at which time the gates to the park close. Trails are open until 11 p.m. On one Sunday of each month, South Mountain Park is closed to all vehicular traffic. It is called Silent Sunday. Check the South Mountain website for any scheduled closings and Sundays when vehicles are not permitted in the park.

Trails in South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the country, covering about 16,000 acres and including more than 51 miles of trails. Dobbins Peak, the highest point accessible to visitors (and you can drive there if hiking isn't in your plan), is 2,330 feet in elevation. Not too high for the hiker or bicyclist who isn't ready for steep trails, but high enough to offer great views of the city.

Scenic Drives in South Mountain Park

More people probably visit South Mountain Park for the scenic drive and views than for anything else. If you are a nervous driver or a nervous passenger, be aware that this drive is on a winding mountain road that isn't too wide. You are also sharing that road with bikers and tourists, and vehicles stopped at the side of the road where there may not be much room for parking. Take it slow.

On a clear day, the view from Dobbins Point is just gorgeous. Stop at the main gate on your way into the park and pick up a map, then keep driving up to Dobbins Point. For a southern view, drive up toward the towers. The signage on the roads is clear.

The South Mountain Park Environmental Education Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There you can learn more about the plants, animals, and history of South Mountain.

It doesn't take long on your way to the top of South Mountain to see a spectacular view of downtown Phoenix to the north and Camelback Mountain to the east of downtown. From the Gila Valley Lookout, you can see beautiful views of Tempe, Chandler, and the south side of South Mountain, including Ahwatukee Foothills and Mountain Park Ranch. If you keep going up past Dobbins Point, you can get close and personal with the South Mountain towers.

Picnicking at South Mountain Park

You can bring your family or a group of 5,000 people to various meeting areas and ramadas at South Mountain Park. The Piedra Grandes Ramadas are available only on a first-come, first-served basis. The ramadas accommodate very small groups and groups up to 50 people. Alcohol permits are required. No amplified or live music is allowed. There are restrooms nearby.

Larger ramadas for groups larger than 50 people are available with reservations only, which must be made in advance by calling (602) 495-0222.

Other Activities at South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park is also a beautiful place to get on a horse and wander around. Guided trail rides are available to riders of all levels of experience. Keep in mind that riding is limited during the summer months. For information about trail rides, breakfast rides, and cookout rides, contact Ponderosa Stables.

Directions to South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park is located in South Phoenix. From Baseline Road and Central Avenue, head south on Central until you come to the park entrance.

  • From I-17 going south, exit 7th Avenue/Central Avenue. Stay on Frontage Road to Central, turn right to go south.
  • From I-10 going east, exit 7th Avenue. Go south to Baseline Road, east on Baseline to Central Avenue, turn right to go south on Central Ave.
  • From I-10 going west, exit Baseline Road, turn left, go to Central Avenue and turn left (south).

Tips for Your Visit

  • You might encounter desert critters, including rattlesnakes. Just give them plenty of room and keep going.
  • Always carry plenty of water with you, wear sturdy shoes, a hat, and sunscreen.
  • Dobbins Lookout, at 2,330 feet, is the highest point in the park accessible by trail.
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South Mountain Park in Phoenix: The Complete Guide