South Mountain Park: The Largest City Park In the World!
Take a hike in the largest city park in the world! South Mountain Park boasts the best views in Phoenix. Quiet trails meander through saguaro cactus forests and fine examples of Sonoran Desert terrain. Here the creosote, cholla, and brittle-bush grow tall and healthy. Listen for the sounds of cactus wrens and other birds who call this area home. There are 20 communication radio towers for local TV stations on South Mountain Peak which you can see from almost anywhere in Phoenix.
One can’t help but feel gratitude towards the early planners and supporters of the park, who had the foresight to make this 17,000 acre oasis into a preserve. According to the city of Phoenix website:
The history of South Mountain Park/Preserve as a city park dates back to 1924. Prominent local citizens, with the help of Sen. Carl Hayden, bought 13,000 acres from the federal government for $17,000. In 1935 the National Park Service developed a master plan for the park with riding and hiking trails, picnic areas and overlooks, all in rustic regional character. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built many of the facilities in the park, based on this master plan. Visitation at the park has gone from 3,000 a month in 1924 to an estimated three million a year today.
Geologically South Mountain has a metamorphic core complex. It is considered sacred to the Akimel O’oodham and the Kwevkepaya band of Yavapai people. There are ruins, petroglyphs, tunnels, and amenities such as picnic tables, drinking fountains, and shade ramadas for visitors.
There are many ways to explore South Mountain. We chose to stop at the Environmental Education Center to get oriented, picked up a map at the Ranger Station, then drove up to Dobbins Lookout. Next we drove down Baseline to 24th to catch the 1.5 mile Mormon Trail. If you’re hungry for lunch try the nearby Farm at South Mountain.
When visiting please practice the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace
- Plan Ahead and be prepared-know your limits, bring plenty of water
- Travel and Hike on Durable Surfaces-stay on marked trails
- Dispose of wast properly-pack it in Pack it out!
- Leave what you find-only take memories and photos
- Fires- No Smoking outside of enclosed vehicles
- Respect Wildlife-let wildlife be
- Be considerate of other visitors