South Mountain Park has been mentioned as the largest city park 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, and playgrounds, and lakes, and ducks, as one might think. South Mountain Park is a desert mountain preserve.
South Mountain Park is located at 10919 S. Central Avenue. It is part of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve system. There are four basic activities that you can enjoy at South Mountain Park.
1. Picnics, Barbecues and Parties
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 rest rooms 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.
2. Hiking/Mountain Biking
There are about 58 miles of trails at your disposal. The more than 10 different trails in South Mountain Park range from 1 mile in length to 14 miles. They are rated in difficulty from moderate to very difficult. The easiest of the trails is the Javelina Canyon Trail which starts at the Beverly Canyon parking lot at 46th Street, south of Baseline Road. South Mountain Park has very rugged, desert terrain. All the trails are rocky and steep. 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. For more information about mountain biking at South Mountain Park, check MountainBikeAZ.com.
3. Trail Rides
South Mountain Park is 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 and South Mountain Stables.
4. Scenic Drive
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 Education Center is open Wednesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about South Mountain Park, they can be reached at 602-534-6324.
Directions to South Mountain Park
- From I-17 going south, exit 7th Ave./Central Ave. Stay on Frontage Road to Central, turn right to go south.
- From I-10 going east, exit 7th Ave. Go south to Baseline Road, east on Baseline to Central Ave., turn right to go south on Central Ave.
- From I-10 going west, exit Baseline Road, turn left, go to Central Ave. and turn left (south).