South Mountain Park & Preserve
At over 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the country. Start a visit at the South Mountain Environmental Education Center, hike, bike and ride more than 58 miles of trails, or follow the road to the top of the mountain for spectacular views.
You can also find some unexpected attractions like Mystery Castle, or check out some nearby dining after a hike.
Every Sunday, South Mountain observes "Silent Sunday," where the park’s main roadway will be closed to motor vehicle traffic at the one-mile mark into the park from 5 to 10 a.m. on the first, second, third and fifth Sunday; and from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (park operating hours) on the fourth Sunday. During those times on those days, the park’s roadways are reserved for non-motorized activities such as walking, cycling, jogging, hiking, etc.
TrailsBack to Top of List
South Mountain offers 58 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking for all ability levels, many of which were constructed in the early 1930s. Trails are accessible from several park entrances/parking lots listed below. For more information, visit the Phoenix Parks and Recreation website.
Park Main Entrance: 10409 S. Central Ave.
19th Ave Trailhead: 10500 S. 19th Ave.
Mormon Trailhead: 8610 S. 24th St.
Beverly Canyon Trailhead: 8800 S. 46th St.
Pima Canyon Trailhead: 9904 S. 48th St.
Telegraph Pass Trailhead: 14251 S. Desert Foothills Parkway
Trailhead Hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Gated entrances will close at 7, but trails remain open until 11 p.m.
Our picks: Holbert Trail (details below) and Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail (details on our Best Hikes in Phoenix blog).
Dobbins LookoutBack to Top of List
Perched at 2,330 feet with north-facing views of the city, Dobbins Lookout is the highest accessible point in the park. A stone ramada at the top offers shady seating, and a small observation platform identifies various Phoenix landmarks visible from the panoramic view, including Camelback Mountain, downtown Phoenix and more local mountain ranges.
Horseback RidingBack to Top of List
Saddle up and explore South Mountain Park the cowboy way with guided horseback tours from Ponderosa Stables. Trail rides wind through pristine desert scenery on the preserve's vast network of trails. On Saturdays, the stable also offers rides to get up-close with ancient petroglyphs throughout the park.
10215 S. Central Ave.
South Mountain Environmental Education CenterBack to Top of List
Learn about plants, animals, natural history and the conservation needs of the Sonoran Desert at interpretive exhibits and activity stations inside the park's education center.
Just outside the doors, you'll also find Judith Tunnell Accessible Trail, consisting of two barrier-free, half-mile loops: the Interpretive Loop with descriptive signs about native plant and animal life, and the Challenge Loop with a maximum grade of 8.5%.
Mystery CastleBack to Top of List
Mystery Castle is a three-story building with 18 rooms, 13 fireplaces, filled with all sorts of Southwestern flair and funky designs. The castle was built by Boyce Gulley for his daughter Mary Lou, inspired by their memories of building sand castles together in Seattle. Gulley died before he could send for his family, but once it was completed in 1945, Mary Lou moved to Arizona and gave tours of the home until her death in 2010.
Now, Mystery Castle is open for tours between October and May, led by the nonprofit Mystery Castle Foundation.