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Monday, January 10, 2011


RANGER TRAIL South Mountain Park, Phoenix Whether hiked as a standalone trail or used in conjunction with the many other routes it bisects, the Ranger Trail makes for a good workout in a rugged desert environment. Scrambling uphill in wide, lazy loops, the route clings to parapets of Precambrian rock—exfoliating in sheets and lumps that tumble into cactus-cluttered ravines. Although the beginning of the hike is a rather blah trudge through a barren, over-used section of desert; the route improves at the 0.65-mile point where the trail meets the 2.5-mile marker at Summit Road. Here, the trail hops the road and the uphill haul begins. Acrophobics take note: this slender path is hacked out of the very edge of the mountain, making for some heady exposure with steep drop offs and blind curves. Adding a sexy side note, the resin of the spindly, tenacious creosote shrubs that line the trail spews an earthy and oddly calming “desert” fragrance into the wind, especially when brushed by passing hikers or the resident coyotes. The route meets the National Trail junction in a rocky alcove a few feet below a high ridgeline. Hiking uphill a few more yards pays off with sweeping vistas and the singular satisfaction of standing on a mountaintop. LENGTH: 2.6 miles roundtrip RATING: moderate ELEVATION: 1,460 – 2,260 BEST SEASONS: October - April INFO:, (602) 262-7393 GETTING THERE: From downtown Phoenix, go south on Central Ave., and continue to where it ends at the park entrance (south of Dobbins Road). Continue straight on the main road (San Juan Road) to 0.5 mile past the second gate at the stone administration building and turn left (across from the 1-mile marker) onto an unmarked, paved road. Take the first right and park at the Five Tables Trailhead. The trail starts at the west end of the lot at the sign. TRAIL CONNECTS WITH: Baja Trail, Los Lomitas Loop, National Trail. FACILITIES: picnic tables at the trailhead, restrooms at the admin building

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