CORONA DE LOMA TRAIL
South Mountain Park, Phoenix
It was from the summit of Quartz Peak in the Sierra Estrellas where I acquired a deep, visual understanding of the three-mountain-range structure of South Mountain Park (SoMo). From the top of that isolated peak, the trio of parallel ranges running east-west at the southern fringe of downtown Phoenix, rolled out below, and suddenly, it all made sense. The layout of the park, roads, trailheads, the cosmic fugue---everything. But then again, put me on any mountain summit, and clarity ensues.
In order, from north to south, the ranges are (with sample trails) Ma-Ha-Tauk (Alta Trail), Gila (Holbert, National Trail) and Guadalupe (Desert Classic). That day on Quartz Peak, I realized that although I was very familiar with the trails on Gila and Ma-Ha-Tauk; I still had a lot to learn about the other side of the mountain. With that goal in mind, I set off for Corona de Loma Trail.
Save for a couple of mildly confusing junctions, this trail on the back (Ahwatukee) side of SoMo is a great way to climb to a summit ridge with much less traffic than on other similar treks in the park like Kiwanis, Holbert and Telegraph Pass.
Exposed to the sun and covered in scree, the trail winds up the mountain via long switchbacks passing by deranged-looking ironwood trees, cactuses, milky white quartz, shimmering micas and outcroppings of decaying metamorphic stone. Geology buffs revel in the complexity of rock both underfoot and on the horizon featured on this hike, but even those whose rock knowledge begins and ends with a 3rd grade “grow your own crystal” kit will appreciate the bizarre rock sculptures-- like the one I call "snakehead"-- that line the trail.
LENGTH: 6.4 miles roundtrip (including access trail from Warpaint TH)
ELEVATION: 1,370' – 2,360'
KID FRIENDLY: best for older kids, kinda steep in several places
TRAILHEAD FACILITIES: none
DOGS: must be on leash, rough terrain for paws, handlers must pack out poo
BEST SEASON: October -April
BEST SEASON: October -April
From Phoenix, go south on I-10 to exit 159 for Ray Road. Go west (right) on Ray Rd. and continue 0.3 mile to 48th Street. Turn north (right) and go 0.3 mile to Knox Road. Turn west (left) and follow Knox 1.8 mile to Warpaint Drive on the right. Drive 0.2 mile north on Warpaint to the trailhead on the right. There are two unsigned “trailheads” here. The one you want for this hike has a wooden fence lining the entry. There’s only parallel parking along the street. Pay attention to no-parking zones as this trailhead is in a busy residential area.
From the trailhead, hike roughly 0.1 mile to a “Y” junction where there’s a rusty sign post with arrows. Go right here and hike 0.7 mile to a second “Y” junction with a metal post with the number “43” scratched into it. Go left (you’re now on the Desert Classic Trail) and continue 0.2 mile to sign post “46”. This is the turnoff for the access trail to Corona de Loma, although no signs indicate this. Turn right at this junction and continue 0.2 mile (stay straight at an unsigned cross path a few yards up) to the signed turn off for Corona de Loma on the right. The path is obvious but unsigned as it climbs up to a high ridge, dips into a narrow canyon and then climbs up again to Buena Vista Lookout where it intersects the National Trail.
See the “more photos” link below for pix of the critical junctions.
INFO AND MAPS: City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation:
FOR COOL INFO ON SoMo geology, visit the GEMLAND Website: