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Tuesday, January 11, 2011


NATIONAL TRAIL South Mountain Park, Phoenix NOTE: the 2011 National Trail Trek (a park-organized mass hike now in its 15th year) will take place on Saturday, January 22, 2011. THE EVENT IS FULL---SO DON’T SHOW UP EXPECTING TO ENTER THE FREY UNLESS YOU’VE PRE-REGISTERED. Some park access points/roads will be closed for part of the day, so be sure to check the city Web site before heading out. FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO HIKE THIS TRAIL INDEPENDENTLY AT ANOTHER TIME, HERE'S THE SKINNY ON WHAT TO EXPECT: This undulating, ridge-hugging trail offers the ULTIMATE hiking experience in South Mountain Park. Over its 14+-mile course, trekkers are treated to the full package—a couple of grueling climbs, challenging length and birds eye views of metro Phoenix. The route is well marked and easy to follow, however, some sections are worn slick from traffic while others have a lot of loose rock underfoot. There’s little shade to be had, so sun protection and plenty of water are musts when hiking this classic urban trail. Once you’ve done this hike, you’ve earned local bragging rights--along with a T-shirt and a granola bar-- if completed in conjunction with the annual Trek event.! LENGTH: 14.3 miles one-way RATING: difficult ELEVATION: 1,300 – 2,500 feet (approx) BEST SEASONS: October -April ANNUAL EVENT: Each January, the city of Phoenix hosts the National Trail Trek. Pre registration is required and the 2011 event (Jan. 22) is FULL, which means there’s plenty of time to shape up for 2012! There’s a $45-$48 fee, but food, water, prizes and goodies are included. SIGN UP FOR the 2012 EVENT: Call 602-262-7393 or email or GETTING THERE: Although the National Trail can be accessed via numerous routes throughout the park, the two trailheads listed below are used for those who want to hike the entire length: EAST TRAILHEAD (Pima Canyon): 9904 S. 48th St. (48th St. & Guadalupe Rd.): From Phoenix, take I-10 to the Elliot Road exit. Turn west and go less than a mile to 48th Street, turn right (north) on 48th and continue to Guadalupe Rd., veer left through a very confusing intersection and then turn left again onto Pima Canyon Rd. and follow the signs to the park. Expect to get lost your first time here. The roads are weird. Here’s the best map I’ve found: Hours: 5 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. WEST TRAILHEAD (Alta/San Juan): From downtown Phoenix, go south on Central Ave to the park entrance. Follow the main road (San Juan Rd) to the 2.5-mile point and the parking area. To access to the National Trail from here, hike 1.8 miles west on the Bajada Trail (or San Juan Road) to the junction. The San Juan area closes at sunset. All vehicles should be outside the area by that time, so plan your hike accordingly. INFO: (602) 495-0222 TRAIL MIX NEWSLETTER:

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