Desert Foothills/Telegraph Pass/National East

The top of Telegraph Pass Trail in South Mountain.
The top of Telegraph Pass Trail in South Mountain.
Megan Dobransky

Phoenix's South Mountain is known for its extensive trail system; even if you start at the same place every time you go hiking, you can end up taking five different trails to the top.


The mountain's Desert Foothills Trailhead provides an easy start -- a wide, paved, flat surface. But it quickly breaks off into two directions: up to Telegraph Pass Trail and flat along the Desert Classic Trail.

We chose up.

Telegraph Pass is steep, but easy enough because it's rather short. About halfway up, there's a small turnoff where you can see a few petroglyphs.

Once you reach the top of Telegraph Pass, which dumps you out next to Summit Road, you can head left toward National West Trail or right toward National East Trail. Either completes a 15.5-mile loop.

Petroglyphs along Telegraph Pass Trail.
Petroglyphs along Telegraph Pass Trail.
Megan Dobransky

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We went right to the National East, mostly because fewer people were headed in that direction and it looked as though the trail was headed toward the iconic radio towers atop South Mountain.

It wasn't.

The trail switch-backed along the north side of the ridge for a good distance. We hiked for about an hour, and knowing that National Trail pretty much goes on forever, turned around and headed back.

Check out our other recent hiking news/reviews:

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