Kiwanis Trail at South Mountain, A Favorite Summer Hike

This hike is for wimps. Which is just perfect.
This hike is for wimps. Which is just perfect.

Now that I've fully recovered after the Hell Hike from a couple weeks ago, I'm finally emotionally ready to get back out on the trails.

Not to mention, the weather's cool spell this past weekend got me all fired up.

Instead of risking my neck, I grabbed my hiking partner and opted for one of my favorite Valley summer hikes: Kiwanis Trail at South Mountain (to get there, take Central Avenue south to the mountain's north entrance and follow the signs).

This time, I didn't cry.


A beautiful view of the city from Kiwanis Trail, looking north.
A beautiful view of the city from Kiwanis Trail, looking north.

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This easy 2-mile hike offers a subtle incline through the Snake Canyon (this is part of an old Native American trade route). "Canyon" is the key word here -- it means that if you time it right, you get to enjoy some sweet, sweet shade.

Hell. Yes.

The trail isn't well-known among hikers in the Valley -- I've rarely seen more than four or five other people on it at a time. The privacy and gentle cardio makes it perfect for chatting between breaths. And you really can't beat the views: The trail is lined with lush desert plants, plenty of saguaros, and a peaceful wash.

Totally my style.

This is a petroglyph.
This is a petroglyph.

As an extra special bonus, hikers can spy petroglyphs along the way (look for yellow signs marking the off-limits areas as possible sites).

The end of Kiwanis Trail, looking south.
The end of Kiwanis Trail, looking south.

You'll know you're at the end of the Kiwanis trail when you hit the road (literally). The South Mountain range includes a series of winding streets that cater to people who prefer to stay in their cars to enjoy the scenery. Bikers love it, too. Hikers like me, however, find the exhaust fumes and loud mufflers really annoying.

I like to cross the road and hop onto the National trail for an extra leg. It's a bit of a climb -- maybe 1/8 of a mile at most. There's a great lookout from the top of the ridge and a rock structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The only bummer about this trail is the litter. And the dog poop. And the horse crap. Oh, and we also saw melted gummy bears. This kind of trail behavior by other people (who? there's hardly anyone there!) really pisses me off. We adopted some of the trash but drew the line when it came to picking up other people's dog's shit.
 
That said, the scenery, the view at the top, the privacy, and the ample opportunity for shade makes this one of my favorite hikes that is super summer-friendly.

The view of South Mountain towers through the window of the stone lookout structure.
The view of South Mountain towers through the window of the stone lookout structure.
Distance: 2 miles, up and back

Time: 1 hour

Elevation climb: 700 feet

Hiker's Tip: Bring a bag for other people's trash. Or their dog's doo-doo if you're feeling brave.


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