South Mountain Park/Preserve, just south of Phoenix, Arizona is a great place to experience the wonders of the Sonoran desert. Following winter rains, the desert in Springtime is carpeted with gorgeous, brilliantly colored wildflowers. Stately saguaros reach for the sky while chuckwalla lizards lounge on sun-warmed rocks all on 16,000 acres of preserved desert.
South Mountain Park/Preserve boasts of a wide variety of wildlife and plants. There are also many well-preserved petroglyphs etched upon the rocks by the ancient Hohokam people.
Coyotes and javelina are seen dusk and dawn while jackrabbits and cottontails can be seen zigzagging between bushes throughout the day. A variety of snake species can be seen in the park including the Western Diamondback rattlesnake that our baseball team is named after. Rock squirrels are commonly seen sitting in ‘sentry’ positions on top of rocky outcrops. These squirrels quickly scatter for cover whenever red-tailed hawks fly overhead. Comical roadrunners can be seen running about, their long tails flicking up and down and side to side. These birds are a joy to watch. Another interesting resident is the pink and black colored lizards known as Gila Monsters who also make their home in the park. Gila monsters are only one out of two lizard species in the world known to be venomous.
There are 51 miles of trails in South Mountain Park/Preserve. Many of these include an incline of varying steepness so check a park map prior to choosing a trail. Most importantly, always be sure to bring plenty of water along with you. Its better to hike out with water to spare rather than run out of water along the way.
Nearby Ponderosa Stables offer horse rides along some of the trails. This is a great way to experience the desert. Cycling is also popular along the park’s paved roads whether you’re riding as an individual or as part of a team. Para-gliders enjoy jumping off the park’s highest peak, Mount Suppoa and gliding down towards the community of Ahwatukee.
South Mountain Park/Preserve has many BBQ and picnic areas for family and group events but its best to call in advance and reserve these areas as they’re quite popular. The park’s educational center is located just beyond the main entrance and is a good place to stop and learn more about South Mountain and its wild inhabitants. For those who prefer not to hike, there are plenty of scenic drives within the park with many places to pull over and take photographs.
Whether you hike, drive, cycle, or ride horseback, you’ll find plenty of things to enjoy and discover at South Mountain Park/Preserve, the largest municipal park in the country. Time spent in the beautiful Sonoran desert reminds us of why its so important to preserve natural places for us all to enjoy.
Mitakuye Oyasin …”We are all related”
For more information on South Mountain Park/Preserve in Phoenix go to: phoenix.gov/parks/hikesoth.html
For more information on Ponderosa Stables or South Mountain Stables go to: arizona-horses.com/