Marcos de Niza Trail

A demanding, short hike with incredible views of Ahwatukee.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
2.9 km
Ascent
112 m
Descent
112 m
Duration
0-1 hrs
Low Point
424 m
High Point
525 m
Gradient
10˚
VIEW ON MAP
Marcos de Niza Trail Map

Description

Holding the title as the "Largest Municipal Park in the United States", South Mountain is a hikers paradise. This is a perfect loop for the entire family, or if you're simply short on time. As compared to other trails further up the mountain, most of this route is easy to follow and provides some of the best views on the entire mountain.

This hike begins at the Ramada at the end of East Pima Canyon Road. Just 10 minutes from the airport and most of Tempe, this may be the most popular trailhead anywhere on South Mountain. At the Pima Trailhead, you can find water and restrooms as well as a picnic area.

Most choose to hike the Marcos de Niza Trail from the parking lot, and return on National Trail. The hike is intense and there are several points where the trail splits - though they all merge back together. Three summits can be found on this short ridge, all providing incredible views of the Ahwatukee Foothills below. If you are merely seeking the views, opt for an out-and-back to the first high point.

As you near the end of the ridge, the trail splits and descends quickly. To the left, a steep drop requires a short scramble through a tight crevice. To the right, the path descends down a steep, sandy wash that should be navigated with extreme caution.

As you return to the trailhead on National Trail, enjoy the widely diverse ecology, including several types of cactus and the elephant tree - known for its unique "multiple contorted trunk architecture". Wildlife is also abundant, specifically jackrabbits, rattlesnakes, and the occasional javelina. Chuckwalla, a type of lizard, can also be found in abundance around the mountain.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SouthMountainPark#Geographyandecology

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Wild flowers
  • Family friendly

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area