Sara Jean

Sara Jean

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SJ's Hike of the Week: South Mountain Hidden Valley Loop

Take A Hike with the Highlander: South Mountain's Hidden Valley Loop

Distance: 3.4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Elevation Gain: 918 feet

Dog Friendly: Yes

Permit/Pass Required: No

Getting There: See Map

Tips: Bring plenty of water and sunscreen as this trail lacks shade. Keep an eye open for lizards, tortoises and snakes! A morning or evening with the kids here could make for a great classroom without four walls!

About the Hike: Right in metro Phoenix's backyard lies South Mountain's Hidden Valley Loop - an array of fascinating tunnels, rock formations, wildflowers, wildlife and a squeeze through Fat Man's pass. The beginning of the trail is the most difficult as most of the elevation gain happens within the first mile. Once you reach the loop, things flatten out a bit and loose rock turns to soft sand. I recommend downloading the AllTrails app and following THIS trail so you don't end up on one of the many smaller trails that branch off and may ultimately lead you back to a different parking lot than the one you parked in.

Once you reach the top of the hill, stay to your right and keep an eye out for the sign that says Fat Man's Pass so you don't miss it! Not only is it fun to squeeze through (especially as a kiddo) but inside the cave lies a very fun slide - created by Mother Nature herself. This is also a great place for Mom & Dad to sit in the shade and let the kids play for a bit. From here you will find your way through one of the coolest tunnels I've stumbled upon in my Arizona adventures!

This trail is truly a hidden gem so close to home, but please note it can get crowded. Escape the heat and the crowds by leaving early in the morning or closer to sunset and if the parking lot is full, be respectful of the surrounding neighborhood and come back another time. I saw an abundance of families on this trail and it honestly brought me back to my childhood hiking with my dad as a kid. This is a trail of wonderment - not only for your children but for the kid inside each of us as well. Take your time, stop and explore the rocks and the flowers and what the great outdoors has to offer right here in our very backyard.

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