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Alta-Bajada Loop (South Mountain)

along the Alta Bajada loop trail
Saguaro on the Alta Bajada loop trail
South Mountain views
Views from the Alta Bajada loop hike
Along the Alta Bajada loop trail
South Mountain views
Hiking along the ridgeline of the Alta Bajada loop hike
map: Alta Bajada loop
elevation plot: Alta Bajada loop hike trail


How to Get There
This hike is located near Phoenix, AZ.

To get to the trailhead: From the Phoenix area, take Central Avenue south into South Mountain park. Once you enter the park, stay on the main road, passing the stone buildings that mark the visitor center. Continue on the main road, following the signs for the San Juan lookout, for 2.5 miles (2.0 miles from the stone buildings) to the small trailhead parking on your left. Drive slowly on these roads and watch out for bikers, hikers, and runners on the road
South Mountain
Phoenix Area and Central Arizona

Hike details

8.20 [Miles] Total
Hike Distance- Details
The length of the hike is 8.2 miles for the loop.
3.50 [Hours]
This hike took about 3.5 hours.
Elevation Change
2,400 Total gain/loss [Feet]
Elevation Loss
1,200 Total Elevation Loss[Feet]
Elevation Gain
1,200 Total Elevation Gain [Feet]
Elevation Details
About 1200 ft total elevation gain.
Hike Trail Type


Best Season
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • October
  • November
  • December
Worst Season
  • June
  • July
  • August
Season Details
All Year. The best time to hike this loop is in the cooler months. Not recommended in the summer. If hiking in the summer, start this hike early in the morning because it can get really hot. March is nice for wildflower season


Solitude Details
Not bad considering how popular South Mountain park is. On the Alta trail, expect to share the trail with 10 other hikers. On the Bajada-National section, we only saw one other hiker.


Difficulty Rating
difficulty detail
Be Aware of: trail runners, limited trailhead parking

30 yr old Recommendation: The views of the area are great, both North towards the Phoenix city center and South of the park. The loop described here is a Moderately difficult hike.


Permit Info
No permits are needed. Make sure to check the schedule so you don't expect to drive to the trail head on a "Silent Sunday" when only runners and cyclists are allowed in the park. Although do enjoy one of the Silent Sunday's by bike sometime.

Loop hike with the Alta and Bajada trails in South Mountain park in Phoenix, Arizona.

The first decision you need to make is which direction you would like to take the loop. We decided to start on the Bajada trail and finish on the Alta trail, so the write up reflects this choice. From the small parking area, take the signed dirt trail on the south side of San Juan Road. The trail is easy to follow and there are trail markers to keep you headed in the right direction. This flat trail through the desert roughly parallels the road. After 3.2 miles, you'll reach the signed junction with the National Trail. Turn right here, cross San Juan road, and head to San Juan lookout. The San Juan lookout has a small stone house, limited parking, and nice views of some of the south Phoenix farmlands.

From the San Juan lookout there are several trails. The Alta trail starts out going South-East and climbs to the ridgeline to your right. You'll gain 900 ft of elevation relatively quickly, leading to impressive views of South Phoenix, downtown Phoenix, and the South mountain park. There are several nice places along the ridgeline to stop and have lunch while enjoying the views your hiking effort has earned.

From the East side of the ridgeline the Alta trail heads south back to the trailhead and parking area.


Click here for the official Phoenix trail map.


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