Hidden Valley via Mormon Hiking Trail
★★★★☆ Moderate / Phoenix Area:
A family-friendly slot canyon and long stone tunnel are hyper-fun to explore! Accessible via the Mormon Hiking Trail, Hidden Valley’s secluded wonders have hikers squishing through, climbing over or walking under them – revealing smile inducing fun. But the best surprise is the trail’s convenient location on Phoenix’s South Mountain.
TRAILHEAD: 8610 S. 24th st., Phoenix • DIFFICULTY: MODERATE • DISTANCE: 1.95 MILES (3.9 miles RT • APPROX. TIME: 2-3 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 860 FEET (62 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 550-630 RT • BEST TIME OF YEAR: OCT. – APRIL • PETS: YES • KID FRIENDLY: Yes please! 8 AND up • FACILITIES: No • FEES: None
Admittedly, the kick-off hike is a noisy climb out of the Phoenix suburbs. As the Mormon Hiking Trail ascends the boulder strewn slope that defines the city’s southern edge, it teems with urban sights, sounds and people. However, once the trail mounts its first crest and begins a slow descent into the hidden valleys tucked into South Mountain, a surprisingly gorgeous, natural world appears. Here chipmunks scamper around sculptural rock formations. And the only sounds heard are those of an occasional hiker, mountain biker, or plane flying high overhead.
To access Hidden Valley take the Mormon Hiking Trail for 1.1 mile to where it forks. This occurs at the top of a hill, beside a large rock outcropping. Veer right here (away from the outcropping) where a trail post points towards the National Trail. The path heads gently downhill and then across a small valley.
After a short distance another fork appears alongside a number of immense boulders. These giants shelter a must-be-explored, mini-slot canyon called Fatman’s Pass. It is just wide enough to scooch through, and has walls worn smooth by generations of hikers doing just that.
Head either direction at this fork to hike the loop through the Hidden Valley. Either direction starts and ends at this fork. The Hidden Valley Loop passes impressive rock formations, some with natural “windows” brimming with Arizona sunshine. Immense boulders lean against each other and kiss – providing shaded areas ideal for taking a short break. At the heart of Hidden Valley a long tunnel passes below gigantic stones. Crossing through the tunnel, on a soft sand base and along its shiny smooth walls, is uniquely fun.
After completing the one-mile loop through Hidden Valley, follow the Mormon Hiking Trail back to its trailhead. The trek down South Mountain provides stunning views of Phoenix – with Camelback and Piestewa Peak visible nearby, and the White Tank, Bradshaw and Mazatzal Mountain ranges framing the city in the distance.
At eleven miles long, South Mountain Preserve is the second largest municipal park in the world! Mormon Hiking Trail is one of over 15 trails in the park.
Directions From the southern leg of I-17, in Phoenix, take exit 195A / 16th Street. Head south on 16th Street for 2.36 miles to Southern Avenue. Turn left / east on Southern Avenue and drive for 1-mile to 24th Street. Turn right / south on 24th Street and continue for 1.73 miles to the Mormon Hiking Trail parking area at the base of South Mountain.
- Dayhike, Family Friendly, Pet Friendly, Phoenix, Rock Formation, Slot Canyon, Tunnel
- November 14, 2015