We weren't exactly lost.
It's more like, we happened to wander off course a few times.
Colleen and I had big plans for our Saturday in the Phoenix and Tempe area during the last weekend of our winter getaway to Arizona. The day was to go as follows: a four-mile hike of the Mormon Loop at South Mountain Park and Preserve, followed by a lunch and beers at Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe.
Well, four miles became five as we continued to follow the bends and turns of the trail system at South Mountain. Each stretch provided stunning looks at the desert landscape or new views of the city sprawling in the valley below. We let our eyes and feet wander away from our prep-planned course because we were interested in the great scenery -- and mostly because we got a little off track when checking the route on our AllTrails app.
Before too long, we had registered six miles . . . and then seven . . . and it became apparent that our lunch plans were going to be pushed back an hour or so -- and that we were really going to appreciate those cold beers at Four Peaks. But we were really enjoying the morning (and early part of the afternoon) wandering the undulating trails on South Mountain, so our grumbling tummies could wait. Our designs on just hiking Mormon Loop had expanded to add a pretty portion of National Trail.
South Mountain Park and Preserve is an extremely popular recreational spot and one of the best day hikes in Phoenix, and by the time we arrived around 10:30 a.m., the parking lot was full, and vehicles lined the roads of the adjacent neighborhood, as well.
As we arrived and found a parking spot about a half mile down the road from the trailhead, I had a sense of dread about having to deal with a crowded trail. As we arrived to the start of the hike, we immediately saw dozens of people scrambling up and down the path, either starting their hikes or just finishing up.
"Was this even going to be worth it?" I said to myself, but Colleen could easily sense my irritation.
This wasn't going to be so bad after all.
Patience, John, patience!
Once you make it past the first steep section at the start, the route flattens out, and you'll begin to find trail markers that indicate different sections and directions on which you can set out. It seems that the bulk of the hikers are out for just a short hike to climb up for the picturesque views.
Colleen and I hiked for a few hours and were treated with some stunning views in all directions, especially once we ascended a peak on the National Trail and headed along a secluded "razorback" portion where we were the only hikers.
South Mountain Park and Preserve features a classic desert landscape, with incredible rock formations, steep climbs, mesas and plenty of saguaro cactuses and hardy desert grasses and bushes.
The menu at Four Peaks is filled with all kinds of appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, so it was hard to choose. But our late lunch was oh-so-satisfying and went down great with the brewery's fab selection of beers.
We might have felt lost for a bit on that mountain, but we definitely found a fantastic way to spend a mid-winter day in Arizona.
Please enjoy this video of our hike at South Mountain Park and Preserve: