South Mountain Park access points include Desert Foothills Parkway
and Knox Road
on the south side, Pima Canyon Road
at the eastern edge and 24th Street
in the northeast, but the main entrance is half way along the north side of the mountains, via Central Avenue
- see map
below. The last mile or so of this route pass newish housing development until the road narrows as it approaches the edge of the hills, bending west and reaching the entrance station. Just before are a few ruined buildings from Scorpion Gulch
, a trading post in operation from 1936 to sometime in the 1970s, and now listed on the Phoenix register of historic properties. The park road continues southwest, passing various administration buildings, the South Mountain Environmental Education Center
(a museum, library and visitor center), several picnic areas and a number of trailheads, then forks after 2 miles. The right branch (San Juan Road) follows a valley to a viewpoint of desert lands to the northwest, while the left branch (Telegraph Pass Road) - the most popular and scenic - climbs towards the top of the mountains to two high elevation viewpoints, Dobbins Lookout
and then Buena Vista
, where it terminates. Both overlooks have fine views of greater Phoenix, from Avondale in the west across the tall buildings of the city center and east over the airport towards Tempe and Scottsdale. The viewpoints, and the park in general, are clean and free of litter, though flies can be a problem in summer.
The nearest hotels to the South Mountains are in Phoenix
to the north and Chandler
to the east.