logo Arizona Trailblazers
Outdoor Links
Hike Arizona
Trip Planning Guide
Trip Report Index
Calendar of Events
Alta Trail Loop Day Hike
South Mountain Park
April 14, 2001
by Ted Tenny
Mike, Steven, Chuck, Himanshu, Adam, Grace, Ted
Mexican gold poppies cheer us.

Seven ebullient hikers set out from mile 2.5 of San Juan Road to hike the Alta Trail over a prominent ridge in the northwest corner of the Phoenix South Mountains.

The east side of the Alta Trail is well maintained. There are rocks lining the trail on both sides, lots of switchbacks going up to the ridge, metal signposts (with no signs), and a park bench made of rocks overlooking the Bajada Trail across the valley.

Ted stopped several times on the way up to consolidate the hikers before reaching the ridge. At one point we were in radio contact with three others who intended to join us but had arrived late and started hiking on the Bajada Trail instead of the Alta Trail.

We could see them and talk to them across the valley, but never met them.

Soon we attained the ridge, enjoying its grandiose view of Phoenix and Bank One Ballpark. After a short excursion on the south side of the ridge, the trail crosses over to the north side for the rest of our ridge traversal. Sights include houses with variegated architecture and barrel cactus growing right out of the rock.

The Alta Trail traverses the ridge westward.

At the west end of the ridgeline we are rewarded with a magnificent view of the wild and spectacular Sierra Estrella! Ted identifies the highest peaks from north to south:

•  Peak 4512, highest point in the Sierra Estrella, capped with a forlorn radio antenna.
Montezuma Sleeping, 4129', shaped like Montezuma's head facing upward.
Butterfly Mountain, 4119', hiding 4052' Quartz Peak behind its great stone wings.
Montezuma Peak 4354', standing watch over the Sierra Estrella on the south.
Brittlebush and ocotillo add splashes of color.

The west side of the Alta Trail needs maintenance. Several of its switchbacks have become badly eroded leaving us with a steep, gravely descent. A troupe of bicyclists have converged at the west end of San Juan Road where we eat lunch under a roofless ramada.

“The day won’t get much cooler,” Ted reminds us as we start back on the National Trail. It’s a cake walk compared to the Alta Trail, but Ted takes up the sweep position to make sure that nobody gets left behind.

After stopping in the shade where the National Trail crosses San Juan Road, we turn east and start into the home stretch on the Bajada Trail.

The Bajada Trail takes us on the northern slope of the ridgeline that parallels the Alta Trail on the south. The route has a lot of ups and downs, as we have to go through gullies and ravines along the slope.

After about a mile of this, Adam and Grace decide to bail out. Ted advises them to make their way north off-trail to the road, where he will pick them up after walking back to the trailhead. Mike, Chuck and Adam keep in radio contact until the rescue is effected.

Lesson Learned
1. Start early on a spring hike, while the morning is cool.
2. Be prepared for a lot of ups and downs on the Bajada Trail.
3. This hike should be rated "B".
      top Top of Page
Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
Comments? Send them to the AZHC .

updated November 19, 2019