The trails in the South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona, are for experienced desert hikers or those who are ready to give it a try. Most of the trails are graded as moderate or difficult, and run through areas with steep inclines and harsh conditions. Pets are welcome, but check the weather reports before you set out. If the temperatures rise to a hundred degrees or more, dogs aren't allowed on the trails as it's just too hot for them.
You can reach South Mountain Park by heading out of Phoenix along Central Avenue. There are fourteen different trailheads and forty miles of trails in this sixteen thousand acre park, so planning in advance which trail you're going to hike is a good idea. Detailed trail maps are available on the phoenix.gov/parks website.
All the trails in South Mountain Park will lead you through desert surroundings studded with tall cacti and past twisted, weather-worn rock formations. The surface of the trails can be dry, dusty and deeply rutted so wear the appropriate footwear. This is arid land, take plenty of drinking water for you and your pup and depending on the length of the route you're taking, provisions too. Also, carry a snake bite kit, just in case.
To get to one of the moderate hiking trails, the Kiwanis Trail, follow Stephen Mather Drive from the park's main entrance until you reach the cross junction. Take the left fork onto Piedras Drive, and you'll come to the trailhead. It's a one-mile hike along the bottom of a canyon and a great place to start your desert hiking experience. If you want to test you and your pup's hiking abilities, try the Mormon Trail. The trailhead is on Mormon Drive. It's around a mile long with a few steep inclines, but it's worth the effort as there are some great petroglyphs to be seen on the way.
The Hidden Valley Trail is an easy 3.5 mile hike that begins at the Buena Vista Lookout where the road ends and many trails branch off. Take the National Trail, which stretches into the Hidden Valley, where it is called the Hidden Valley Trail. The path wanders through undulating land and reaches a cactus filled area. This part of the National Trail is for hikers only.
Have a woofderful desert hike!