A History of South Mountain

Arizona is full of scenic state parks and preserves. One example of these can even be found in the middle of Phoenix!


Ian McLeod

The natural beauty of South Mountain is breathtaking.

Allister McLeod, Editor of Student Opinion

South Mountain is one of Arizona’s most popular parks, covering over 16,000 acres of land, and receiving more than a million visitors each year, according to The Arizona Republic. Trails and paths of all skill levels can be found stretching across this beautiful mountain. The Kiwanis trail, and others like it, show the natural desert landscape that covers most of the state, with unique flora and fauna, rocky mountain peaks, and beautiful sunsets. Other popular trails include the Fat Man’s Pass, which displays interesting rock formations, and the Holbert trail, which leads hikers to ruins overlooking the city. These ruins, along with the much larger Lost Ranch ruins, are part of the interesting and mostly unknown beauty of this state park.

Exploration of South Mountain is thought to have started in the earlier 1800s, when miners entered Arizona in the hopes of finding large deposits of gold or copper. City of Phoenix states that the establishment of this area grew larger in 1924, when it was bought and separated from the Salt River Mountains. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt secured the area as a state park, and founded the Civilian Conservation Corps, or the CCC. This program was made in order to provide jobs to Americans after the Great Depression, and served the dual purpose of expanding and improving state parks and preserves. The CCC started many of the trails and structures that are present in the park today, and established it as a recreational area.

Along with starting the park on the path to what it is today, the CCC also discovered various ruin-like structures within the park, the largest of them being the Lost Ranch ruins. Dan Gronseth, the current manager of South Mountain park, spoke in an interview conducted by Valley 101, stating that it is unknown who built these structures, and when they may have done so. The most common theory is that the ranch was originally built by miners, who were still looking for gold and copper in the mountain after the majority of other miners had left. They most likely abandoned the ranch due to the harsh Arizona summers which made living away from a water source almost impossible.

Today, South Mountain is a place for hikers and families to enjoy the natural landscape of Arizona, and experience the trails and ruins that are part of its history. The City of Phoenix website contains detailed records of what changes have been made to the park in recent years, ensuring that the newer structures and trails don’t become nothing but memories in the future (Related: check out some other great Arizona hiking locations).