As most of you know from reading the newsletter in the past, and from looking at the Day Rides section of Cyclerides.com, I am always looking for that next destination that I can point the nose of the Road Glide to and then report back to you my latest finding. I was talking to a friend of mine one day (Mack) and he said he was going to take a ride up South Mountain. I knew South Mountain was there, I see the towers all the time, but had never taken the time to ride up to the top. For some reason I had always been under the impression that it was just a couple mile ride straight up to the top and it was no big deal. I WAS WRONG!
About 3 weeks ago I found myself with a little extra time on a beautiful Friday afternoon. I needed to add a few more miles for the 10,000 mile service and was itching to take a ride. So I pointed the nose of the Road Glide South and headed for the mountain with the towers on it. As I was riding down there I found it amazing that I have lived here for 25 years and have never been up South Mountain. In fact, never been to the bottom of it. I had to look it up on the map just to know for sure how to get there. I guess it is one of those things that when you are that close to it, you just don't find an urgency to go do it. Kind of like living in Arizona and never having gone to the Grand Canyon, but others will fly half way around the world to see it.
While South Mountain Park doesn't compare to the Grand Canyon in awesome beauty, it does have a pretty cool distinction of its' own. At nearly 17,000 acres, South Mountain Park is the largest Municipal Park in the world. When you think of a "Park" you might imagine open grassy fields, playgrounds, soccer fields and lakes. You won't find those here. This would probably be more aptly described as a desert mountain preserve. While picnics, 58 miles of hiking on 10 different trails, mountain biking and trail rides are popular activities here, it was the ride that will have me coming back.
South Mountain Park is easy to reach from anywhere in the Valley as it is located just West of I-10 at 10919 S. Central Ave. and South of I-17. Park hours are 5:30am - 11pm. You can take Baseline W. off of I-10 or 7th ave. exit off of I-17 to get to Central Ave. As you are heading South on Central you will see a sign telling you that you have reached the park followed by a tight right turn that will begin your journey. I would suggest taking a bottle of water or two with you especially as the temperatures get warmer because there is NOTHING at the top for refreshments. If you forget, you can make a quick stop at the Ponderosa Stables next to Scorpion Gulch to see the horses and the 2 headed turkey, you can get a bottled water out of the vending machine.
As soon as you go past the Park Ranger station you will see a sign that says "Winding Park Roads 15 M.P.H. On Curves". This couldn't be more true. Although it is only a 5.5 mile ride to Dobbin's Lookout, it will take you about 15-20 minutes to get there, especially if you are unlucky enough to get behind one of the sightseeing SUV's that are plentiful on this road. You will think it is a short ride, but by the time you Dobbin's Lookout, Buena Vista and the Tower Rd. among others, it will be about a 20 mile roundtrip full of twists and turns.
My first stop was to be Dobbin's Lookout. At 2330 foot in elevation, it is the highest accessible point in the park. As I zig zagged my way up the side of the mountain I could see the view and the panorama of the Valley area to the North start to expand. Trying to take a peek as I was riding but also keeping an eye on this twisty road, I had to stop a couple of times to take it all in. The higher you go, the more of the Valley comes into view and the more awestruck you become. By the time you reach Dobbin's Lookout you have an awesome 210 degree view of the Valley from the Estrella Mountains to the Superstitions and everything in between as far as your eyes can see. As you park and walk onto the point you will see a brass plaque located on the top of a round concrete structure that will show you all of the points of interest across your view. There is an old stone building you can stand in to get out of the sun or you can set on one of the several benches to take in this incredible sight.
After we left Dobbin's we took the road back and headed South to Buena Vista Lookout and then to the TV Towers. Yes, these are the same TV Towers that you see from almost anywhere in the valley. After seeing these for the last 25 years from afar, it was really neat to them up close and see what is around them. From the Tower Lookout point you can see all of Ahwatukee and as far South and you can see. The day that Mrs. C. and I were there we met up with some other riders that were taking advantage of this great ride. We were also entertained by paragliders who were strapping a parachute to their backs and jumping off of the back side of the mountain. Click Here for the video. I've done a lot of things including bungee and skydiving, but this just seems like a little too much left to chance on this activity. One little gust of wind at the wrong time and you could be doing a face plant into the side of a hill. But it did look thrilling, and it wouldn't surprise me if I were soon doing a story on paragliding. After watching the paragliders and taking a few photos we were ready to start our trip back down the hill.
If you are ever in a situation where you have some extra time and want to go for a short ride without leaving the valley area, this would be a good one. It would really be a good place to go to just sit on a bench and relax, maybe eat a sandwich, watch the city and the planes take off at Sky Harbor or watch the sun set and the city lights come to life. I enjoyed this ride so much that I took Mrs. C. back with me last weekend. And I'm sure I will be back again at dusk to see the valley lights. You will need to be very careful as you ride these narrow roads. There is loose gravel around a few of the corners and there are hardly any guardrails. Some of the corners are very tight and you don't want to miss one like somebody did here. On weekends there are a lot of bicyclists that you will have to avoid as well.
Other than that, go enjoy yourself and make this an excuse to get out and take a ride. I will be adding this to the Day Rides section on the site and I am giving it 4 spokes out o 5 for a good, short in town ride destination.
Click Here For Photos