Alta Trail And Bajada Trail

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South Mountain Preserve

Alta Trail And Bajada Trail is a 7.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Phoenix, Arizona that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 7.7 miles Elevation Gain: 1,601 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash


nature trips

bird watching



wild flowers


NOTE: As of February 2020, San Juan Road is closed for repaving which will add a few miles to the hike overall.

1 month ago

I parked on Estrella Drive which adds a mile to this hike. When I returned to my car I had hiked 9.70 miles. Alta trail is steep and slow to climb. My Garmin had me at 2021 elevation gain on completion of this trail. Take plenty of water. I went through 3 liters for the entire hike. Not much traffic, ran into one other hiker. Nice view!!

2 months ago

Alta trail really surprised me; very gorgeous trail wrapping around and over the Ma Ha Tauk mountains. I parked off Estrella street as had 5 other cars. Saw maybe half a dozen people. I did cheat and walk the roadway parallel to Bajada trail for a ways. Total length 9 miles. Loved it.

no shade
3 months ago

Note that San Juan road is closed for repaving so you will be unable to drive to the starting point that is on the All Trails map. I parked at the closure point (San Juan @ Summit Road) and started the hike where the Bajada trail crosses Summit Road. It added a few miles to hike overall. 9.63 mi. on the Garmin.

4 months ago

Lovely trail. Really enjoyed the Alt section but found the Bajada section a little too flat, although still enjoyable. Saw about 15 other hikers which seemed to be more than usual for this trail. Hiked on a the first Saturday in January. Definitely worth checking out!

5 months ago

Great local hike that gives me the mileage and elevation. Will definitely hike it again.

5 months ago

Did Alta-National-Bajada for a big 9.6 mile loop. Saw maybe 5 people on an overcast Monday. Awesome views of a storm rolling in. This is one of my new favorite loops, good elevation gain going up Alta with city views at the top and even flat National Trail is beautiful.

11 months ago

Best trail I've done in South Mountain park. The Alta portion might be the best trail in the City. I parked at the end of Estrella Dr. and took a little trail up over the hill to the Trailhead proper. Hiking up the Maricopa Peak side at the start of the hike will really give your legs a burn. At the high point of this trail there is a side path that you can take to the summit of Maricopa (totally worth it). Can't say enough about the Alta trail, the views with the up and downs make this trail fun and rewarding. The Bajada and National trails are average for South Mountain. I started my hike at 5 AM and finished just before 9. Very grateful for the early start considering a high of 110 today. Only saw 4 people on the trails.

11 months ago

Left trail head at about 8:30, probably should’ve left earlier. Quiet and peaceful Saturday morning, encountered 4 adults and two dogs- all were very friendly even the humans

Fri May 31 2019

Loved the view from the top. Went really early one morning at the end of May. Didn’t see a single other person on the trail. Great for solitude, physical challenge, and great views of the entire Valley!

Sun May 19 2019

Would recommend an out and back on Alta over this loop. Bajada would be great for trail running or equestrians, but was too flat for my liking to include in a hike (had to basically jog in my hiking boots in order to keep my heart rate up). Alta had much better terrain and views.

Tue Feb 26 2019

Soooo beautiful and so "out there." I never knew such vast space existed right outside the city. This loop is rated double black diamond which means it’s the hardest kind of hike there is. I would say it was very doable, but yes, it was hard. Part of the difficulty is simply the distance. The Bajada trail is mostly flat but it felt long. I brought a hydration pack with a 2 L bladder and I ended up drinking all of it and then a 500 L bottle my friend brought with him. We brought snacks, which was a good thing, although I felt I could have eaten even more.

Sat Jan 26 2019

Parked at the triangle intersection of the 3 roads South Central, San Juan, and Summit Rd. The San Juan road is closed except the first Saturday and Sunday of every month. Starting from the parking lot, follow Bajada trail until you get to Alta trail, and then do the loop counter clockwise. This way, you can enjoy the views in the first half of the hike, since you walk the ridge of the mountain/along Maricopa peak. You'd then end the loop by walking the base back to the parking lot. This hike was phenomenal and the views from the top are incredible - you can see the whole valley. It was also lightly trafficked, which I really appreciate. Passed by maybe 2-3 other parties of hikers the whole time. I'd rate it more moderate than hard.

Sun Dec 30 2018

Parking for ~5 vehicles east of 43rd Ave at Estrella. 1/2 mile to San Juan Lookout, then chose your trailhead to Alta or National Trail. Did the full loop, 9.76 miles, ~2,150’ elevation gain, took about 4 1/2 hours. First half of Alta Trail the most challenging with steep hills. Trails fairly well marked and groomed. Lightly traffic (saw ~12 people). Good hike and enjoyed

Sun Sep 09 2018

Mon Feb 19 2018

The hike was challenging with great views and quiet. The trail for the most part was not complicated to navigate but there are points where the gravel is loose and steep points that require you to have great knees. It was also not confusing if another trail merged. It took me about 4 hours to complete and I would suggest plenty of water and a few snacks.

Sat Dec 23 2017

Nice quiet trail. Some of the footing is loose in steep areas, so trotting to finish in less than 2 hours can be difficult.

Sun Oct 15 2017

Love this trail. I’ve done it twice. If you like trails that aren’t heavily trafficked to give you a sense of being out in the middle of nowhere, this is for you. Once you come over the peak, you’ll be greeted with an amazing view of Phoenix (and all surrounding areas). Highly recommend. Can definitely get to your knees on the way down though.

Tue Apr 25 2017

the trail to the summit and back is great and is only about 3 miles roundtrip. not sure that the full loop is worth it.

Thu Apr 20 2017

Bring lots of water!

Sun Mar 12 2017

Moderate to difficult in elevation gain on Alta. Moderate on National and Bajada leg. Difficult in terms of total distance. Be sure to use the Central Ave. entrance to South Mountain Park and park at the triangle/wedge as others have mentioned. Made the mistake of driving out to Laveen to the green and black dot on the map to find no access. Alta portion of this loop is very pretty in Spring: flowers in bloom, vivid chollas and ocotillos. Despite other reviews, was still quite surprised at level of solitude: went on a Sunday at 8am and once hitting Alta ridgeline, saw total of 6 people on way to San Juan Lookout (where Alta and National meet). Once completing Alta, continue on National until hitting Bajada. Minimal scenery on Bajada. Lots of dry wash crossings. May be more scenic after a rainstorm (although potentially dangerous). Took 4 hours total going solo and taking a few short breaks. Would plan on 5 to 6 hours if including a 1/2 hour lunch/break and moving at a casual pace.

Mon Jan 16 2017

I recommend doing this loop by starting on the Bajada (head west) and return on the Alta trail. You don't get much in the way of views when you head east on the Bajada. Another note, when you get closer to the west end of this loop you, take the National trail. It is what connects the Bajada to the Alta and is about a 3/4 mile little junction.

Fri Dec 30 2016

Good workout!

Sat Aug 06 2016

loooong ass hike....but very nice trail

Thu Jun 23 2016

This hike is a loop, but the red line doesn't show a loop. The green/black circle (Alta Trailhead?) is only accessible by vehicle (and parking is extremely limited) on the first Sat/Sunday of the month. It is also the end of the National Trail, which circles the base of the Maricopa peak to the south and east, then heads over to where the Bajada is shown as a dotted line. The Alta Trail is done well, but the red needs to go out (west) along the Bajada to the National, and then back to the start of the Alta. OR - the little 0.5 mile jog on the Bajada east goes to another parking spot (the triangle outside the San Juan gate - also limited parking available). The Alta/Bajada is generally the loop using both trails and is shorter than going out on Alta and back on Alta (which is not a loop, but an out-and-back). Lastly, the little 0.4 mile 'trail' on the east end of this 'loop' is NOT a trail, and it is definitely NOT a part of the Alta/Bajada Loop.

Sat Apr 02 2016

This is probably the prettiest trail on South Mountain. Only downfall is the trail being a bit hard to get to.

Fri Mar 25 2016

I loved this trail....did trail running all the way up and down. Some parts the trail was not to stable but a work out it will definitely give.

cross country skiing
Sun Feb 14 2016

Loved the Alta hike! We did the 4.5 miles there and then back. I will be suffering for days but loved it

Tue Feb 02 2016

Hiked a loop of Alta and Bajada. I parked at the gate on San Juan Road and walked to the east Alta trailhead, hiked to the San Juan trailhead, and followed Bajada from there back to the car. About 10 miles. Alta Trail is scenic, and narrow and precipitous in many stretches. I enjoyed Alta quite a bit, which made up for the relatively uninteresting way back on Bajada.

Sat Nov 15 2014

Summit #1 of the 2014 Phoenix Summit Challenge. Having a blast!

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