Difficulty Level: Moderate (for beginners – Difficult)
Location: Maricopa Trailhead – North Mountain
Located about 11 miles North of downtown Phoenix, stands the overlooked, North Mountain. This smaller mountain range may not get as noticed as it’s nearby cousins of the Phoenix Preserves or it’s directionally opposite partner, South Mountain but it has a lot to offer.
One of the most popular hikes that is good for beginner to moderately skilled hikers looking to gain strength and experience is the National Trail along North Mountain. ( South Mountain also has a National Trail)
While only being a 1.6 mile long hike, this trail gets your blood pumping with some steep sections. However, half of this trail is paved making it a good challenge for beginning hikers. You get the steepness factor but no loose rocks or big steps to step over. The other side is not paved, so if you want a full on natural hiking experience than you can find it on the South side of the trail.
From the parking lot at the Maricopa Trailhead, you will immediately be greeted with a sufficiently sized ascent. Looking up from the parking lot, hikers look more like busy ants on an ant hill than on a breezy day hike.
Once up this section, the trail veers away from the parking lot and towards the back of the mountain. It’s at this point that the trail is paved along with sections of railings to hang onto.
Once you near the top of the mountain, the trail will transform once again to a dirt path, leading up to the mighty antenna’s and along the mountain’s ridgeline. From this towering spot on the summit, a pair of hawks can be seen silently gliding high above hikers heads, while the encompassing views of the surrounding mountains reminds hikers that there’s a lot more nature to Phoenix than our parks and gardens.
From this viewpoint, I witnessed the majority of the hikers turning down and going back the way they came, down the asphalt.
However, the trail continues as you follow along the ridgeline and it begins to take you back down and around, ultimately making this a loop trail. Although, as mentioned above this portion of the trail is not paved and therefore feels more natural to hike on and to take in the beautiful surroundings.
As you come down, the trail guides you back towards the parking lot, returning you safely back to your car.