Marco de Niza Hiking Trail

Marco de Niza Hiking Trail – South Mountain

The Marco de Niza hiking trail is a great little route to hike on those days where you need a quick escape from the city grind or you’re looking for a quick workout. This moderate two mile hiking trail is great for beginners, children and pets.

Trailhead Sign for Marco de Niza Hiking trail, along dirt path in the Phoenix desert, Arizona
Marco de Niza Hiking Trail, Phoenix – Arizona

The most intense portion of this trail occurs right in the beginning. The trail inclines gradually with short curvy switchbacks. Once at the top, the trail follows along a portion of the hilly ridgetop of South Mountain.

Marco de Niza Historical Rock Carving

It’s here along this area where you can find the signature of Marco de Niza. As you approach, it looks a little strange like a jail cell protruding out of the mountain side.

path carved into Marco de Niza hiking trail in Phoenix, Arizona leading up towards a brown grate around section of stone
Marco de Niza trail leading towards historical marker

As you get closer you can bend down and look between the metal rods to take a peek. In English the etching reads; “Friar Marcos de Niza crowned all of New Mexico at his expense in the year 1539.”

brown stone with carving of Marco de Niza signature on South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona
Marco de Niza carving along Marco de Niza hiking trail in Phoenix, Arizona

Marco de Niza Trail Summary

From here, the trail takes on a more direct and straight path up to the ridgeline of South Mountain.

Again, this is nothing too steep but it will get your heart pumping.

Once on the top, the trail mellows out and travels along the eastern ridgeline of the mountain, taking you up and down the peaks.

As you continue, along your left side you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the surrounding neighborhoods while on the right will be the inner rolling mountain tops of South Mountain. You feel directly in between the two different worlds each side has to offer.

All Paths Lead to the Same Place

Along the ridgeline, this trail branches off in separate ways. It may seem confusing at first, but don’t worry, all paths lead to the same place.

The path to the right, is a steeper area with loose gravel to be mindful of.

Or if you choose the path on the left, there will be a portion that will require some slight scrambling, depending on your height.

Jagged rock wall with gap towards the bottom along Marco de Niza hiking trail on South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona
Portion that requires slight scrambling, or you can head towards the right where no scrambling is required

End of Trail

At the end this trail intersects with the Beverly Canyon trail. From here you can turn back the way you came, or turn onto Beverly Canyon and make this a longer hike.

Marco de Niza Hiking Trail weaving between wooden telephone poles with the numbers 10 6 nailed on South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona
Marco de Niza Hiking Trail, Phoenix – Arizona

Overall, this is a great trail to get a quick escape from the city, a little slice of history and also a great workout.

Brown stones piled up on top of each other with a brown sign and yellow font saying Marco de Niza rock, along Marco de Niza hiking trail on South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona
Marco de Niza Hiking Trail, Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Hiking Trail Essentials:

Over 200 hikers a year have accidents along the Phoenix hiking trails. The desert is a beautiful wide open space but with that also comes a bit of danger that all hikers need to be aware of and be prepared for.

To give you the best hiking experience be sure to bring these following essentials with you on your Phoenix hike

  • Water
  • Sunscreen/Sun Protected Clothing
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Salty Snacks (electrolytes)
  • Durable shoes
6:14 am6:49 pm MST
Feels like: 54°F
Wind: 7mph E
Humidity: 36%
Pressure: 30"Hg
UV index: 0

Who Was Marco de Niza?

Marco de Niza, for whom this hiking trail is named was an explorer that made his way through Arizona into what today is known as New Mexico. Rumor has it that he traveled through South Mountain, while onto his way to discover this land.

To validate this rumor there is an etching of his name marked into a portion of the mountain that can be found along this trail.

In order to protect this historical marking, a barred cage surrounds it.

Hoax of the Marco de Niza Hiking Trail

But…the joke is on us.

Marco de Niza would have created this around the 16th century. The scientists have determined that this was written sometime in the 20th century.

Yep, we got pranked! The park has left the metal bars around this area and hikers can still enjoy the novelty of it along the trail.

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