Best short hike in Phoenix: Mormon Trail to Hidden Valley and Fat Man’s Pass in South Mountain Park

If you’re in Phoenix for just a short time and need a quick fix of nature on one of the city’s legendary hiking trails, I have just the place for you. Head to the 24th Street Trailhead in South Mountain Park and hike Mormon Trail to Hidden Valley.

As seen on Secrets Revealed: 17 Hidden Gems in Phoenix You Need to Check Out

There are hundreds of trails in the Phoenix area worthy of more hiking, but none offer you the experience of this hike in such a short span of time.

Map of Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail hike.
Map of Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail hike. Credit:

Mormon Trail to Hidden Valley quick facts:

  • 3.4 miles (5.5 km) total distance of trail loop (out and back)
  • 918 feet (280 m) elevation gain; most of it in the first mile
  • Moderate level of difficulty
  • Requires only 2 to 3 hours to complete the entire loop
  • 4.5 star rating (out of 5)  on star rating:  (over 500 reviews)
  • No pass or permit required
  • Located just 6.7 miles (10.8 km) from Phoenix Sky Harbor airport
blooming flowers in the desert
Brittle bush and Ocotillo plants show off their colors along Mormon Trail in South Mountain Park, Phoenix.
Mushroom shaped boulder in a sandy creekbed
This mushroom shaped boulder in the Hidden Valley wash was carved by thousands of years of erosion.
Images carved into rock face
Faint etchings in rock faces known as petroglyphs remain as evidence of ancestral Hohokam Indians. Look for them to your right before heading into the tunnel shown below.
Tunnel carved out of rock
This tunnel carved out of rock is the highlight of Hidden Valley and provides a cool, shady break from the intense Arizona sun.
Narrow slit between two boulders
Fat Man’s Pass is a narrow slit between two massive boulders in the Hidden Valley loop on South Mountain in Phoenix. Basically, if you can squeeze through it you’re not fat. 🙂

Get a taste of the Mormon Trail – Hidden Valley – Fat Man’s Pass Loop in this video:

Video highlights:

  • Hike through a naturally formed tunnel.
  • See spectacular views of the desert and the Valley of the Sun, including downtown Phoenix.
  • Get a glimpse into the lifestyle of the ancestral people who once hunted the South Mountain Park area.
  • Discover unexplained designs on rocks.
  • Learn about the types of plants in this area and their secret to survival.
  • See if I can fit through Fat Man’s Pass – a tiny slit between two massive rocks

BONUS FOOTAGE: Watch the desert transform before your eyes as a light rain shower turns into driving rain, followed by creeks and waterfalls.

Shortest and quickest way to Hidden Valley and Fat Man’s Pass

  • Access Mormon Trail from the 24th Street Trailhead.
  • Hike up Mormon Trail approximately 1.5 miles until you see a sign pointing to Hidden Valley tunnel
  • Follow the signs to Hidden Valley
  • Once in Hidden Valley, follow wash (dry creekbed) “upstream” to Fat Man’s Pass
  • Just beyond Fat Man’s Pass you’ll see National Trail. Take a right on it back to Mormon Trail, then left back to the parking lot.

About South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park is the largest city-managed park in the country. It encompasses roughly 17,000 acres. By comparison, Vail Resort is the largest ski resort in the U.S. at 5,300 acres.

National Trail is the longest trail in the park and measures 14 miles in length (one way).

There are numerous trailheads (or access points) to South Mountain Park. Hidden Valley can be reached by starting at either the 24th Street or Pima Canyon trailheads.

Hidden Valley loop is an exhilarating hike on well-marked trails that lead you through a cool tunnel, over dry waterfalls, and between the challenging squeeze (if you choose) of Fat Man’s pass. Depending on your hiking pace, you’ll only need two to three hours to complete this hike.

If you have more time on your hands, there are several other trails to explore from the point where Mormon Trail intersects with the Hidden Valley loop. Just be careful to keep track of your path so you can find your way back to where you started.

Ready to check it out on your own? Tap the map↓


  1. I’ll have to check it out if I’m back in Phoenix at some point. With all the cooler and shaded areas of this hike, it seems like a good place for a rattle snake. I’d keep my eyes open 🙂

    1. It’s possible to encounter rattlesnakes pretty much anywhere in the Phoenix area. I’ve learned that the more people that travel the trail, the less likely a snake encounter is. And thanks for the comment. You helped spawn another blog post topic. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the video hike. We’re going there tomorrow and your information is helpful! Much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.