The National Trail
continues all the way across South Mountain, but if someone tells you they did the National Trail
this is most likely what they mean. The return descent from the Buena Vista Lookout is technical and rocky all the way back to the Pima Canyon Trailhead. On the way up, most people tackle the climbing on this ride by going up the Mormon Loop Trail
, arguably the simplest way to get from Pima Canyon Trailhead to Buena Vista Lookout. While it's easier than climbing up the National Trail
, it's by no means easy! People do climb National, but the vast majority ride it as a descent only.
To see trials pro Jeff Lenosky clean the National Trail
in the uphill direction, check out Trail Boss: Climb the Treacherous Waterfall on Phoenix, Arizona's National Trail
From the Pima Canyon Trailhead, ride the wide, smooth Dirt Road
to a junction with the National Trail
just before a sandy wash. Follow the National Trail
across the small wash, past the junction with Pima Wash Trail
to your right. At the second junction, follow the signs right to get on the more climbable Mormon Loop Trail
Follow the signs up the Mormon Loop Trail
for quite a ways until it joins the Mormon Trail
proper, at which point, take a left. After a few minutes, the Mormon Trail
meets up with the National Trail
. Turn right to continue up National to Buena Vista Lookout. Many people also go left and descend National from here.
Upon reaching the lookout, be sure to take time to rest, get some water and a snack, and mentally prepare for the demanding technical downhill that awaits on the National Trail
. When you're ready, head east on the National Trail
, keep left at the sign for Hidden Valley and right at the Mormon Trail
. After that, it's more or less a straight shot down to the Dirt Road
and the Pima Canyon Trailhead.
You'll find abundant rock gardens, drops in the 2-foot range, and plenty of bigger stuff too. Most of the hardest spots can be hiked down or ridden around, but bring as much suspension travel as you own. And remember that you'll have to make up for anything less than 6" with that much more guts and skillz!