Few places in the Valley, let alone the country, have as lavish a menu of outdoor activities within a few minutes’ drive — or walk — as Ahwatukee Foothills.
Nestled snug against the majestic South Mountain Park and Preserve, which is one of the largest municipal parks in the nation, the community has more than 50 miles of equestrian, hiking and mountain biking trails on more than 16,000 acres of pristine desert. And it’s literally in many residents’ back yard.
No matter where you enter South Mountain, urban sprawl soon falls away and you’re transported into a vast, peaceful desert wonderland, with rolling hills, bucolic canyons, towering boulders, giant saguaros and all manner of flora and fauna (coyotes and javelinas are common, and you may occasionally see bobcats). Cresting over a peak can bring you back to the city, but with rewarding panoramic views.
Ahwatukee has other convenient city and homeowner association parks, but South Mountain is the shining jewel for serious recreation. You might see mountain bike companies testing new models or people training for marathons. You’ll definitely see dogs; maybe horses. What you won’t see are cars: Once you’re on the trails, no vehicles are allowed, except in emergencies.
Speaking of that, the terrain can be challenging, and it’s easy to get dehydrated or suffer a heat-related illness. Wear sunscreen, take plenty of water, dress appropriately, practice trail etiquette and watch where you’re going.
If you want fresh air while being more social or competitive, Ahwatukee offers some of the best golf, tennis and pickleball in town. While you can play tennis for free anytime at public courts at Pecos, Sun Ray and Western Star parks, the Ahwatukee Swim, Tennis and Event Center is affordable and accessible. Meanwhile, Pecos Park is the place to be if you’re a pickleball player, and golfers come from far and wide to enjoy the spectacular design, amenities and vistas at Foothills Golf Club.
Here are our picks for where to get your heart rate pumping.
Although there are numerous access points into South Mountain Park and Preserve from Ahwatukee neighborhoods, the bustling Pima Canyon Trailhead, 4800 E. Pima Canyon Road, is one of the best places to bike or hike, whether you want a gently sloping in-and-out (great for all ages and abilities) or a more rigorous workout with loops and steeper climbs (such as the Ridge Line or Mormon Loop). Check the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation website and navigate to the South Mountain Park and Preserve page for more information and trail maps.
Foothills Golf Club, at 2201 E. Clubhouse Drive, is a par-72 championship, links-style course designed by internationally acclaimed architects Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. Its stunning views alone make it one of the Valley’s top courses, but it also has a four-star ranking from Golf Digest as well as a putting and chipping green and driving range.
The Pecos Pickleball Club at Pecos Park, 17010 S. 48th St., has a devoted and enthusiastic membership with lessons, clinics, leagues and round robins. The park has 16 courts that opened in 2018, and they’re perennially popular. Get the details online at pecospickleballclub.org. (In the northern reaches of the neighborhood, both tennis courts at Western Star Park also are lined for pickleball.)
Ahwatukee Swim, Tennis and Event Center, 4700 E. Warner Road, has six lighted courts and offers a reservation system, two ball machines, mixed doubles nights and drop-in clinics. It’s one of the best opportunities around to meet other players, and it also hosts league play and lessons. Membership is open to anyone; dues are reasonable and posted on their website.