Take A Hike

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For those of you who moved to Payson because you "had to get out of the Valley," you might groan at this. But for the rest of you, head south to Phoenix and South Mountain Park.

The park is 16,000 acres, making it one of the largest municipal parks in the nation. Located at 10919 S. Central Ave., right in the city, something amazing happens when you get out of your car and off the asphalt.

At first, people still look at your with glazed-over, city eyes, but about a mile in, everyone greets you with a smile and it becomes a very social outdoors experience.

The trail is wide, well-maintained and family- and animal-friendly. It gives you great views of the Phoenix and plenty of opportunities to stop and say, "look at that layer of haze."

But the real reason to take this perfect-for-winter hike, is to see Fat Man's Pass.

To get there, follow the signs first for the National Trail and then for Hidden Valley.

The trail leads you right to a Fat Man's Pass, which is a foot-wide opening between two large rocks. It looks narrower than it actually is, so there is always the uncomfortable moment of debate when half of your hiking party isn't quite sure they aren't the "fat man" who won't make it through.

Because South Mountain Park is so large, you can turn this hike into a shorty day trip or a soul breaker.

The National Trail is 14.3 miles long and it is only one in an extensive network of other trails that could keep you busy all winter.

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