Fat Man’s Pass – South Mountains
Fat Man’s Pass is one of the most popular hikes near Phoenix, AZ. Two large boulders force you to squeeze through them to the other side of the trail; a fat man cannot squeeze through this gap (to be honest, it’s a tight squeeze), but I would argue that a fat man can’t get to the pass to begin with. This is one of those trails that leads uphill from the start, and while I’ve listed this trail as an easy trail, it was with much deliberation. From the parking lot at the Mormon Trailhead, the trail immediately leads uphill. You will begin to appreciate why some hikers consider this a moderate or difficult trail.
This is one of those hikes you want to do in the early morning. Moving your way to the top of the first hill only rewards you with another couple of hills to hike up. These “false summits” are a little annoying. That being said, this is a trail that most people can hike on without too much difficulty. Take your time, take a few breaks, and you’ll be fine. After 1 ½ mile, the trail slows its steady incline as you reach the first intersection.
This hike, as described, is a straight shot to Fat Man’s Pass, and a straight shot back. You can alternatively make this a loop as a part of the Mormon Trail Loop, or you can add a loop at the Hidden Valley trail, following Fat Man’s Pass through and continuing on the trail to add another half mile to the trail. My dog was tired (and overheated in early March), so pace yourself on this trail. The trail is hot and miserable even when the temperature is only seventy degrees.
The directions for this hike are simple: stay on the main Mormon Trail (which later turns into the Hidden Valley Trail) until a half mile past the first intersection at the top of the hill. Stay on the main trail, and you will eventually (2 ¼ miles from the trailhead) reach the turn for Fat Man’s Pass. Turn left and head a hundred yards downhill to compare your gut against the two boulders. Remember to take short breaths, to drop your pack or hold it over your head, and to take your time squeezing through the two boulders. It would be embarrassing to call for help because you were stuck at Fat Man’s Pass.
Once you’ve made it through Fat Man’s pass (hopefully with pictures as proof), you can turn around and trace your steps back to the trailhead. If you’re willing to hike another half-mile, you can see the natural tunnel on Hidden Valley Trail. These are busy trails on weekdays and insanely busy trails on the weekends, be sure not to leave any litter behind, and to stay on the designated path. There are a few signs of overuse and even graffiti along this trail, try to set an example to others by reversing some of that damage.
Directions to the Mormon Trailhead
Located south of Phoenix, AZ in a well-signed neighborhood, drive to 8610 S 24th St, Phoenix, AZ 85042. Any GPS, map, or phone app will be able to get you to the right place. Phoenix is so big it’s hard to give general directions that are accurate. This is a busy trailhead, and all the locals know where it is. Stopping at a gas station if you lose your way will allow you to get better directions.
Map to the Mormon Trailhead