Mormon Loop to National Loop Trail

Distance6.64 mi
Elevation Gain1,355 ft
My Time2 hr 57 min
DifficultyModerate
Closest TownPhoenix
Food NearbyFour Peaks

Mormon Loop to National Loop

The Mormon Loop to National Loop trail is a very popular and crowded trail that is of moderate difficulty. It is very popular with both hikers and bikers. The hike starts with a big incline and is also home to the Fat Man’s Pass!

Getting Started

The hardest part of this hike by far is the start. The hike starts out with an immediate incline that is pretty brutal. In the opening 1.2 miles of the hike you will have to climb a whopping 740 feet! The grades aren’t overwhelming, usually in the mid 20% but it is just pretty much straight up with no real sweeping switchbacks to soften the blow. The trail is also very rocky but with big boulders so the footing is ok if you are comfortable walking on a lot of rocks.

The opening incline up the to the Mormon loop to National Loop trail

At the top of the hill is another small hill that gives you what I thought was the best view of the whole hike. This first hill gives the view of the Phoenix area as you look towards the north.

The view back towards Phoenix from the Mormon Loop to National Loop trail.

Decision Time

When you come down from this hill you will have a couple of different ways that you can go. If you head to the east, you will be able to complete the 7 mile loop. If you are only there to see Fat Man’s Pass then you should head to the south to connect to the Hidden Valley trail.

I had planned to only go to the pass but was told the wrong way and ended up taking the long, hot 7 mile loop…not that I am bitter.

Mormon Trail

Heading to the east on Mormon trail is pretty simple. The trail on top of the hill is very well defined and popular with the bikers. It will actually be mostly downhill from the first big hill and a nice time to get some recovery in. Being a Midwest kid and not seeing many Saguaro cactus growing up I was pretty impressed with seeing these on the trail right next to me.

Tall Saguaro Cactus lining the dirt trail on the Mormon Loop to National Loop Trail.

This section of the Mormon trail goes 1.4 miles and has a 400 foot decline in elevation. It will loop around to the south for a bit before connecting to the National Loop Trail.

National Loop

What goes down must come up. From here the National Loop trail heads back west and immediately up another hill. This hill is about 400 feet of elevation gain in just over a mile. Almost exactly what you descended from the Mormon section. I liked the National Trail a little more though because it is much more rocky and has plenty of cool rock formations.

Some of the cool stacked dark rocks on the Mormon Loop to National Loop Trail.  Large boulders stacked ontop of each other.

At the four mile total mark you have the option of connecting the back to the Mormon trail for a shorter loop. But since everyone is looking for Fat Man’s Pass that is on this hike for the first time you will probably want to take the Hidden Valley Trail. Note that there are no signs directing you to Fat Man’s Pass so you have to find it on the map.

Fat Man’s Pass

From the National Loop junction, Fat Man’s Pass is about a half mile from down the Hidden Valley Trail. This trail is actually really cool as the rocks become taller and you will have to climb over several boulders to make it to the pass. There isn’t much as far as markers and we got a little lost wondering around looking for the best way to go.

Boulders that make a tunnel to walk under on the Mormon Loop to national Loop trail.

Honestly I started to think that all of the rock formations like the above picture were Fat Man’s Pass and was getting pretty confident until I got to the actual pass. I did a write up about my experience on the pass that you can read here. But if you were curious how I did making it through I offer you this:

Finishing up

After the Pass it is just another half of a mile back to the Mormon Trail where you first came up. Then you just have to walk down that first hill and you are finished. SO if you are just doing this hike for the Fat Man’s Pass make sure that you do the quick version and head south after your first hill!

Bonus Video

Here are a couple of videos from the Mormon Loop and National Loop. The first one is a shorter narrative of the hike while the second one is a time-lapsed version of the completed hike. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel to get updates for each post if you like videos such as this.

Short Edit

Hiker Edit

Elevation and Distance

If you don’t have the AllTrails app you might want to check it out, I really love mine. It records your progress and is a great way to search for hikes that are nearby and gives you difficulty measurements. According to AllTrails today’s hike was around 6.64 miles and had a total elevation gain of about 1,355 feet including undulations. That put the high point at around 2,113 feet. I was also moving for a total of 2 hours and 57 minutes.

Effort

This one was a bit of a challenge. The opening hill had inclines into the 30% grade range with rocky terrain. Once up on top for the loop the trail got exposed and the Phoenix sun was pretty intense. Another big up and down made it that much more challenging so this one felt pretty good to get done with. Here is the step count from my Fitbit.

This one was a nice little hike and a great workout.  The step count for the Mormon Loop to National Loop was 17,668 steps.

Terrain

A couple of different terrain profiles for this hike. The hill to get up to the upper loop is very rocky with large rocks that you will need to walk on. The upper loop is mostly a dirt trail that is popular with the mountain bikers so it is pretty flat. As you get to the National Loop stage the trail gets rocky again. Finally, when you get towards Fat Man’s Pass the trail gets sandy and large boulders to walk on. A good pair of hiking shoes with a good grip is important for all of the hiking on rocks for this one.

Access

There are several places to access these two trail as they interconnect with several trails. I picked up the trail at the 24th and E Valley View trailhead. There was very little parking and I, and others, had to park a ways down 24th street. Just a heads up, there were tow trucks cruising the area looking for people parked illegally.

Wrapping up Mormon Loop to National Loop

The Mormon Loop to National Loop was an interesting hike for me. I was looking for the quick version but went the wrong way and ended up doing a 7 mile hike. The first hill is brutal but then the top of the hike is pretty easy. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was that the hike is totally exposed and the sun was pretty hot even on a spring day. It is important to make sure you have plenty of water to stay hydrated.

The Fat Man’s Pass was a very cool thing and I am very glad I did it. The rest of the trail wasn’t my favorite as it was just walking around desert hills. Once I got on the Hidden Valley Trail and there were more rocks to walk over, under and around it got pretty fun. I am going to rank this as moderate. If you can make it up the challenging first hill you will be fine with the rest of the hike.

I have added this hike and all of my hikes to the interactive map page you can find here. If you have any suggestions for hikes or comments feel free to email me at fatmanlittletrails@gmail.com. You can follow me on any of the below social media platforms. Happy Hiking!

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