South Mountain Preserve has once again received a slew of recognition from national media saying it’s one of the best places in the nation for a taste of wilderness within city limits.

Recently the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) included Phoenix in an online travel guide as one of “Six Places to Experience Big City Wilderness.”

“Overlooking Phoenix and its population of nearly 1.5 million, this park of 16,000-plus acres consists of three small mountain ranges that rise dramatically from the floor of the Sonoran Desert to a summit of 2,690 feet,” the article said. “The park still remains essentially undeveloped, with wildlife that includes piglike javelinas, roadrunners and rattlesnakes.”

The article stated an estimated 3 million visitors come to the mountain each year to hike, bike or horseback ride.

“As a city, we are fortunate to have the Phoenix Mountain Preserves in our community,” Vice Mayor Bill Gates said in a statement. “Wherever you live or visit in Phoenix, the preserves are never far and offer both physical and educational enjoyment. From flat trails through desert landscape for the nature walker to steep inclines and hills for the mountain biker, the preserves offer something for pedestrians, bikers, and equestrians alike.”

At more than 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is the largest municipally-operated park in the country. Overall, Phoenix’s desert preserve acreage has grown to more than 33,000 acres.

South Mountain Park and Preserve was recognized along with parks like Forest Park in Portland, Ore., and Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge in Fort Worth, Texas.

Earlier in 2013 Phoenix was also recognized by National Geographic as one of the nation’s best hiking cities and an online travel site, called TravelNerd, named Phoenix as one of the Top 10 Urban Destinations for Nature Lovers.

Recently, a popular hiking trail on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix has been closed for renovations. Echo Canyon will be reopened to the public at sunrise on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

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