SMEEC has something for everyone!

Through a partnership between the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department and the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation (ACNC), an Arizona non-profit, the South Mountain Environmental Education Center (SMEEC) has re-opened.

The facility is a hub for guests exploring the park/preserve that it calls home as well as a gathering place for the community to learn about plants, animals, natural history and the conservation needs of the Sonoran Desert. It also is a popular destination for school field trips.

What You’ll Find at SMEEC!

No visit to South Mountain Park is complete without a stop at SMEEC. Whether you’re looking for tips to enjoy family, friends or solo time in the Park, a deeper understanding of the plants, animals and history of South Mountain or a place to hold your next memorable private event, SMEEC has something for everyone.

Guest Amenities
Let us help you plan your adventure in South Mountain Park. Our friendly staff can recommend a trail to suit your time and skills and our gift shop is stocked with all your basic outdoor recreational needs including trail maps, sunblock, water bottles and more. Our Visitor Center provides a climate-controlled space for a quick rest or a good conversation about adventures ahead.

Educational Programs
Interpretive exhibits inside the Visitor Center and along the fully accessible trail just outside the Center’s doors offer an introduction to the history of South Mountain, the Park Preserve and the plants and animals found there. You’ll also find interactive activity stations with hands-on exploration that is fun for all ages. Interpretive talks with South Mountain Park Rangers and education staff from Arizona Center for Nature Conservation are also available on a regular schedule.

At SMEEC we offer a variety of affordable educational programs for children, families, adults and school groups of all sizes and sorts. Explore the fascinating world of South Mountain Park and the Sonoran Desert through science investigations, hands-on activities, art, nature play and so much more – you can even spend the night at SMEEC. Our programs for schools are aligned with Arizona K – 12 Academic Standards and all of our programs are inclusive for anyone with a desire to have fun and learn in nature.

Click Here for a Current Class Listing

Programming for All Ages at South Mountain Environmental Education Center

Classes and Programs offered through Arizona Center for Nature Conservation at South Mountain

Please call 602.914.4333 for more information or to register.

Saturdays at South Mountain Environmental Education Center

South Mountain 101 provides short snippets of learning on a wide variety of South Mountain topics. Presented throughout the morning on Saturdays, these 10-15 minute learning sessions offer glimpses into geology, botany, local history, urban ecology, herpetology, wildlife science, sociology, archaeology, engineering, astrophysics, environmental science and more! Rotating specialists from the South Mountain community offer an array of learning opportunities with something new each week.

Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Program Time: 9 – 11 a.m.
Free to the public, no registration required

Release your imagination in our Desert Play Space. Items designed to stimulate movement, creativity and self-directed learning are available on Saturdays amidst our courtyard and picnic area. Mind, body and spirit are nurtured through active play in this engaging space that features both natural and repurposed elements and objects.

For children of any age, accompanied by caregiver.
Program Time: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Free to the public, no registration required

South Mountain Learning Series

Foster a deeper understanding of this special place in the desert through our South Mountain Learning Series. These classes bring expert guest lecturers to the Center for focused study combined with interactive learning and guided outdoor experiences.

Explore the Night Sky
Learn about the universe through an interactive educational session. Telescope viewing will follow (weather permitting).

Recommended for ages 10 and up.Beyond_the_glow_of_the_city_lights,_a_universe_awaits._(9193084187)
Program times: 6:30-7:30 pm
Program Fee: $10
Dates and Topics:

• Oct 28: MarsLet’s Go There
• Nov 25: ExoplanetsWe Have Discovered Thousands!
• Dec 30: Uranus and NeptuneThe Giant Gas Planets
• Jan 27: Star ClustersThe Sky’s Jewels
• Feb 24: NebulasWhere Stars are Born
• Mar 24: ConstellationsMaps of the Night Sky
• Apr 21: All About TelescopesFrom Humble to Hubble
May 19: JupiterThe King of the Planets

Desert Survival Boot Camp
How would you manage getting stranded or lost in the desert?  Understand the basics of desert survival, knowing how to prepare and make good decisions, plus a few tips and tricks that might save your life.

Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Program date and time: September 21, 6:30 – 7: 30 p.m.
Program Fee: $8

Food Plants of the Sonoran
Senior Research Botanist and Curator for the Desert Botanical Garden, Wendy Hodgeson, leads this look into the feast all around us!

Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Program date and time: November 16, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Program Fee: $10

Landscape of the Spirits: Hohokam Rock Art at South Mountain
Author and Archaeologist Dr. Todd Bostwick will discuss his long-term study of these Hohokam petroglyphs and describe the various types of designs, their general distribution and their possible meanings. Purchase registration plus a signed copy of Dr. Bostwick’s book as a special Christmas present! Purchase with book must be made at South Mountain Environmental Education Center ($45).

Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Program date and time: January 18, 2017, 6:30 – 7: 30 p.m.
Program Fee: $10

Immerse yourself in learning when you visit South Mountain by renting a Trail Exploration Activity Kit. These kits are designed for all ages, providing focused learning on various areas of interest such as: Bird Brainiacs, and South Mountain Games. Use these kits for fun family time, small group learning experiences and even Scout badge-work.

For adults and youth ages 4 and up, accompanied by caregiver.
Available onsite during hours of operation: Wednesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. (packs must be returned same day by 2 p.m.)
Program fee: $5


School groups (pre-school through college level) can experience South Mountain in a way that provokes higher-level thinking and thoughtful reflection by joining us weekday mornings on a South Mountain Field Trip. This program is designed to engage groups of 15-150 students through interactive learning activities. Field trip themes are People and Nature, Matter and Energy Flows, and Natural Systems, and include a STEM approach to studying desert plants, temperatures, mountain formation, water flows, solar energy and nature-based engineering design. Learning is fostered through short walks along our paved ADA compliant trail, active discussions using the many educational artifacts of this natural desert environment and hands-on activities both indoors and out.

Program fee: $5 per student (no charge for chaperones and teachers)
Program days: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (October through April)
Program time: 9:15 – 11:30 a.m.

Call or email the Center to schedule your visit: 623-334-7880 or

Family Fun Events

Sunday Mini-Fests are offered on the fourth Sunday of each month.

Program time: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Free to the public.
All ages welcome.
Dates and Themes:

• October 23: Family Fun Day
• November 27: Doggy Day
• December 18: Neighborhood Block Party
• January 22: Camping/Outdoors
• February 26: Celebrate AZ
• March 26: Solar Sunday
• April 23: National Volunteer Week
• May 28: Water Safety Awareness

Full Moon Story Hikes
Enjoy a stroll along our half-mile, paved Judith Tunell trail by the light of the full moon. Hear stories, photo-hunt scorpions and learn about our Sonoran Desert at night!

Program time: 6:30 – 8 p.m.Scorpion_(9129960032)
Program fee: $5, paid at Center
Recommended for ages 10 and up.

• Friday, October 14
• Friday, February 10
• Saturday, March 11
• Wednesday, April 12

South Mountain Star Party
The Saguaro Astronomy Club brings an array of various types of telescopes to help us see many wonders of the universe!

Program time: October 5, 6:30 – 8 p.m. (must enter park by 7 p.m.)
Free to the public, no registration required.
All ages welcome

A great way to join in the fun and learning is to volunteer at the Center as part of our learning community. Volunteering at South Mountain Environmental Education Center can include helping at our information desk and gift shop, working with youth/adults as a program educator or helping as one of our specialized speakers for our “South Mountain 101” talks. All volunteer opportunities include training, tools and mentoring support.

In addition to classes and activities offered through Arizona Center for Nature Conservation, SMEEC proudly hosts programs offered through the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. Check out their site for times and descriptions.

Programs and activities through City of Phoenix


Rental Facilities

The Training Center located at SMEEC is a versatile venue with space for up to 200 guests. Much more than a standard meeting room, this space can easily accommodate corporate meeting, team building, volunteer groups, receptions, lecture series and more. Fundraising walks, runs or bike rides booked through the city can reserve space for registration or post-event celebrations.

With the backdrop of the mountain preserve and the foreground of the City’s skyline, the Center provides a stunning atmosphere to host family celebrations, corporate parties or fundraising events.

Rental facilities are not subject to the same operational hours as the Visitor Center and evening hours are available.

For more information please reach out to our Group Events department: or  602-914-4301.

Catering is available for events of all sizes by Lancer Hospitality.


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