SMEEC has something for everyone!
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.
South Mountain Environmental
Education Center (SMEEC)
10409 S. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85042
Hours of Operation
(beginning February 13, 2016):
Wednesday – Saturday | 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.
We’re also open the fourth Sunday of each month for South Mountain Park’s Silent Sundays.
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.
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.
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.
South Mountain 101 | Every Saturday, 10a.m. – Noon
Rotating specialists from the South Mountain community offer an array of learning opportunities with something new each week.
South Mountain Learning Series | 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 8: Dr. Abigail York, Arizona State University’s Phoenix Area Social Survey. What are some things we love about Phoenix? Learn more about the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research project.
Wednesday, March 29: Wendy Hodgson, Herbarium Curator and Sr. Research Botanist at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Join us for this focus on Arizona’s wonderful Agaves!
Wednesday, April 19: Lindsey Vogel-Tetter, Curator for Pueblo Grande Museum, speaks on Hohokam
Must preregister at smeec.org. $8 per person, recommended for ages 12 and up.
Explore the Night Sky | 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Learn about the universe through an interactive educational session, focusing each month on new astronomical topics of interest. Telescope viewing following, weather permitting.
Friday, Feb 24: Nebulas – Where Stars are Born
Friday, Mar 24: Constellations – Maps of the Night Sky
Must preregister at smeec.org. $8 per person, recommended for ages 10 and up.
Full Moon Story Stroll | 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 11
Enjoy a stroll along our half-mile, side-walked Judith Tunell Trail by the light of the full moon. Hear stories and learn about our Sonoran Desert at night!
No registration required. $5 per person, recommended for ages 10 and up.
‘Welcome to the Desert’ Walks | anytime between 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. as groups gather
Every Wednesday in March
These brief walks are designed to introduce you to our beautiful South Mountain here in the Sonoran Desert.
This activity is free and open to the public. No registration required.
South Mountain Star Party | 6:30 – 8 p.m. (Park entry gates close at 7 p.m.)
Thursday, March 2
The Saguaro Astronomy Club brings various telescopes to South Mountain Environmental Education Center!
This activity is free and open to the public. No registration required.
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 Field Trips
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.
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.
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: Groupevents@phoenixzoo.org or 602-914-4301.
Catering is available for events of all sizes by Lancer Hospitality.