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
Summer Hours of Operation
Wednesday | 6:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Thursday | 6:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Friday & Saturday | 6:30 – 10:30 a.m. & 6 – 9 p.m.
Sunday | 6:30 – 10:30 a.m.
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.
Explore the Night Sky | 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Fridays, July 21, August 25
Learn about the universe through an interactive educational session, focusing each month on new astronomical topics of interest. Telescope viewing following, weather permitting.
Summer Nights | 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Saturdays, August 5
The family that learns together has a blast! On these special Saturday nights join us for family-friendly fun and learning, and unlock the treasures of South Mountain. While the sun still shines we’ll be inside our cool building with hands-on activities, games, interactive demos and special visitors. Then when the sun starts to set we’ll explore the night on the Judith Tunell Trail with stories, songs, games and special equipment to help us learn about creatures of the night.
Free, for all ages.
Movies at the Mountain | 6 – 8:30 pm
On these family-friendly nights the fun starts during the pre-show with hands-on activities related to the movie theme and maybe even some surprise animal guests. Then grab a snack pack, kick back and enjoy the show.
Saturday Morning Stories | 8 – 8:45 a.m.
Join us in the Dottie Gilbert Reading Room to enjoy our favorite desert stories.
Saturdays July 22, August 5
Ages 2 – 10, Free
South Mountain Nuggets
Request specially scheduled learning ‘nuggets’ for your group’s visit to South Mountain, offered in increments of 20, 40, 60, 80 or 120 minute programs. These learning sessions are available for ages 4 and up, and offer flexibility for any kind of group get-together such as work events, youth and scout workshops, birthday or holiday parties, church outings, or lunchtime learning for your organization. The range of learning activities includes investigations, games, crafts, stories, demonstrations, and guided walks, and vary with age level, timeframe and season. Many scheduling options are available, including weekends and evenings. For more information or to schedule, email Lherrmann@phoenixzoo.org.
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 rental
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.