This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The invisible mountain pass between South Mountain and the Estrellas


I live in Glendale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, and it was only recently that I realized that there's a mountain pass between two ranges just south of me, South Mountain and the Estrellas. A very big mountain pass! And it seems to be invisible to most people living in Phoenix.

It's invisible to most people because, if you're like me, the mountain range south of Phoenix is simply "South Mountain". It isn't. South Mountain only goes as far as 51st Avenue, then there's a large pass, and then the Estrellas begin.

I discovered this a couple of years ago when I started learning about the plans to complete the freeway loop, and people were saying that it would have to be built "through the mountain". So I decided to take a look. Ride along with me.

To see the invisible mountain pass, you need to go south on 51st Avenue. If you're familiar with the area, which is Laveen, on down to the Gila River Indian Community, you know that it's more than just a narrow mountain pass, it's actually very wide, with room to build a freeway without ever touching a mountain.

It's actually an amazing place to visit. So few people know about it that it seems so very far away from Phoenix. But it isn't, it's just invisible.

Image at the top of this post: 1935 map of the Phoenix area. Look for the mountain pass between the Estrella Mountains and the Salt River Mountains (nowadays called South Mountain).


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