Dobbins Lookout – A High Point at South Mountain Park

Downtown Phoenix with the help of my Tamron zoom lens at full extension

Phoenix, AZ

South Mountain Park and Preserve overlooks the Phoenix metro. The park is open to the public with no entrance fees. Lynn and I have hiked parts of the National Trail on several occasions with detours to Fat Man Pass. For those looking for stunning views of the city, take the drive from S. Central to Summit Road. Note, however, that the fourth Sunday of the month is typically “Silent Sunday.” On those days, no motor vehicles are allowed in the park. Access to park roads is only open to non-motorized uses.

As you drive the ever-rising Summit Road, you will experience increasingly stunning views of the Phoenix Metro. Hikers who want to go to Fat Man Pass will turn right at North Buena Vista Road and follow it to the Buena Vista trailhead. If it’s nearing sunset, however, stay left onto North Summit road for the short drive to Dobbins Lookout.

Much of the development of South Mountain Park and masonry buildings like the one at Dobbins point were constructed by the CCC in the 1930s

The viewing area at Dobbins Lookout is at 2,330 feet; the highest public access point in the park. Mount Suppoa is the highest point in the park at 2,690 feet. Unfortunately, the pinnacle is not accessible to the public.

A small parking lot resides at the terminus of North Summit Road. On clear, smog free evenings, if you want to stick around to view the sunset, arrive early or you might find yourself without a parking place. A wide, flat area allows plenty of space for people to take in the sunset and enjoy the skyline view as the city lights slowly ignite. A very few seats are available for those who might not be able to stand for long periods.

Northeast of Dobbins Point lies the iconic Camelback Mountain and Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

On April 1, 2013, the day of our visit found us looking for some place to view the sunset. From our neighborhood in Buckeye, Camelback Mountain is visible on clearer days. As the mountain was quite visible from Buckeye, we knew the South Mountain view would be relatively smog free. As it turned out, we have seen clearer days on South Mountain, but we found the viewing to be acceptable, if not perfect for photographs.

Sunset at Dobbins Point in HDR via Photoshop Elements 12

One of my photographic goals for this trip to South Mountain would test my skill using Photoshop Elements 3-exposure HDR processing. I shot over 150 images in three-exposure blocks as I captured different views of the sunset. In a future post, I will share some of the other HDR sunsets created on that beautiful spring evening.

John Steiner


  1. Great photos. How do you like that particular telephoto lens? Would you recommend it? I like your idea for very specific photographic goals. I am practicing that, but see that even more finely detailed goals would be much better practice! Thanks.

    • Thanks! I replaced the two Nikon kit zoom lenses I got with a D5100 with the 18-270 MM Tamron lens, and though I still carry the other two in my gadget bag, I don’t use them. Reviews of the Tamron complained of lack of sharpness, but it don’t find that objectionable. When I win the lottery and can afford a much higher quality lens, then I might be more critical. 🙂
      I don’t spend enough time focusing on specific goals, I’m afraid. When I do, I find I learn a lot more. Good luck on your photo shoots!

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