UPDATED MAR 17, 2020
Phoenix is a mecca of hiking and exploring. It's even been ranked one of the best cities for hiking in America by National Geographic! You won't have to travel far for a new outdoor adventure, and with this guide to our local favorites, you won’t have to search far either!
Piestewa Peak (also known as Squaw Peak) is a popular hiking spot, so expect company on the trails. The 1.2-mile Summit Trail is quite the lung-buster. Think you’ve reached the top? Think again! Once you’ve huffed and puffed your way up 1200ft, catch your breath at one of the highest points in the Phoenix Mountains.
This moderate hike provides a smooth trek with well-manicured trails and great views of saguaros, cholla cactus, and desert wildlife. Explore the 1.75-mile easy trail or tackle the four-mile round trip if you’re feeling more adventurous. And while you may have to drive there – Pinnacle Peak Trail is centrally located in Scottsdale – it offers great night hikes for a romantic evening under the stars!
Just a short drive north of Phoenix lay the breath-taking trails of Sedona, AZ. As the “Day Hike Capital of America,” Sedona offers over 100 trails to choose from, with no one view the same! You could easily spend an entire weekend exploring the seemingly endless red sandstone formations and exquisite mountain tops. Maybe bring a tent because chances are you’ll want to stay for more than just one day.
The 3.9-mile North Side Loop Trail takes hikers through gorgeous vegetation and breathtaking views of Phoenix. This trail treks, obviously, over the north side of iconic “Tom’s Thumb” – a granite “bump” on the McDowell Mountain preserve. Fitt Tip: Be sure to explore Ogre’s Den, a natural cave located off to the west of the Thumb (maybe you’ll see an ogre… but no promises).
Looking for a picturesque sunset hike without the climb? Hit Papago Park for various beginner-friendly desert trails, low elevation gains, and beautiful rock buttes for Instagram-worthy pics. The “hole in the rock” (exactly as it sounds – a big hole in the rocks) is prime real estate to “ooh ahh” at, so arrive a little early to claim your sunset-viewing spot!
For a more secluded outdoor experience, take on the Deem Hills Circumference Trail. This route is great for beginners and offers about six miles of excellent desert views. If you conquer this trek and are up for more of a challenge, try out the Ridgeline trail, which is much more difficult, but worth the muscle burn.
For a taste of Arizona history and true outdoor beauty, hit the White Tanks just outside of Phoenix city limits. The White Tank Mountain Regional Park offers everything from short day hikes to overnight backpacking adventures. Hit the easy, one-mile Waterfall Trail after a good rain for views that’ll bring tears to your eyes! It’s so beautiful, you won’t know how to act. Also be sure to check out the rock art, or “petroglyphs,” left behind by ancient Arizonans hundreds of years ago.
The most popular hiking spot in Phoenix is also one of the most challenging — get your legs in gear for this trek at Camelback Mountain. The Echo Canyon Trail at Camelback Mountain is only 1.23 miles to the summit, but get ready to climb! You’ll ascend just over 1200ft, but trust us – the views are worth the sweat!
Don’t let the short 0.9-mile distance to the top of “A” Mountain fool you! It’s steep and quite the climb, but worth the sweat. Plan your hike just before sunrise or sunset for Tempe skyline views. Plus, the restaurants and bars along Mill Avenue are super convenient for a post-hike treat!
Explore the largest municipal park in the world (it’s a big deal)! South Mountain Park offers 17,000 acres of desert wilderness complete with 58 miles of trails for bikers, runners, and hikers. Make sure to bring your phone, the views at the top of the ridge are selfie-worthy! Fitt Tip: Enter through the Pima Canyon entrance and take the Hidden Valley trailhead for a little bouldering fun.
Some experienced hikers might rate the Superstition Ridgeline as moderate, but for the everyday explorer, it’s a real challenge! This 20.5-mile out-and-back trail isn’t for the faint of heart, but gets you up close and personal with the beauty Arizona has to offer! Fitt tip: Wear long pants and boots. All that beautiful vegetation (aka cacti and thorny weeds) can cause problems in shorts.
Bouldering, climbing, and a little off-roading? Now that’s a day! Found within the Estrella Mountains, Quartz Peak is quite the challenge (you can do it, though). It’s only six miles, but takes about five hours to finish. The phenomenal views and milky quartz peak are worth the exhaustive, sweaty hike.
Bring out the grandparents, toddlers, and even the pups for this easy 2.9-mile out-and-back hike. The winding trail leads to a cave with views of both the north and west – a perfect spot for a lunch date or picnic! Want a more private hike for that date? Take the trailhead on the right to hit the eight-foot high rock climb to the summit. They’ll love it.
Explore the 30,500 acres of the Sonoran Desert on any of the well-maintained trails at Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Enjoy a two hour out-and-back climb to Sunrise Peak on the Sunrise Trail for, well, the sunrise of course! You’ll have a 360-degree view of the valley as the sun crests the mountain tops. Breakfast is after.
Found in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Shaw Butte Trail is a scenic 4.25-mile loop with panoramic views of the desert! Bring the dog or family for a fun, moderate hike offering an 800ft climb to the summit. Also bring some water to keep everyone hydrated.
This relaxed, dog-friendly trail is broad and well-maintained, so your group of adventurers will have plenty of space to maneuver. Located on a historical ranch 30 minutes north of Scottsdale, the 3.1-mile, out-and-back trek is surrounded by wildflowers, cacti, and desert vistas, and it’s the perfect Sonoran Desert afternoon getaway.
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