BACKPACKING BASICS

Best Hikes in Arizona: Hiking Locations You Can’t Afford to Miss

Best Hikes in Arizona
Bradley Page
Written by Bradley Page

Arizona has an estimated 1,266 trails that come in different lengths and altitudes. With such a wide variation, it can be pretty difficult writing on the best hikes in Arizona. Because we are in love with so many trails and have no absolute favourites, we came up with a bucket list of twenty best hikes in Arizona. Of course they are not arranged in any particular order!

Without further ceremony, here is our customized list of twenty of the best hiking trails in Arizona. Please remember to do more detailed research on any of the listed trails you plan on hiking.

Devils Bridge Trail, Sedon

Over 629 feet and 4.4 mile long, this steep out and back trail in Coconino National Forest boasts of wild flowers, wildlife, birds, caves, scenic forests and a moderate trail that is perfect for running, dogs and hiking with children. The terrain is generally flat with gentle slopes and undulations.

Devil's Bridge Trail

The Devils Bridge Trail is accessible all through the year and is a popular trail attraction. To beat the crowd and midday traffic, it’s advisable you start hiking in the morning. If you plan on hiking with your dog, don’t forget to use a dog leash. It gets hot pretty fast, so you would want to wear loose clothes, rub generous amounts of sun lotion and take water bottles to avoid dehydration.

Of course don’t forget to take pictures of one of the most beautiful hikes in Arizona. The bridge is a popular spot for pictures and although you may spend a couple of minutes in the queue, the scenery is worth the wait.

Echo Canyon Summit Trail, Phoenix

Echo Canyon Summit Trail is an out and back trail in Echo Canyon Park  with heavy traffic and super mean steeps! This trail is recommended for only experienced hikers and not favourable for children and dogs. Accessible all year round, Echo Canyon has a handful of outdoor activities: hiking, rock climbing, trail running, birding and of course nature trips on Camelback Mountain.

Echo Canyon Summit Trail

Camelback Mountain is a popular hiking location in Phoenix. Extreme heat, crowds and steepness of the rocks make this mountain a difficult mountain to climb. On the bright side it is daring and exciting for those who love a good challenge. Adequate preparation is a must. Take lots of water, wear the right type of hiking shoes to avoid slips and also come with gloves for rock climbing.

We would advise you start early, say before 7am to beat the crowd and the heat that peaks during mid day. This mountain has a couple of awesome rock scrambles and the view at the summit is awesome. Do take pictures of the scenery.

Hieroglyphic Trail, Gold Canyon

This easy trail is one of the seventeen trails in Superstition Wilderness. Only 2.9 mile long, this trail is mild for children, dogs and boasts of petroglyphs and waterfalls that bubble up in early spring and dry up in summer. Wake up early to avoid the sweltering heat.

Hieroglyphic Trail

Be on the look out for rattlesnakes and other native reptiles. You would want to wear a bug spray in case of mosquitoes and wasps. And of course head off with enough water to avoid dehydration. Don’t forget to take pictures.

West Fork Trail, Sedona

This mild 5.2 mile out and back trail is a popular hiking attraction in Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness.  Mild traffic, trees, forests, wildlife and wild flowers make this trail a favorite among hikers. West Fork Trail also has an upstream creek with thirteen separate river crossings.

West Fork Trail

The crossings are usually easy, except the water level is high. You can decide to wade into the creek but be careful of slippery rock surfaces. The trees and high canyon walls  provide shade from the intense sun. Enjoy the scenery and easy hike on one of Arizona favorite trails.

Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail, Tucson

Available year round, this is an easy out and back trail in Coronado National Forest  that stretches as far as 8.21 mile. Heavily trafficked, Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail has beautiful waterfalls, forests, wildlife and streams with relatively easy crossing.

Bear Canyon

This trail is perfect for mild hiking, probably with older kids. However dogs are not allowed on the trail. This trail is usually crowded by mid day, it’s wise to start off early so as to beat the crowd and finish hiking before the sun comes up.

Peralta Trail, Gold Canyon

This 4.9 mile out and back trail in Superstition Wilderness is a moderate hike that is both kid and dog friendly. Peralta Trail is accessible all year round and mildly trafficked, although the traffic peaks by mid day. Peralta Trail offers a couple of activities: trial running, birding, hiking and sight seeing.

Peralta Trails

This trail also has trees and caves for rest stops and breaks. Be sure to get to the top to appreciate the beautiful scenery better. And of course take pictures.

Tom’s Thumb Trail, Scottsdale

This 4 mile out and back trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a moderate trail for birding,  hiking, mountain climbing, trail running, rock climbing and nature trips. Mild for dogs, Tom’s Thumb Trail is quiet and  tranquil with a well marked landscape.

Tom's Thumb

Although the trail can be pretty steep, it offers a beautiful scenery of wildlife and forests particularly at the top. You may see some rattlesnakes and tarantulas on the way so be careful. Don’t forget to take lots of water to keep yourself hydrated.

Cholla Trail, Phoenix

Cholla Trail is a 2.6 mile out and back trail in Echo Canyon Park. This is a hard trail recommended for only seasoned hikers. The traffic quickly becomes heavy and peaks from September to May. Cholla Trail has stony steps that give way to flat trail which becomes increasingly vertical.

Cholla Trail

You will have to use your hands to get through these areas so be sure you wear the appropriate foot wear and gloves. Start early to beat the scorching sun and take water breaks to keep yourself hydrated. Be mindful of the flat inclined terrain.

Humphrey’s Peak, Flagstaff

Over 3521 ft, this hard 9.5 mile hike is one of the two trails in Kachina Peaks Wilderness. Humphrey’s Peak is an out and back trail, moderately trafficked and perfect for hiking, walking, birding and nature trips all year round.

Humphreys Peak

Although the altitude is high, the scenery is fabulous and worth the exercise. The summit gives a clear and vast view of the mountains. It gets colder as you ascend, don’t forget to wear the appropriate clothing to keep warm.

Pinnacle Peak Trail, Scottsdale

A moderate 4 mile out and back trail in Pinnacle Peak Park, this 1158ft trail is moderate for kids, horse riding, rock climbing, trail running and walking. Because the trail is accessible all year round, it is usually crowded with trail runners, joggers, hikers and weekend trekkers.

Pinnacle Peak Trail

You can start off early to beat the crowd. Pinnacle Peak gives a wide expansive view of the valley and McDowell Mountain, and about a mile away, you can make out Camelback Mountain. You can also trek during the weekends if you want to socialise with the numerous hikers that flock the trail. Take pictures, interact and ask questions to get more gist.

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

A hard 19 mile out and back trail, Bright Angel Trail is a difficult trail for only the brave. Over 5708ft, Bright Angel Trail is accessible all year round and offers a handful of activities like: camping, rock climbing, hiking, walking and nature trips. Traffic here is pretty heavy, particularly during mid day when the sun is up.

Bright Angel Trail

This trail in Grand Canyon National Park has a river and a couple of rest houses. Although the hike is doable in a day it’s not recommended, especially for newbies.

Havasu Falls Trail, Supai

A daring 22.1 mile in Havasupai Indian Reservation, Havasu is not for the faint of heart. Steep descents, numerous switchbacks, curves, bends and of course intense heat make Havasu Falls Trail a hard hike recommended for only experienced adventurers. Fortunately, the turquoise falls are consoling and soothing for tired knees and toes. You can also refill your water bottles here.

For a hard trail, Havasu Falls is surprisingly heavily trafficked and only available anywhere from March to October. Havasu has a wide range of scenery to keep your mind engaged and your knees distracted. Be mindful of the approaching mules, they are quite headstrong and won’t make way for you.

Havasu Falls Trail

Do set out very early, ideally before 4am to beat the sun. For a hard long trail as this, experienced hikers advise you spend at least two nights at the camp ground before hiking back.

The hike back can be very gruelling and demanding but the scenery is worth the exercise. Do take advantage of the shade provided by the canyon walls.

Wind Cave Trail, Mesa

Wind Cave Trail is a 2.9 mile trail out and back trail in Usery Mountain Regional Park. Wind Cave is a busy trail and available anywhere from November to April. There is a cave and couple of shades all the way up. This trail is also moderate for trail running and mild enough for dogs although dogs should be kept on a leash.

Wind Cave Trail

It’s best to start hiking in the morning because  the shade lasts till about 8am. The hike lasts about 2 hours and when you finally get to the cave, take time to relax in the coolness. Don’t forget to take pictures.

Hidden Valley Trail, Phoenix

This is a moderate 3.6 mile trail in South Mountain Park. Tunnels, dry waterfalls and of course the Fat Man’s Pass make Hidden Valley Trail moderately trafficked all through out the year. The slopes are mild enough for dogs, kids and not too experienced hikers. Hidden Valley is known for its beautiful scenery and landscape and if you’re lucky, you can witness a lovely sunset on the descent.

Soldier Pass Trail, Sedona

Soldier Pass is a moderate 4.2 mile loop trail in Coconino National Forest. Because of its gentle gradual climb, Soldier Pass is great for dogs, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, off road driving and birding. Accessible all year round, this trail attracts a lot of hikers and the crowd peaks any time from mid day.

Soldier Pass Trail

Soldier Pass has two trailheads, the closest is just north of the trail and the other is en route Jordan Road. Both trailheads require a Red Rock Pass. Although there are a couple of shades, it’s better to start early especially if you plan on  getting to the summit. The summit offers the best scenic 360 degree view, it’s definitely worth the hike.

Horseshoe Bend Trail, Page

At 754ft, this 1.2 mile out and back trail in Glen Canyon National Area is short and moderate for hiking, walking and trail running. Although rocky, it’s gentle slopes make it mild for kids and dogs. Horseshoe Bend is typically hiked any time from January to October. Horseshoe Bend is about 8km south of Carl Hyden Visitor Centre, just south of highway marker 545.

Horseshoe Bend Trail

Parking spaces are limited to just the base of the hill and be careful not to park beyond the reserved area. You car may be towed if you do. It can be pretty hot, particularly during summer so anticipate dehydration  and prepare for that.  Wear shoes that suit hot sand and rocks.

Horseshoe Bend is typically crowded every time and although the crowd can get in the way if your picture taking, the view is worth it.

Bell Trail, Rimrock

Bell Trail is a moderate 7.1 mile out and back trail in Coconino National Forest. At 744ft, Bell Trail offers very little shade. We recommend starting out very early and packing more than enough water. Both dog and kid friendly, Bell Trail is always packed with people and accessible at all times of the year.

Bell Trail

It has a  river that functions as both a rest stop and point for taking pictures. Enjoy the beautiful scenery, wildlife, wildflowers and of course the good exercise.

Antelope Canyon, Page

A short and easy 0.6 mile loop trail, Antelope Canyon is perfect for kids, dogs, trail running, hiking, birding and nature trips. The ease and accessibility all year round makes it crowded all through out the year. The number one trail in Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, this canyon is the most visited and most photographed.

Antelope Canyon

A tour guide is important if you want to appreciate the cultural values of the beautifully sculpted canyon and rocks. Cost of entry is about $8 per head and about  $20 per head for tour. The tour guides are friendly and receptive and give tips on best spots and positions for photographs. Start off early to heat the crowd that troops in from midday.

Fossil Springs Trail, Pine

An impressive 1633 ft, Fossil Springs is an 8.4 mile out and back trail in Tonto National Forest. This trail has a waterfall with very clear cool water. The Toilet Bowl is a popular attraction for pictures, sightseeing and of course drinking cool clear spring water. Fossil Springs is a hard trail and not recommend for dogs or children. Steepness, rocks, high elevation and hot searing sun make this trail tough for the inexperienced.

Fossil Springs Trail

Although accessible all year round, a permit is required any time from May to September when the weather is really hot. Usual recommendation for water intake is at least 1.5 gallons per person. However in summer, requirements may be as high as 2-3 gallons.

For a demanding trail as this, the scenery is worth the stress. Waterfalls, springs and cliff jumping are some of the things that make this hard trail a favourite.

Flume Road Trail, Pine

This easy 9 mile out and back trail is a favourite trail in Tonto National Forest. At 1542ft, the trail is good for hiking, walking and also kid and dog friendly. Flume Road is accessible all year round, traffic is always heavy and peaks from midday. Creeks, rivers, and small springs are popular attractions.

Flume Road Trail

However we advise you come with more than enough water to quench your thirst and keep yourself hydrated.

Ready to Explore Arizona’s Best Hikes?

In Arizona, trails come in different shapes, sizes, lengths and altitudes. With the many variations available, there is more than enough to suit your individual needs and specifications. Like we said this is a list of the best trails in no particular order. We bet you have your own bucket list. Perhaps you’ve even arranged them in a descending or ascending fashion.

So have hiked at one of the locations we’ve discussed above? If so, we would love to hear about your experiences. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bradley Page
Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!

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