BACKPACKING BASICS

Best Hikes in Phoenix: Some of the Best Hikes America Has to Offer

Best Hikes in Phoenix
Sean Nelson
Written by Sean Nelson

We know what it’s like to search for great places to hike, and you come up empty. You could go up the same trails you have before, but that can be unsatisfying and boring. Instead of staying home and sitting in front of the television, you could consider traveling to find the best hikes in Phoenix, Arizona.

You probably know Phoenix for it’s wonderfully red hills, interesting flora, and amazing architecture. But what you might not have known is that you can find some of the best hiking in Phoenix, if you know where to look. But don’t pay some expensive tour guide to take you there; we’ll provide you with that information for free!

Hiking Places In Phoenix

So get your gear packed and ready for the wonderful excursions we’re about to provide you on your next visit to Phoenix, Arizona.

Hiking in Phoenix

The great thing about choosing Phoenix as a hiking destination is that you can still head out during the winter months. It gets as cold as 67 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t cold enough for snow, but it’s still important that you bring along the means to access fresh drinking water. However, it does mean that you may not have to spring for expensive four-season gear that protects you from ice and snow.

With that in mind, it’s essential that you exercise caution when hiking during the summer months. The temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s best to hike in the early morning, or after dusk. If you choose to hike throughout the rest of the day, wear sunscreen, bring plenty of water, and wear clothing that will protect you from the sun, such as hats and shades.

Hot Weather Hiking

There are plenty of things to see throughout your hikes, such as wild animals and the remnants of forgotten civilizations. Learn about the different kind of cacti, see if you can spy a desert tortoise, or get a picture of a majestic Harris Hawk. But beware that creatures such as rattlesnakes call Phoenix their home, so you should keep an eye out for them and give them a wide berth should you cross their path.

Papago Park

This hiking park is known for the beautiful red sandstone that is its foundation. There are two easy trails you can use as a great warmup, and provide an excellent view for those who love taking pictures. First, there’s the double butte loop that’s 2.3 miles long. This is accessible from the Galvin Parkway, so you park nearby, grab your gear, and start walking.

Papago Park

The other site is the Hole-in-the-Rock, which is quite a popular landmark. It’s right across the street from the dirt loop, and provides you with a quick climb of 825 feet up and down again. At the top, you’ll get a great view of the city skyline as well as a peek at a nearby oasis. Who would want to miss out on that photogenic opportunity?

Usery Mountain Regional Park

If you’re looking for a great place to get your first taste of desert scenery, then Blevins Trail should be your first pick. The 3-mile loop is an easy path to take, especially if you’ve been away from hiking for awhile, and will provide you with a great introduction to the local flora.

The path is mostly flat, and will take you past cacti of many kinds, including ocotillos, cholla, and saguaros, just to name a few. You’ll even see the ridgeline of Pass Mountain, which could prove to be adventurous if you’re looking for more of a challenge.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

This is another easy hike without much elevation to climb. However, you will be witness to all of the natural beauty that this park has to behold, and if you go after a decent rainfall, you can see the waterfall at the end of the trail.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park

Image credit: onetripatatime.com

The path is lined with beautiful cacti, ancient carvings, and you might even a spot an animal or two during your trek. The entire journey is 1.8 miles to and from the waterfall, which could be worth it despite the entrance fee.

South Mountain Park

If you’re interested in a more leisurely hike involving your entire family, then you may want to consider the South Mountain Park. It has a paved trail with 2 half-mile loops with entires near the parking lots. Each loop is littered with water fountains, benches, and shady areas so you can take a break from the heat.

However, the Interpretive Loop provides information in the form of posted signs, teaching about the local wildlife. The Challenge Loop, on the other hand, has a steeper incline to traverse, which is more suitable for those who are looking for more of a challenge.

South Mountain Park

But if you’re looking for something even more difficult, you can a moderately challenging hike at the Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail. It’s a four-mile long trek that starts at the Mormon Trailhead, and connects with the National Trail. This trail then heads south, and becomes much easier, giving you some time to take in the sights and squeeze through “Fat Man’s Pass.” The trail loops back around to Mormon Trail, where you can start your descent back to your vehicle.

Pinnacle Peak Park

Some people are more interested in challenging climbs that will provide them with spectacular views, and that’s what the Pinnacle Peak Trail will do for you. It’s one of the best hikes for scenic views, seeing wildlife, and getting some much-needed cardio in. You’ll be climbing as high as 2,750 feet, but you’ll barely notice it with the gradual incline.

Thankfully, the path is very well-maintained so there’s no risk of slipping or tripping. That means you won’t have to invest in an expensive pair of hiking shoes just to get the job done. Once you get to the top, you won’t be able to climb on top of the wonderful granite and see more of what the climb has to offer. However, you’ll have great panoramic views that are perfect for any nature photographer.

It is a 3.5-mile hike out on the trail, so be sure to pack everything that you’ll need to get through this slightly challenging journey.

Phoenix Mountains Preserve

The Lookout Mountain Summit Trail isn’t very long – only 1.2 miles out and back – but the incline itself will take your breath away. You’ll climb as high as 450 feet, but it’s steep enough to be a little challenging to more-than-amateur hikers. You’ll likely enjoy this hike without other hikers in your path, as it’s one of the less crowded areas to hike in.

Once you get to the top, you’ll be able to see the rest of the preserve, as well as the nearby Camelback and Piestawa trails that you might be interested in trying. If you want to stay on the same hike, but are looking for something a little more challenging, you could consider taking the Circumference Trail, which is a 2.6-mile path through the desert.

Best Hikes in Phoenix: Some of the Best Hikes America Has to Offer

The Piestawa Summit Trail is located in the same park, and is located on Camelback Mountain. This is one of the most popular trails in this park, and is frequented by many hikers from all over the country. It’s not for the faint of heart, however, and does require some preparation beforehand.

You can reach heights ranging from 1,400 to 2,608 feet, so you can only imagine the view that awaits you. The entire hike is roughly 2.4 miles out and back, so it’s a good idea to be prepared.

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve

One of the most recent preserves to be open to the public for hiking is the Dixie Mountain Loop in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve. The entire journey to the peak and back is a 3.82-mile loop, so packing some gear and some bottles of water is a very good idea. There are two summits for you to choose from, depending on your skill level or how much energy you have left after your journey.

Phoenix Sonoran Preserve

The first is the Dixie Mountain Summit, which is 0.22 miles to to the top and is the more difficult of the two. The Western Vista Trail, although longer at 0.34 miles, is a lot easier to traverse, so it would be a good idea to try this one out first. Along with the challenges, this trail provides you with an excellent view of desert flowers and plant life, and you may even spot a wild animal or two.

Spur Cross Ranch Preservation Area

If you’re looking for a hike that takes you close to rivers, lush with plant life, then this is definitely the hike for you. The Dragonfly Loop is a 3.5-mile hike that starts at the Maricopa Trail and cuts across the top of a plateau to take you to the Jewel of the Creek Preserve.

Spur Cross Ranch Preservation Area

Image credit: traveling-az.com

There, you’ll find wonderfully tall trees to provide you with plenty of shade, including cottonwoods and willows. And once you’re done lounging around by the cool waters, you can take Spur Cross Road to head back to your starting point.

Camelback Mountain

Being 2.4 miles long, the Echo Canyon Trail is one of the highest trails in Phoenix. Rising up to 2,704 feet, you’re going to need both of your hands free for at least half of your ascent up this trail. The slope at the beginning is quite steep, and should only be considered by experienced hikers. Towards the peak, there are large boulders to hop over before you’re blessed with a 360-degree view of the land below, so be sure to bring your camera.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Another thing Phoenix is known for is the natural land formations created by time and weather. The Tom Thumb’s Trailhead is no different, and you’ll get the wonderful opportunity to take a “thumbs up” photo with the trail’s signature landmark. However, you’re going to have to take a long climb to get there.

McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The 4.6-mile hike takes you up through a number of switchbacks, but you’ll enjoy the sight of all the desert flowers and fields of boulders along the way. Be wary of rock climbers the higher you go, and you can choose to partake if you’re feeling adventurous and you’re skilled enough. The giant “thumb” awaits you at the top, perfect for a photo opportunity after such a grueling climb.

Lost Dutchman State Park

The Siphon Draw Trail is one of the longer hikes on this list, totaling an impressive 6 miles out and back. This trail takes you through the Superstition Mountains after you’d ventured through some distance of open desert. Take care with the smooth polished rock when you start your climb, as it proves to be a little difficult to hold onto.

The upwards part of the trail requires you to be on all fours, and the higher you go, the more obstacles you’ll face, including a rock face you’ll need to climb hand over hand. Once you’ve cleared that, there’s an unmarked trail you’ll need to traverse right before you get to the top, where a wonderful view awaits you.

Because this hike takes so long, it’s essential that you bring a packed meal with you to help you restore your energy. Because if you think the journey to the top was long, you have to do it all again on the way back down.

Picketpost Mountain

For the thrill seekers, they may want to take a look at this hiking venture. It’s roughly 4.3 miles, to and back, and provides you with a little under 2,000 feet of climbing. It’s littered with switchbacks that will have you burning those calories in no time. There’s also some boulder hopping to add some variety to your climb to keep you from getting bored.

Picketpost Mountain

Image credit: alltrails.com

You’ll have some ledges and cliff walls to face as well, so bring your climbing gear because this isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ll be rewarded with a glorious view at the top, however: you’ll be able to see the neighbouring Catalina Mountains, Four Peaks, and Weaver’s Needle. And don’t forget to take a photo of the mailbox at the top of your climb to share with those who couldn’t make the climb with you.

Hieroglyphic Trail

Have you or a member of your family ever been interested in archaeology and ancient civilizations? Then you may want to add this trail to your hiking repertoire. It’s located at the base of the Superstition Mountains, and is the perfect hike for beginners, families, and those interested in looking at Hohokam petroglyphs.

This three-mile journey shares a path with the Lost Goldmine Trail, and it’s easy to find if you stay left at the fork where the trail splits. After about a half a mile, you’ll be able to see the Sombrero Butte, Camelback Mountain, and South Mountain.

Hieroglyphic Trail

Image credit: visitphoenix.com

Another half-mile will take you into the Hieroglyphic Canyon, where you’ll be presented with ancient writing and pools of water. This writing once belonged to the Hohokams, who lived in Arizona around 800 years earlier whose writing was confused for Egyptian hieroglyphs, hence the name.

Reavis Falls

This is, by far, the longest hike in this list, so you’re going to require a lot of preparation to be able to handle what this trek has to offer. First, it’s a whopping 14 miles long, so pack your tent, your sleeping bag, and plenty of meals and fluids to help you through this journey.

Secondly, the Reavis Falls are what await you at the end of your journey, it’s a stellar 140 feet tall. That’s 30 feet taller than Niagara Falls, so if you’re not interested in getting wet on this journey, you may want to skip this one. The hike starts at Reavis Trailhead, with a wonderful view of Apache Lake.

Reavis Trail

Image credit: hikearizona.com

But instead of your journey heading up, you’re going to be heading down into a basin, with a descent of 1,625 feet. Keep in mind that you’re going to be climbing this on your way back out. You’ll soon come to Reavis Creek, which you’ll follow upstream to find the falls, right in the middle of the desert.

Overview

Hiking in familiar territory can be comforting, but there’s nothing like trying out new ventures to get the blood moving. With warm climates, spectacular views, and flora and fauna to ooh and aah over, Phoenix may become a new destination to add to your list when your hiking itch flares up again.

Phoenix Hike

With that said, we hope that our suggestions have inspired you to consider adding them to your next destination vacation. This list is not exhaustive, as there are plenty of other trails and parks scattered throughout Phoenix that would be suitable for you and your family.

However, if you feel that we’ve missed some of the best hiking spots in Phoenix, Arizona, please be sure to recommend them to us in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sean Nelson

Sean Nelson

Sean was backpacking since he was 7. He was born close to the RMNP and his father was a ranger, so life surrounded by mountains and wildlife is a norm for Colorado. He likes to explore, but prefers to stay in USA. In his opinion, there are too many trails and options in US to go abroad.