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Surrounded by mountains and serene desert landscapes, hiking in Phoenix, Arizona is one of the top things to do in the city! Phoenix, AZ hikes range from strenuous summit trails to easy waterfall walks – and everything in between. During our many years living in the city, hiking near Phoenix was one of our favorite weekend activities. We sought out the best Phoenix hikes – and are sharing our tips for fellow trekkers.
Hiking in Phoenix
One of the things we love best about Phoenix, Arizona hiking is the variety of trails in the many regional parks. Trekkers can drive in any direction and find numerous Phoenix area hikes. In this article, we are featuring the best hikes near Phoenix – but, for hikers who want to go further afield, we share tips on some of the best hiking trails in Arizona, too.
Phoenix Hiking Trails: What You Will Need
Before we jump into our list of the best hikes in Phoenix, we want to cover a few of the things you will want to take with you on your trek.
Plenty of Water
Phoenix earned its nickname, The Valley of the Sun, for good reason. The sun is intense in the Arizona desert – and it is easy to become dehydrated when hiking around Phoenix. Be sure to bring plenty of water – there is seldom water on the trails (but sometimes at trailheads). We recommend wearing a hydration system or carrying collapsible water bottles for your trek.
Don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen before you set off on your hike – and bring it along with you so that you can reapply during your trek. We also suggest wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face. A bandana can come in handy to protect your neck from the sun’s rays, too!
It’s always a good idea to have a few trail snacks when hiking near Phoenix, AZ. Granola bars, trail mix and whole fruit – like apples or oranges – are good for hikes. Just remember to take any trash (including your orange peels!) with you.
In our opinion, most of the places to hike in Phoenix don’t require high-tech footwear (like Gore Tex hiking boots). For the hiking trails near Phoenix that we highlight in this post, a pair of hiking shoes (not boots), like Merrell trail shoes, are sufficient. But, never, ever wear flip flops to hike in Arizona.
While hiking poles are not necessary, they are certainly helpful – especially when tackling some of the summit trails (and even on the easy hiking trails in Phoenix, for that matter!). We like these collapsible hiking poles, which can be carried in a backpack if you don’t need them on the trail.
The best hiking trails in Phoenix wind through some of the most beautiful desert scenery. Unique rock formations, towering cacti and desert blossoms are found along the paths. We use a DSLR Canon Rebel with an 18-135mm lens to capture the sights on our treks – and highly recommend it for beginner photographers!
You will also need a backpack to carry everything in! It’s best to wear a comfortable, lightweight backpack on the hiking trails near Phoenix. It needs to be big enough for your water, snacks, sun lotion, hiking poles, camera, phone and keys.
Pro Tip: Never leave any valuables in your car at the trailhead parking lots. Take everything with you in your backpack!
The Best Phoenix Hikes
We are featuring the absolute best hikes in the Phoenix area. For each trail, we offer a description of the hike, pertinent information and the trailhead location (via a link to Google Maps).
Piestewa Peak Summit Trail
Piestewa Peak Trailhead MAP. Piestewa Peak (formerly known as Squaw Peak) is one of the most popular mountains to hike in Phoenix. It was my first hike in Phoenix when I moved to the city – and still ranks as one of the best. Part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the Piestewa Peak stands at 2,610 feet.
Hikers face a grueling 1.2-mile uphill climb, with an elevation gain of 1,208 feet. It is not an easy hike – especially when the desert temperatures soar into triple digits. There is no shade or water on the trail. The reward, however, is the stunning views of surrounding mountains and the city skyline.
The trail is exclusive to hikers (no bikes, dogs or horses permitted). Experienced trekkers can reach the summit in about 30 minutes, but most hikers get to the peak in about an hour. As one of the best hikes around Phoenix, the trail can get crowded – especially on weekend mornings.
Pro Tip: The Piestewa Peak Trail is one of the few that stays open after sunset. The official hours of the trail are from 5:00am until 11:00pm, which allows interested trekkers to take a night hike in Phoenix. (We, however, have not yet done this!)
Trail 8, 8A and 8B at Phoenix Mountain Park
Phoenix Mountain #8A Trailhead MAP. Less frequented – and much less difficult – than Piestewa Peak is the nearby looping Trail 8A-8-8B combo (MAP). The 4.5-mile trail is rated moderate for its sloping inclines and loose rocks. Challenging, but not crushing, it is our favorite of all the Phoenix Mountain Preserve trails.
Popular with locals, joggers and dog walkers (which is allowed, as long as the dogs are on a leash!), the trail offers breathtaking scenery. At a good pace, the hike takes about 2 hours to complete.
For shorter hikes, we often followed the Phoenix Mountain trails off 8A (to the west) shortly after beginning our hike, discovering the intertwining paths just north of the neighborhood. These trails seldom have other hikers – and we often were able to enjoy our hike in solitude.
Pro Tip: There are miles and miles of trails at Phoenix Mountains Preserve – some of the best trails in Phoenix, as a matter of fact! Another beautiful loop trail is the Voaz Trail, which is accessed from the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area.
Camelback Mountain Hike
Echo Canyon Trailhead MAP; Cholla Trailhead MAP. In the shape of a sitting camel, the landmark Camelback Mountain is the tallest peak in the Phoenix Mountains. The camel’s ‘hump’ rises to 2,704 feet – and two different Camelback trails take hikers up steep rocky terrain and over giant boulders to reach it. Once at the top, the 360-degree views are nothing short of phenomenal.
The Camelback Hike is like a rite of passage – and the first challenge is finding a parking space. Both trailheads – Echo Canyon (the more popular route) and Cholla – offer limited Camelback Mountain hike parking, so consider taking an Uber/Lyft.
The Echo Canyon Camelback Hiking Trail is 1.2 miles long and has an elevation gain of 1,280 feet. The Cholla Trail is a slightly longer Camelback hike, extending 1.4 miles, with about a 1,250-foot elevation gain. Much more difficult than Piestewa Peak, the Camelback Mountain summit takes about 2-3 hours to complete, based on your fitness level. Dogs are not permitted on either Camelback trail.
Pro Tip: The Camelback hike in Arizona is a top tourist attraction, but it is much more difficult than many people anticipate. While it is one of the best places to hike in Phoenix, it can also be dangerous. Know your limits and stick to the trail. We offer more essential safety tips at the end of the post!
Holbert Trail at South Mountain Park
Holbert Trailhead MAP. Standing south of the city, the aptly named South Mountain Park covers an astounding 16,283 acres of desert. Even more incredible is that there are 58 miles of South Mountain Phoenix trails. In addition to hiking, biking and horseback riding, park visitors can visit the Mystery Castle and drive up to a lookout point. But why drive when you can hike in Phoenix?
Of all the South Mountain hiking trails, the Holbert Trail to Dobbins Lookout ranks as our favorite route in the park. There is ample parking near the trailhead and, as always, it is best to get an early start.
The moderate trail is about 5 miles roundtrip – and is an out-and-back, gradually inclining trail. As the trail nears the lookout point, there is a detour to the overlook, which provides an exceptional view over the valley.
When hiking South Mountain Phoenix Holbert Trail, the elevation gain is about 1,100 feet, but the steady uphill climb is much easier to negotiate than the peaks at Phoenix Mountain Preserve. It takes about 2 hours to complete the hike.
Pro Tip: The Holbert Trail actually goes much further than Dobbins Lookout. After crossing over Buena Vista Road, it hooks up with the National Trail, a path which extends 16 miles and is considered to be one of the best South Mountain trails for hikers and mountain bikers.
Pinnacle Peak Trail
Pinnacle Peak Trailhead MAP. The 150-acre Pinnacle Peak Park has just one main trail: Pinnacle Peak Trail, which doesn’t actually reach the summit. Regardless, the well-maintained trail climbs up the mountainside via switchbacks – skirting around the peak – through exquisite desert landscapes. What we love most about this hiking trail near Phoenix, AZ are the stunning vistas of the surrounding valley.
Located about 35 miles northeast of Phoenix, the park offers ample parking at the trailhead (and restrooms and water fountains, too!). The trail is restricted to pedestrian use – and is popular with joggers and rock climbers (who can access the peak with proper rock-climbing equipment and experience).
We rank the moderate Pinnacle Peak Hiking Trail as one of the best hikes in Scottsdale. The trail is a 1.75-mile out-and-back trek (3.5 miles roundtrip) that goes up the east side of the mountain, over the saddle and down the west side.
The highest point on the trail is 2,889 feet, which is at about the half-way point – and just past the Grandview Lookout Point. Many hikers opt for a short hike – and only trek up about a half mile to Grandview, which we think is the highlight of the trail.
Pro Tip: Want more tips for hiking in Scottsdale? Tom’s Thumb hiking trail and Gateway Loop (both at the nearby McDowell Sonoran Preserve) are highly rated Scottsdale hiking trails by fellow trekkers!
Waterfall Trail at White Tank Mountain
Waterfall Trailhead MAP. White Tank Region Park, which is located west of Phoenix, boasts 30 miles of hiking trails. Although many of the trails are best for experienced hikers, the White Tank Waterfall Trail is one of the hiking trails near Phoenix that is ideal for kids.
The easy 2-mile paved Waterfall hike passes through desert landscapes, past Petroglyphs, into a canyon and finally to the waterfall (which only flows after rain). The park even provides an informational guide geared toward young hikers – get it here!
In addition to hiking trails, White Tank Mountain Regional Park has numerous picnicking spots with tables and grills. Consider making a day of your trip to the White Tank Mountains with a fun picnic lunch.
Pro Tip: There is a fee to park at White Tank Mountains, which at the time of publishing, was $7 USD.
Butcher Jones Trail in Tonto National Forest
Butcher Jones Trailhead MAP. Tonto National Forest, the largest national forest in the state, covers nearly 3 million acres of Sonoran Desert, pine forests and lakes. Featuring more than 900 miles of trails and an array of other outdoor activities, the park is home to some of the best Arizona hikes.
The Butcher Jones Trail is our absolute favorite Phoenix area hiking trail in Tonto National Forest – and one of the best places to hike in Arizona, for that matter! The out-and-back trail traverses rugged desert along the Saguaro Lake shoreline – and ends on the bank of the Salt River overlooking the majestic Four Peaks Mountain .
The easy-to-moderate trail extends for 2.5 miles (making it about 5 miles roundtrip) and features a few optional detours down to the water. Well-marked, but sometimes overgrown in places, the best part of the trail are the fantastic lake views. Leashed dogs are permitted on the trail.
A small recreational area and lakeside beach are situated at the trailhead – so bring a picnic and your swimsuit to enjoy the lake after your hike! You can also explore the region by kayak – learn more here!
Pro Tip: As part of the national forest, visitors need to purchase a Tonto Daily Pass (or Discovery Pass), which needs to be purchased prior to arriving at the trailhead parking area! There are several places you can buy the pass in the city – or stop at a Circle K on the way to the park.
More Arizona Hiking Trails
We have highlighted some of the best Phoenix walking trails – but there are more beautiful hikes in Arizona for trekkers who want to travel around the state. We have spent a fair amount of time in Arizona hiking outside of Phoenix – and have discovered a few of the best hikes in Arizona along the way.
Sedona, also known as Red Rock Country for the region’s vibrant red sandstone rock formations, is one of the most beautiful places to hike in Arizona. Among the many Sedona hiking trails, Cathedral Rock is the most gorgeous (and most popular!). Other popular Sedona, AZ hiking trails include Devil’s Bridge and Bell Rock. Interested visitors can join a Sunset Vortex Tour, too.
We love visiting Flagstaff for many reasons – and the incredible nature is on the top of the list! There are ample opportunities for Flagstaff, AZ hiking, but hiking on Humphrey’s Peak is amazing. As the highest point in the state – rising to 12,633 feet – it is one of the most difficult and magnificent mountains to hike in Arizona. With an elevation gain of 3,000 feet, only experienced hikers should attempt the 10.5-mile hike. Everyone else (us included!) can take the ski lift to the top and explore on foot once on the summit.
Pro Tip: Read more of our tips for the best things to do in Flagstaff during the summertime!
Sabino Canyon in the Coronado National Forest is regularly ranked as one of the best places to go hiking in Tucson. While we will not argue that fact, our favored place to hike near Tucson is Saguaro National Park, which features trails through the largest cacti in the country.
There are plenty of wonderful hikes in Payson, Arizona – but none are as awesome as the Fossil Creek Bob Bear Trail (formerly called Fossil Spring Trail). The difficult trail descends about 1,500 feet from the trailhead to a stream bed, waterfalls and swimming holes. The out-and-back trail is about 8.5 miles roundtrip – and it’s important to remember that you need to climb up to get back!
One of the most famous and photographed AZ hikes, Antelope Canyon is comprised of an Upper and Lower section. The canyon is located in Navajo Tribal Park – and can only be explored with an official Navajo tour guide. Book your tickets for the Lower Canyon and the Upper Canyon.
The trail to Havasu Falls is one of the best hikes in AZ! That said, reservations or a camping permit are required for the Arizona hiking trip – as day hikes are no longer permitted.
Many of the top hiking trails in Arizona are at the landmark Grand Canyon. One of the hardest hikes in Arizona is the 21-mile Rim to Rim hike that begins on South Kaibab Trail, goes down into the canyon and back up the other side on North Kaibab Trail. Rather than tackling the 15-hour hike in one day, trekkers can stay at Phantom Ranch or in a tent in the bottom of the canyon.
We have yet to complete the Rim to Rim trail, but we have ventured down into the canyon on several day hikes. In our opinion, the Angel Bright Trail is the best choice!
Tips for Hiking Trails: Phoenix, AZ
Now that you know the best hikes near Phoenix, AZ (and some pretty cool places to hike in Arizona), we have a few final tips before you start your trek!
Phoenix Hiking Trails Safety Tips
While hiking around Phoenix, AZ is fun, it can also be dangerous. Always let someone know that you are going hiking (tell them which trail, too!). Before you set off on Sonoran Desert hiking trails, make sure your cell phone has a full battery in case you need to call for help.
If you do get lost or hurt, call 911 and stay where you are. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and scorpions – Phoenix hiking spots are some of their favorite places!
In the summertime, getting an early start on day hikes near Phoenix is essential. Do not attempt to hike in the heat of the day – especially if you are not used to the Arizona weather. Furthermore, do not take dogs on trails if the temperature exceeds 100 degrees. Before setting off, it is important to check weather reports – even on short hikes in Phoenix – and trail info; monsoons and fires can both cause trails to close.
Etiquette on Hiking Trails around Phoenix
On the trails near Phoenix, keep in mind park rules and general etiquette. Make sure you take all of your trash – including water bottles, napkins, apple cores, and granola bar wrappers. Be respectful of other hikers by speaking softly (sound carries in the desert!) and by wearing headphones rather than playing music through an external speaker.
On Phoenix mountain hikes, remember that uphill hikers have the right of way, so if you are heading downhill, step aside so they can pass (unless, of course, they need a breather and indicate for you to go ahead!).
Many of the best hikes in Phoenix, Arizona double as Phoenix bike trails. Typically, hikers have right of way over bikers, however, on some of the trails, it can be extremely difficult for bikers to stop or move to the side. Hikers need to be aware of – and courtesy to – bikers on shared trails. If you encounter horses on trails, give a wide berth as they can be unsteady and unpredictable.
Hiking Tours: Phoenix, AZ
If you are new to the city, a solo traveler or just want a good introduction to the scenic hikes near Phoenix, consider joining one of the popular Phoenix Hiking Tours. On a half-day tour, an experienced local guide will lead the way through the Sonoran Desert, explaining the flora and fauna and facts about Arizona along the way. Book it now!
We Want To Know: Have you been hiking in Phoenix, AZ? What are your favorite Phoenix hikes? Share your advice and tips in the comments!
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