Arizona is known for a few things. Heat, sand, and hiking. In fact, National Geographic has ranked Phoenix as one of the best hiking cities in the US. From small streams to grand canyons and mountainous landscapes with breathtaking views, there’s a reason Arizona is considered a mecca of hiking. Whether you’re a first time hiker or a seasoned explorer, there’s a trail for everyone of all levels of experience. Trek through the arduous terrain of Arizona with these amazing must-hike trails.
Located centrally in Scottsdale, Pinnacle Peak offers well landscaped trails that offer great views of the nearby scenery. The area is home to a variety of wildlife such as Gila monsters, bobcats, and rattlesnakes. It is also home to a number of saguaro and cholla cacti. At night, under the stars, the 1.75 mile trail makes for a very peaceful and tranquil evening.
Easily the most popular mountain in the Valley, Camelback Mountain is aptly named due to its shape resembling that of a camel laying down. Located right in the backyard of Paradise Valley this mountain has been an icon of the Greater Phoenix Area for generations. Journey to the top of the mountain by following the trail up the side to the peak. All able residents should hike Camelback Mountain at least once in their life. The trail begins easy and slowly escalates the closer to the top you get. Toward the end you’ll experience a lot more climbing than hiking. Stunning views of the Valley await those who make it all the way to the top.
Sedona Red Rock Country
Sedona is one of the best tourist towns in all of Arizona. It is also known for its hiking and is considered the ‘day hike capital’ of the country. With around 200 trails in total, Sedona offers more accessible hiking than any other location in the United States. Each trail offers a uniquely different view. One could easily spend an entire weekend exploring the vast trails in Sedona. While other hiking spots may have 20-30 trails with long drives in between, Sedona offers 45 trails all within a 5 mile radius.
For the more adventurous out there, Freedom Trail offers some of the most intense hiking in the state. The hiking at Freedom Trail is entirely uphill. The stairs on the trail end after a while, leaving a fully natural trail for hikers to navigate through. This is not the trail for casual hikers looking for a relaxing day, but rather for experienced hikers who are looking for a bit of a challenge. If you have a small fear of heights, it may be best to simply look straight ahead as you get near the top.
While shorter than other trails, taking just about an hour and a half to complete, Hieroglyphic trail offers some of the best views of any trail in Arizona. Hikers get to see spectacular views of the Superstition Wilderness Area. Located right at the base of Superstition Mountain, this trail is perfect for beginning hikers and families looking to have a nice day outside exploring while taking in amazing views. Around the halfway point both the South Mountain and Camelback Mountain come into view.
Tom’s Thumb Trail
Weaving in and out of gorgeous vegetation, this trail takes hikers right past the iconic ‘Tom’s Thumb’ for which the trail is named. Tom’s Thumb is a giant granite ‘bump’ located along the McDowell Mountain Preserve. Additionally, the trail takes hikers by a series of other trails that offshoot which they can take if they so desire. The trail itself runs just under 4 miles and offers gorgeous views of Phoenix and the Four Peaks.
Another trail perfect for families and beginners, Papago Park has very little elevation, easily laid paths, and provides great one of a kind views of the Tempe area. In addition to the four hiking trails Papago Park also offers spots for other recreational areas such as fishing, archery, and baseball facilities. For the best views, be sure to go at night to watch the sunset.
Piestewa Peak Summit
While the trails at Piestewa Peak Summit tend to be crowded there is still more than enough space for families and solo hikers to enjoy the area. Along with great trails, the spacious park area provides great views and is home to a wide variety of wildlife as well. The space also has a variety of picnic areas perfect for having a nice family lunch as your enjoy the views and the outdoors. There are many easy trails for casual hikers and families, however those who are feeling a bit more ambitious can also enjoy the trail-head to the peak at 1,168 feet in elevation marked by the sign that reads, “extremely difficult.”
Massacre Grounds Trail
If you’ve ever seen the second National Treasure movie then you’ll enjoy the story behind this trail. The most prominent legend of the Superstition Mountains is the story of the lost Dutchman Gold Mine. According to legend, the Peralta family from New Mexico mined gold in the mountains during 1840s. During one of their expeditions to bring some gold back home, they were ambushed by Apache. Only a couple members of the family survived and their gold was then hidden and the entrance to the hiding spot sealed off, lost to modern society. Other than that, the trail is actually quite lovely and tame spanning just over 5 miles. Along the way you’ll pass the remains of an old mine shaft. Eventually you’ll make your way up in elevation as you approach the vista overlooking the mountain area providing great views for miles.
Flatiron Mountain via Siphon Draw
Though only a 3 mile trail, Flat Iron Mountain also has a 2,781 vertical, making it among the more difficult hikes, definitely not for beginners. The journey takes you through some very technical maneuvers. However, once you get to the top, the 360 degree view is nothing short of spectacular. At one point during the hike there is a rocky incline that definitely requires some diligence. Once through, the path is incredibly rewarding as you make your way through the scenery.