Phoenix, Arizona, is one of the best places in the US for hiking, so if you’re looking for some epic desert hikes, you’ve come to the right place. From extremely difficult to family-friendly, here are some of the best hikes in Phoenix, Arizona.
Arizona is known for its gorgeous hiking sceneries all over the state, but does the metropolis of Phoenix have good hiking? And like the rest of the state, the answer is ABSOLUTELY! Not only is there great hiking inside the city, but there are some fantastic hiking trails surrounding the city throughout Scottsdale, the Superstition Mountains, and the Sonoran Desert.
We get this question a lot! Many people tend to think of Camelback Mountain when they think of hiking in Phoenix. While this hike is not the kid-friendliest, there are some fantastic trails in the Phoenix area for families with young kids, too.
Keep in mind that most of the year, Phoenix is HOT! Therefore, the best times to hike in Phoenix to avoid the heat are late fall, winter, and early spring. That gives you the months of November – March to enjoy temperatures of 60s – 70s. Perfect for hiking! If you are planning on hiking during the summer months, make sure you head out early in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest time of the day.
And with that being said, let’s get down to the information you came for – the best hikes in Phoenix, Arizona! I’ll break them down by difficulty levels: easy, moderate, and challenging/difficult. Each hike will include its location, distance covered, time took to hike, tips, and other information needed for a successful time on the trail. Here we go:
Looking for an easy hike in the Phoenix area? Maybe you’re just getting started or you have young children who aren’t quite ready for those challenging hikes. Well, Phoenix has some incredible easy hikes for you!
Located in Cave Creek, just outside Phoenix, Cave Creek Regional Park has a total of 11 trails covering 11 miles, most of them categorized as easy to moderate. The Slate trail is considered easy and covers 4 miles (in and out), but you can always stop and turn around if it’s too much for younger children.
The highlight of the trail is spotting the infamous Michelin Man Saguaro – a unique puffed-up saguaro that looks like its namesake. Make sure not to miss it! And as with most trails in Arizona, snakes and scorpions come into play. Just be aware of your surroundings, watch and listen for warning signs.
Besides hiking, you can also horseback along the trail, bike, or camp inside the regional park. And don’t forget to stop in the nature center to get your Jr. Ranger booklet to complete for your children’s badges. It’s always a kid-favorite! Plus, there are cool snakes inside to see!
There’s also a really cool playground near the trail that Mia LOVED! It has a fun scorpion slide, cactus swings, and a bobcat climbing area. It’s also a great place to eat – with a picnic area and restrooms nearby.
How to Arrive: From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Carefree Hwy (SR 74) and go east to 32nd St. (7 miles). Turn north on 32nd St. into the Cave Creek Regional Park entrance.
Hole in the Rock is EXACTLY how it sounds – a huge hole in a rock. And while the name implies pretty much all that you’ll encounter, this easy hike is completely worth adding to your Phoenix hiking list.
It’s located in the heart of Phoenix, inside Papago Park. The hike level is quick and easy – a mere 0.3 miles. And at best, it will only take about 7 minutes to complete. Once you climb to the top of the hill, you’ll be able to see sprawling views of the city of Phoenix. There’s quite a steep drop-off inside the hole at the top, so make sure you watch your footing. It can be quite slippery after rainy days.
Hole in the Rock is right next to the Phoenix Zoo, so you can add this quick hike to a visit to the zoo. Or bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a nice relaxing afternoon with the ducks and fish at the surrounding ponds.
TIP: If you want the BEST VIEWS, head to Hole in the Rock at sunset. But be ready to face the crowds of all the other hikers who want to see the incredible Phoenix sunset from a great view!
How to Arrive: It’s just 10 minutes from downtown Phoenix, inside Papago Park. Take the N. Galvin Pkwy to Papago Road.
If you’re looking for hikes in Phoenix that are a little more challenging than Hole in a Rock but not as difficult as the infamous Camelback Mountain, there are many options in the moderate hiking categories. Here are some of our favorites:
Marcus Landslide is, by far, one of my favorite trails in Scottsdale. Located in North Scottsdale, it’s considered easy to moderate with a 4-mile round trip. It’s about a 2-hour hike, depending on who’s hiking and how often you stop. We made quite a few stops along the way, thanks to those adorable desert bunnies.
The trail is great for kids and adults. It’s not too steep, and there are many educational plaques along the trail. As I mentioned, we saw lots of desert bunnies along the way as well as gorgeous views and scenery. The mushroom rock is a fun formation to stop at as well as other interesting formations along the trail. We went around 5 pm in late Fall, so we caught the incredible sunset on the way back.
There are not many dangerous places to worry about on the trail, but it does get slippery with all the rocky terrain at places. AND, always be on the lookout for rattlesnakes. We didn’t see any, but they are definitely there! As well as coyotes too.
TIP: This is a tremendous winter hike! And if you do hike it during the summer months, head out early morning or late evening to avoid the steaming summer heat.
How to Arrive: From the 101 Loop, take the Pima Road/Princess Drive exit. Go north on Pima Road and turn right on Happy Valley Road and again on Ranch Gate Road. You’ll see the Tom Thumb Trailhead sign – follow it to the parking lot.
Another great moderate trail in the Phoenix area is the Coon Bluff trail (or loop as it’s also known). Coon Bluff is a popular camping and wild horse sighting inside the Tonto Forest, which makes the trail popular, too. The loop is 2.7 miles and takes about an hour to complete.
Coon Bluff Trail leads to Coon Bluff and down into the Salt River Recreation area. This is where you have the best chance of seeing the gorgeous Salt River wild horses that run wild in the area. We spent the day in the Tonto Forest and finished it off at Coon Bluff. And the highlight of our trip was seeing the wild horses drinking at the river.
There are also camping facilities at the Coon Bluff Day Use Area & Seasonal Camping Site. You can also gain entrance to the hike from the camping area as well as fishing, kayaking, swimming, and other recreational activities.
TIP: The best time to see the wild horses is right before sunset or early morning when they head to the river for their daily drink.
How to Arrive: From Phoenix, take the US 60 to Power Road exit and continue to Bush Highway. You can reach the trailhead from Phon D. Sutton Recreation Site Road or join the trail at Coon Bluff Road.
If you’re looking for a unique hike in Phoenix – one that ends at a waterfall, then you must add Blue Wash Trail to your list. It’s located just north of Scottsdale in Carefree inside the Tonto National Forest. The trail is 2.8 miles and takes about an hour and a half in total.
Hands-down, the BEST thing about this trail is the small waterfall at the end. And when I say small, I mean small – so don’t expect a huge amount of water. BUT, it’s so cool and refreshing to find in the Phoenix area, so we loved it. Take off your shoes and socks and wade around when you get to the waterfall – it’s such a treat!
The trail is dog-friendly, so feel free to bring your beloved pets with you.
TIP: This trail has 2 areas with bees (hornets). On the way to the waterfall, we didn’t see any. BUT, on the way back, we were literally swarmed by them. And both my sister and I got stung. Here’s the tip: there is an alternative trail to avoid the bees. Right before the bee sign, take a trail up and over instead of through. Had we known we would have definitely taken it!
So you’re ready for a challenge? You’ve come to the right place! Phoenix has some of the most INCREDIBLE difficult hikes that are ready to be explored! Let’s get started.
Tom’s Thumb is one of the most popular trails in Scottsdale, and it’s easy to see why. Located in North Scottsdale, it’s considered challenging to difficult. Whereas Marcus Landslide takes you around the mountain, Tom’s Thumb takes you directly up. It’s a 4-mile round trip hike and runs about 2 ½ hours to complete with views to die for all the way up.
Tom’s Thumb: You’ll spot the back of the infamous thumb along the way up, but the front can be spotted once you reach the top. Reaching the thumb means you’ve reached the summit!
The trail is quite steep with loose gravel terrain. I slipped a few times, so make sure you wear proper hiking shoes (and trekking poles if you use them). If you’re hiking in summer, be aware of rattlesnakes. And because you’re heading to the top of the mountain, watch for coyote sightings too.
TIP: Bring binoculars with you because, at the top, you can see the entire Valley on a clear day.
How to Arrive: From the 101 Loop, take the Pima Road/Princess Drive exit. Go north on Pima Road and turn right on Happy Valley Road and again on Ranch Gate Road. You’ll see the Tom Thumb Trailhead sign – follow it to the parking lot. It’s also the same starting location as the Marcus Landslide Trail.
Are you ready to tackle the KING of all trails in Phoenix? Then Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon Trail is where you should head. Located in the middle of the Valley in Paradise Valley, this hike has been rated extremely difficult and strenuous.
The hike takes between 2-3 hours, depending on your speed. It took us 1 1/2 hours to reach the summit and another hour to come back down. We took frequent water and photo-op stops along the way.
Because it’s one of the most popular hikes in Phoenix, be prepared for large crowds of hikers. The hike is basically in 3 stages:
This was honestly the most challenging hike I’ve ever completed, so the feeling of accomplishment was incredible! I still have to pinch myself sometimes when I drive by.
Bring LOTS of water & snacks for a break on the top. I also wish I had a pair of hiking gloves since I used my hands a lot during the rock climbing areas. It’s also a good idea to bring some band-aids or gauze. We all got a few cuts and scrapes along the way.
Needless to say, this trail isn’t for the faint of heart. Many people who think they can hike it end up hurt because they’re not ready. Pay attention to your body and know your limits.
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How to Arrive: Located in the middle of the Valley, you can see the camel silhouette from pretty much any direction. Head toward Echo Canyon Pkwy and pull into the drop-off area. You can also park in the parking lot, but it fills up FAST!
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