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Best Hikes in Papago Park: A Local’s Guide

Hike Papago Park hole in the rock

Whenever someone seeks my advice on must-see spots in Phoenix, there’s one place that easily tops my list — hike Papago Park!


Nestled in the middle of the city, Papago Park is my go-to place for easy hikes, gorgeous bike rides, and desert photoshoots. Born and raised in Arizona, I’ve hiked dozens of trails around the valley and Papago Park is one of my favorites because it’s gorgeous and accessible! 


Papago Park is perfect for families, solo hikers, and dogs alike. Keep scrolling to learn more about my go-to hiking trails at Papago Park. 

>> Please respect my home by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

ultimate guide to hiking papago park

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What Is Papago Park?

Just 15 minutes from Phoenix, Papago Park features 1,500 acres of hiking and biking trails, lagoons, and picnic areas. 


Steeped in history, this land has witnessed the agricultural endeavors of the Hohokam Indians from A.D. 1 to A.D. 1450, served as a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, and held the designation of a National Monument for approximately 15 years starting in 1915.


The best time to visit Papago Park is November – May. The desert heat can be intense during the summer months, so for your safety, it’s advisable to steer clear of hiking in the heat. 

hike papago park
Photo by @char.takes.shots

Best Hiking Trails in Papago Park

Located just minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the park has lots of history and provides locals with a bit of nature in the middle of the city. There are two sides to Papago Park: the west side and the east side. 

Hike Double Butte Loop Trail

hiking papago

My favorite trails are on the west side of Papago Park! This is where you can fully emerse yourself in the red buttes that make this park so special! 


I suggest parking in the West Buttes parking lot (off Galvin Parkway, turn west at the light shared with the zoo), then hiking clockwise in a loop that will take you around the Little and Big Buttes.


There aren’t a ton of signs in the park and lots of little trails to explore. In my opinion, that’s what makes the park so fun! Don’t get too worried if you feel a little lost, you can use the buttes to guide your way or use AllTrails to guide your hike.


Please avoid making new trails – follow the paths that are already there! 

Trail Stats:

  • Trail Length: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 114 ft 
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Kid-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Yes
  • Parking: There is a large parking lot, but if you can’t find a spot, park across the street by the zoo and walk. 
  • Facilities: Picnic tables, trash cans, water fountains, and ramadas. 
  • Fee/Permit: No

Hike Hole In The Rock

hole in the rock hike

If you’ve seen pictures of Papago Park, chances are the famous Hole In The Rock caught your eye! 


Even though Hole-In-The Rock isn’t much of a hike, it is aptly named (lol)! It’s a wild rock formation that overlooks the lagoon and city of Tempe. Thanks to its popularity as a sunset-watching spot, anticipate some crowds during your visit!

Trail Stats:

  • Trail Length: 0.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 872 ft 
  • Route Type: Out and back
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Kid-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Yes
  • Parking: There is a large parking lot near the zoo.
  • Fee/Permit: No
best hikes in phoenix

Things To Do Near Papago Park

best hikes in arizona

If you’re in the area and looking for other things to do near Papago Park, you’re in luck! 


  • Phoenix Zoo: Located adjacent to Papago Park, the Phoenix Zoo is a great place to explore diverse wildlife.
  • Desert Botanical Garden: Just a short drive away, the Desert Botanical Garden is breathtaking! It’s the perfect place to discover the unique flora of the Sonoran Desert.
  • Papago Golf Course: If you’re a golf enthusiast, the Papago Golf Course offers a scenic and challenging course.
  • Arizona Heritage Center: Explore the rich history of Arizona at the Arizona Heritage Center, covering various aspects of the state’s past.
  • Scottsdale: Head to the neighboring city of Scottsdale for its vibrant Old Town, art galleries, and upscale dining.
  • Hiking at Camelback Mountain: For more hiking adventures, Camelback Mountain is nearby and offers challenging trails with breathtaking views.

Packing Essentials for Hiking Papago Park

hiking essentials

As I mentioned, Papago Park is home to beginner-friendly trails! While you won’t need extensive hiking gear, it is important to pack the essentials: 


  • Closed-toed shoes: Opt for sturdy closed-toed shoes to navigate the trails comfortably.
  • Water: Stay hydrated by carrying at least 1 liter of water per person.
  • First aid kit: Be prepared with a basic first aid kit for any unforeseen situations.
  • Trail Snacks: Pack some energy-boosting snacks like trail mix or granola bars to keep you fueled during your hike.
  • Headlamp: If your hike lasts longer than anticipated, make sure to have a headlamp on hand to help you get back to your car. 
  • Sun hat: No matter the time of year, the sun is strong in Arizona! Protect yourself with a sun hat!
  • Sunscreen: Along those lines, you’ll want to protect your skin with a high SPF sunscreen.
  • Sunglasses: Keep your eyes shielded from the bright sunlight with a good pair of sunglasses.
  • Map or Navigation App: While the trails are generally well-marked, having a map or a navigation app on your phone can be handy, especially for first-time visitors.
  • Camera or Smartphone: Don’t forget to capture the stunning views along the way!

Final Thoughts On Hiking Papago Park

hike papago park

Once you visit, I’m sure you’ll quickly discover why Papago Park is one of my faovirte places to go in Phoenix! 


With accessibility comes responsibility; please be sure to pack out all of your trash and pick up any litter you find on your hike. This simple act ensures that Papgo Park remains a haven for both nature enthusiasts and city dwellers alike. 


Happy hiking, friends! 

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Meet the author

Jacey West

My mission is simple: Inspire you to get outside. I like camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and exploring National Parks. I’m passionate about sharing all the details of my adventure so you can plan some of your own!

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