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A Local’s Guide To 16 Of The Best Hikes In And Near Phoenix, Arizona

Born and raised in Arizona, I have been hiking in and near Phoenix for 15+ years!

 

I have a lot of love for my home state and am always happy to help newcomers and visitors discover the best hikes to explore when they visit. 

 

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, there are lot of amazing trails to hike in and near Phoenix, Arizona – this guide shares 16 of them!

best hikes in phoenix az

Known as the Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is surrounded by rugged mountains in all directions. From saguaro-studded hikes in the heart of the city to lush riparian areas along the Salt River, Phoenix has ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. 

 

I may be biased but I believe that the Phoenix area has some of the most unique hiking trails in the country! There are decades-old saguaro cacti, creosote bushes that smell like desert rainfall, secret caves, crazy wildlife, wildflowers, and if you’re lucky, waterfalls! 

 

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

Hey! I wanted to let you know that this post contains affiliate links! By purchasing through these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!

With all the mountain ranges in mind, I wanted to provide some variety in the Phoenix hikes I recommend, so I divided this blog into three sections: Best hikes in Phoenix, best hikes within 1 hour of Phoenix, and best hikes within 2 hours of Phoenix

 

Even though Sedona is within 2 hours of Phoenix and has a lot of amazing hiking trails, this list does not include Sedona. However, if you want Sedona hike recommendations, click here

Eager to hit the trails? Here are the best Phoenix hikes!

Table of Contents

A Note About Phoenix Hiking Weather

The summer temperatures are no joke, especially in Arizona. Hiking in the heat can cost you your life if you’re not smart and prepared.

 

If you’re visiting from out of state or not acclimated to hiking in such extreme heat, avoid hiking these trails from May – October

 

If you want hot-weather hiking tips, click here to watch a recent video I shared!

Hikes in Phoenix

If you’re visiting Phoenix and don’t have much time to spare, here are 5 of the best hikes in the city of Phoenix. 

best hike in phoenix: Papago park double butte loop and hole in the rock
Photos by @char.takes.shots

Double Butte Loop Trail

If you want something low key and easy, I highly recommend checking out 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

 

I recommend hiking Double Butte Loop Trail to get a full view of the park and if you are up for a detour, walk across the street to check out the infamous Hole-In-The-Rock, an easy, 0.3-mile hike to a popular spot to watch the sunset

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 get a spot, park across the street by the zoo and cross the street. 

Facilities: Picnic tables, water fountains and ramadas. 

Fee/Permit: No

best hike in phoenix: Papago park double butte loop
best hike in phoenix: Papago park double butte loop
Phoenix Arizona Hiking Trails | Camelback Mountain
best hikes in Phoenix, Arizona

Echo Canyon Trail at Camelback

Echo Canyon Trail at Camelback Mountain is one of the most popular trails in Phoenix. It’s also one of the toughest trails in Phoenix, and hiking has resulted in dozens of emergency helicopter rescues a year! If you are going to hike this trail, make sure it’s not too hot out (no hiking in the summer!!) and make sure you have plenty of water. 

 

If you want to explore the hidden cave on Camelback Mountain, it’s located near the top (about 0.80 miles), at hiking post #20. The trail to the right takes you to the summit but the trail to the left, just past the “bees warning” sign takes you to the cave! Carefully walk around the cliff for about 15 seconds and you’ll find it! Please remember that it was once a sacred sight and should still be respected – always leave no trace.


Note: There are bees in the cave! Use your best judgment when exploring.

Hidden cave in Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Trail Phoenix

Trail Length: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,420 ft

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Hard

Kid-friendly: No

Dog-friendly: No

Parking: There is a large parking lot with bathrooms at the trailhead. 

Facilities: Flush toilets and water fountains

Fee/Permit: No

Hidden Valley Trail via Mormon Trail

Mormon Trail to Hidden Valley Loop is a hike that gives you some of the best views of Phoenix! This trail is located in the South Mountain Range, which encompasses over 16,000 acres and has 58 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. This trial is a relatively short hike that gives you a stunning view of the Phoenix skyline

Trail Length: 3.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 925 ft 

Route Type: Loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: There is a small parking lot at the trailhead and additional (unofficial) street parking up the road. 

Facilities: No

Fee/Permit: No

Phoenix Arizona Hiking Trails

Piewesta Peak Summit Trail #300

If you are in Central Phoenix and up for a challenge, Piewesta Peak Summit Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the area because it offers panoramic views of the Phoenix area and surrounding mountains

 

Even though it is described as difficult, I’ve seen entire families (except dogs) complete this trail! It’s a pretty steep climb the entire way but don’t be afraid to take your time and enjoy the scenery! If you plan to stay for sunset, don’t forget a headlamp, so you don’t have to hike down in the dark. 

Trail Length: 2.1 miles 

Elevation Gain: 1,148 ft

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Hard

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: No

Parking: There are a lot of parking spots at the trailhead

Facilities: Flush toilets and water fountains

Fee/Permit: No

Phoenix Arizona Hiking Trails near the city

Phoenix Mountain Nature Trail #304

If you are near Piewesta Peak Summit Trail (details above) but want something easier, I recommend hiking Nature Trail #304. Tucked away from the surrounding city, the Nature Trail allows hikers to fully immerse themselves in the Sonoran Desert

Trail Length: 1.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 305 ft

Route Type: Loop

Difficulty: Easy

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: There are a lot of parking spots at the trailhead.

Facilities: Flush toilets and water fountains

Fee/Permit: No

Best Day Hikes Near Phoenix

If you’re visiting Phoenix and have some time to escape the city, here are 5 of my favorite hiking trails that are 1 hour away from Phoenix

best hike in Scottsdale

Gateway Loop Trail, Scottsdale

Located in the stunning McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Gateway Loop Trail gives you a decent workout while taking you around one of Scottsdale’s most famous mountains, McDowell Mountain. This trail gives you views of the city and allows you to get up close and personal with giant saguaro cacti! 

 

Trail Length: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 721 ft
Route Type: Loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Kid-friendly: Yes
Dog-friendly: Yes
Parking: There is a parking lot at the trailhead
Facilities: Flush toilets and water
Fee/Permit: No

Best hike near Phoenix, Arizona
Best hike near Phoenix, Arizona

Wave Cave, Gold Canyon

Wave Cave Trail in the Superstition Mountains has to be one of the most most beautiful hikes near Phoenix! The trail winds you through the desert and takes you up to a massive rock formation that looks like a wave! This is a super memorable hike that provides stunning desert views and fantastic photo opportunities

 

While this is definitely the best hike in Phoenix, it’s quite challenging and easy to get lost. There are steep climbs, a rocky descent, and decent elevation gain. If you are interested in hiking Wave Cave, check out this super-detailed blog all about this trail from Modern Hiker.

Secret cave in superstition mountains

Trail Length: 3 miles

Elevation Gain: 869 ft 

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Hard

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: There is a parking lot at the trailhead

Facilities: No

Fee/Permit: No

Hike Broadway Cave in Phoenix Superstitons

Broadway Cave, Apache Junction

Broadway Cave is a haven from the hustle and bustle of the city! Located just 45 minutes outside of Phoenix, this gorgeous trail leads to a large cave with great desert views! This trail isn’t as popular as Wave Cave, so you’ll likely have the whole trail to yourself. 


This is another fairly tricky trail so if you are interested in hiking it, check out this impressively-detailed blog by From One Girl To One World.

Trail Length: 3.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 869 ft

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: There is a lot of parking at the trailhead. 

Facilities: No

Fee/Permit: No

Hiking Massacre Falls | Best Hikes Near Phoenix

Massacre Falls Trail, Apache Junction

Have you ever seen a waterfall in the desert?! Well, if you time it just right, this trail will take you to Massacre Falls, a seasonal waterfall that only flows in the winter months or after a big rain storm. Even if you don’t see a waterfall, this hike is still worth it! This trail is family-friendly and great to bring your dog on. 

Hiking Massacre Falls | Best Hikes Near Phoenix

Trail Length: 5.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,092 ft

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: There is a lot of parking at the trailhead.

Facilities: No 

Fee/Permit: No

Peralta Trail to Fremont Saddle, Gold Canyon

This hike is one of the paths into the 160,000-acre Superstition wilderness that is just an hour’s drive from Phoenix. This trail has amazing scenic value and takes you up to Fremont Saddle, where you are rewarded with a panoramic view of Weaver’s Needle

Phoenix Arizona Hiking Trails near the city

Trail Length: 4.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,341 ft

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: There is ample parking at the trailhead.

Facilities: No 

Fee/Permit: No

Boyce Thompson Arboretum Main Trail, Superior

Boyce Thompson Arboretum is Arizona’s first and oldest botanical garden! It contains collections from many of the world’s deserts and is definitely worth a visit if you are in Phoenix. The Arboretum has 4.7 miles of trails throughout, and if the gardens aren’t enough, the surrounding mountains are absolutely stunning. This is a great place to bring the whole family – I recommend hiking the Main Trail and the High Trail, which crosses a suspended bridge. 

Trail Length: 1.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 131 ft

Route Type: Loop

Difficulty: Easy

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: There is parking at the park entrance.

Facilities: Flush toilets, water fountains, benches, gift shop 

Fee/Permit: There is a fee to enter the park. Learn more here.

Best Hikes Within 2 Hours Of Phoenix

If you’re in Phoenix for a couple of days and have time for a day trip, here are 5 of my favorite hikes within a 2-hour drive of Phoenix

Bob Bear Trail (to Fossil Creek), Strawberry

If you’re up for a strenuous hike, this trail takes you into a canyon, down through a treed-in path, and to Fossil Spring. There’s a swimming hole, cave, and places to cliff jump! This is a magical place so if you visit, be sure to treat it with respect and don’t forget to get a permit to visit. 

 

I had to include this trail on my list of best hikes near Phoenix, but it is a tough hike. There is no water and little shade for the first 3.75 miles of the trail, and summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees F. It’s a climb to get back to your car, so be prepared with lots of water and snacks!

Trail Length: 8.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,505 ft

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid-friendly: No

Dog-friendly: No

Parking: There is parking at the trailhead.

Facilities: No

Fee/Permit: A permit is required to hike here from April 1 – October 1. Permits can be found here.

Valley View Overlook Trail in Saguaro National Park, Tucson

If you could only do one hike while visiting Saguaro National Park, it should be this one! It’s a super easy trail that allows you to walk amongst giant saguaros and takes you to an amazing view of this underrated National Park

Trail Length: 0.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 49 feet

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Easy

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: No

Parking: Parking at the trailhead 

Facilities: Not at the trailhead 

Fee/Permit: $25 National Park entrance fee. Payment options include honor/self-pay stations, mobile apps, and online and in-person at the Red Hills Visitor Center and Rincon Mountain Entrance station. Learn more here.

Visit a lot of National Parks?

If you are visiting Saguaro National Park, or any of the other national parks across the country, consider getting an $80 America the Beautiful pass! It lasts for 1 year and gets you admission to all registered sites. 

 

Purchase your National Parks Pass here

Tonto Natural Bridge, Payson

Tonto Natural Bridge is one of my favorite hikes in the state! Located in a beautiful State Park, this hike features the largest natural travertine bridge in the world! The trail down into the ravine requires a lot of climbing, but the view underneath the bridge is worth it!

 

Be sure to check out the Waterfall Trail while you’re in the Park! It’s a short and steep trail that ends at a waterfall cave surrounded by ferns and moss!

 

Please note that while Tonto Natural Bridge is dog-friendly, the hiking trails do *not* allow pets. They can still enjoy the park views but from the paved paths and viewpoints on the canyon rim. 

Trail Length: 1.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 291 ft

Route Type: Loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: No

Parking: There is ample parking in the park.

Facilities: 

Fee/Permit: Tonto Natural Bridge State Park charges an entrance fee of $7/adult and $4/child. Learn more here.

Watson Lake and Flume Trail, Prescott

The Watson Lake and Flume Trail take you along the bank of Watson Lake, one of the coolest lakes in the state! It looks otherworldly, with giant granite boulders jutting out of the water far as they eye can see.

 

The Watson Lake and Flume Trail follows along the waterfront and lets you climb onto the massive rocks. It’s located inside of Watson Lake Park, which itself is worth a visit, especially for families!

Trail Length: 4.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 367 ft

Route Type: Loop

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: Ample parking at the trailhead.

Facilities: Flush toilets

Fee/Permit: $3 entrance fee

Water Wheel Falls, Payson

Water Wheel Falls is one of Arizona’s best water hikes! It’s a short, easy hike that has an abundance of large rocks to climb and dazzling pools to play in. This hike is a great way to keep cool on hot days, so make sure to bring your water shoes, sun protection and a towel! 

 

Note: This area is prone to flash flooding, so avoid visiting during monsoon season

Trail Length: 1.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 150 ft

Route Type: Out & back

Difficulty: Moderate

Kid-friendly: Yes

Dog-friendly: Yes

Parking: There are about 25 official spots at the trailhead and a handful of unofficial parking spots. 

Facilities: Pit toilets at the trailhead 

Fee/Permit: $10 parking fee (cash only)

What to pack for hiking in and near Phoenix

The time of year will impact exactly what you need to bring to hike in Phoenix. If you visit in the winter, you’ll definitely want to bring long layers and warmer gear but if you visit in the summer, you’ll want light sun-blocking layers and plenty of water. 

 

No matter what time of year you visit, there are a couple of basics I recommend for hiking in Phoenix:

 

Hiking shoes 

Hiking in Phoenix means lots of loose rocks and sandy sections so sturdy hiking shoes are a must. Since hiking in Phoenix can get pretty hot, I prefer a lightweight hiking boot with a good grip

 

If the weather is warm enough and the trail flat enough, I love hiking in my Tevas! These ones feature soft heel-strap padding and durable, grippy soles to keep you comfortable while exploring the outdoors or downtown Phoenix.

 

Merino Wool Socks

Over the years, I’ve learned that the socks you wear hiking are just as important as the boots! I love hiking in these merino wool socks because they are great for preventing blisters and keeping your feet cool and dry.  

Sweat-wicking clothes

No matter the weather, I always get hot and sweaty when I’m hiking in Phoenix! For that reason, I prefer hiking in moisture-wicking fabrics like polyester because the fibers keep the sweat on the surface and transport your sweat to the outer layer of your shirt. Once there, the sweat evaporates!

Water bottle

You will need to pack a reusable water bottle or water bladder for hiking in Phoenix. Since it can get quite hot (no matter what time of year), it’s important to bring plenty of water and drink it throughout your hike.

Trail snacks for hikes in Phoenix

It’s super important to fuel your body when you are hiking, especially when you are hiking in the desert! I love to snack on fresh and fruit, protein bars, and rehydrate with electrolytes! 

Sunscreen + sun protection

Phoenix gets a lot of sun. Sunscreen and polarized sunglasses are essential for your hikes! 

what to wear hiking in phoenix, arizona

Sunhat

If there’s one thing I don’t ever go hiking in Phoenix without, it’s a sun hat! If you’re looking for a recommendation, I love this hat from Sunday Afternoons! It looks great on everyone, keeps the sun out of your eyes, and isn’t too hot on the head so you can wear it hiking all year round! 

Hiking Backpack

If you’re bringing your 10 essentials, extra water, snacks, your camera, and layers, you’ll need a hiking backpack to carry it all in! Here’s my current favorite hiking backpack for day trips – I love that it comes with a hydration bladder! 

Leave No Trace When Hiking In And Near Phoenix

While you are visiting Phoenix and beyond, please be sure to practice the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace (LNT). These guidelines are easy-to-understand and help minimize your impact on the outdoors. Here’s a brief overview of LNT:  

Plan Ahead & Prepare

Planning helps you be prepared for the conditions of your adventure and ensures the safety of yourself and others. Be sure to look at maps, check the weather and know the skills of yourself and the people in your group. 

Travel on Durable Surfaces

When you spend time outside, your main goal should be to explore with minimal impact or damage to the land, waterways, plants and animals. Staying on the trails, and traveling on surfaces that withstand the impact of your travel (rocks, sand, snow, etc.) are all ways to do this.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

The amount of litter I see on trails is heartbreaking (crying emoji). Please be sure to dispose of your waste properly to make everyone’s experience in nature more enjoyable! And waste includes your poop. Digging a cat hole and burying your toilet paper or using a Kula Cloth is a great way to leave no trace!

Leave What You Find

As much as we love to bring home cool rocks and pick flowers, it’s important to leave nature as you found it. Stacking rocks or carving your name into a living tree causes damage and only encourages others to do the same.

Respect Wildlife

You are likely to come across a lot of wildlife when hiking near Phoenix, including rattlesnakes, road runners, coyotes, and more. For everyone’s safety, it’s important to respect wildlife – after all, you are in their home! Give them their space and don’t feed them.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Everyone in nature is just trying to enjoy their visit. It’s SO important to be courteous to others because when people are out in nature, they want to listen to nature. Excessive noise, wild pets or a trashed campsite take away from the appeal of the outdoors.

15 of the best hikes in Phoenix
15 of the best hikes in Phoenix

Final Thoughts on the best hikes in and near Phoenix

I hope you enjoyed learning about my favorite Phoenix hikes and are inspired to take a trip of your own! If you’re ready to make a trip out west, check out my other guides on visiting Arizona:

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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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