Phoenix is ranked as one of the best hiking cities in America by National Geographic. Within the Phoenix city limit, there are countless summit views that will take your breath away. The city offers some of the most picturesque streams, beautiful canyons, waterfalls, and spectacular views of the city and surrounding desert beauty that is brimming with places to explore.
October through April is the best time to enjoy the countless parks, greenbelts and preserves that are available for enjoyable day hikes and casual strolls. The temperatures are moderate or even cool in places making spending time outdoors very pleasurable.
A tip while you’re out on the trails, in addition to foot traffic, most trails are open to mountain bike riders and some allow horse-back riders as well. Also, be aware of wildlife, you will likely be sharing the trails with rattlesnakes, scorpions and other critters, so watch your step and where you put your hands.
Here are some of the best hikes in Metro Phoenix.
This moderately rated trail takes about three hours to complete with a total distance of about four miles round-trip. It’s located in the more secluded northern section of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Tom’s Thumb sits at 140 feet and can be seen throughout most of Scottsdale and the East Valley.
Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon Trail
This trail is a local and visitor’s favorite. Although the trail is rated at a difficult level and takes about two hours to complete with a distance of 2.3 miles round-trip, Camelback Mountain should be hiked at least once in your life. This summit hike offers some of the most sought-after panoramic views of Phoenix.
Shaw Butte Trail
Located in the northwestern corner of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Shaw Butte is the best all-around hike within the area. This 4.25-mile round-trip hike is considered moderate in difficulty. This scenic loop trail offers panoramic overlooks around every turn through the desert floor and a challenging 800-foot gain to the summit. From the top, you will have great views of North Mountain and Piestewa Peak. On a clear day, in the distance, you will also have views of South Mountain and the Sierra Estrellas.
Quartz Ridge Trail
Sitting in the middle of the city, this hiking trail offers a scenic stroll through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Although this easy 5-mile trail is readily accessible, it traverses many secluded desert basins where you get a sense of being deep within a wilderness area. The trail gets its name from a giant quartz boulder that lies within a basin in the Preserve. This hiking trail offers plenty of variety with some moderately challenging options just off of the main trail.
Big Butte Loop Trail
This is an easy multi-purpose path that is just over 2 miles in length. The Big Butte Loop Trail is easily accessed via nearby popular destinations like the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden. A level hike, the path is a geologist’s dream, surrounded by interesting rock formations, though also providing an easy hike with lovely views of the Valley and a nice desert escape in the middle of town.
Hayden Butte Preserve and Tempe Town Lake
This scenic hiking/walking route allows visitors to view the best hotspots in downtown Tempe near Arizona State University. This easy 4.5-mile loop is not entirely a hiking trail; however, it visits a mountain preserve, a lakeside park and a trendy business district. On this hike you will pass Sun Devil Stadium and Hayden Butte Park as well as the city of Tempe’s municipal buildings. Tempe Town Lake is a manmade reservoir with a wonderful 2.5-mile path surrounding it. You will enjoy the many shade trees, grassy areas and park benches to rest during your hike. From the top of the butte you will have wonderful views of Tempe and Arizona State University.
This is a short easy hike of about 3 miles that offers spectacular views of the magnificent Superstition Wilderness Area, as well as a prehistoric collection of Hohokam petroglyphs. The Hieroglyphic Trail is located at the base of the Superstition Mountains and is perfect for beginner hikers, families, or anyone looking for a fun.
Mormon Trail to Hidden Valley Trail
Located within the largest municipal park in the country, South Mountain’s Hidden Valley Trail lets you escape the city with exceptional rock formations and two natural rock tunnels bookending this half-mile trail. The 3.9 miles of moderately rated trail will leave you with a sense of peace and tranquility as the sounds of the nearby metropolis disappear.
And not for the weak, if you’re on a search for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in the desert, Reavis Falls may be the place for you. With a difficult rating, this 14-mile trek will take you between 8-9 hours round-trip, but what you will find at the end is a 140-foot waterfall, yes, that’s 30 feet taller than Niagara Falls.
Located deep within the Superstition Wilderness is definitely worth the effort. Keep in mind, the state of the waterfall varies depending on recent rainfall, so plan accordingly.