The hiking trails in and around Phoenix are enticing and exciting. The buttes of Papago Park and the boulders of Camelback Mountain seem to jut right out of the ground before you, challenging you on your path; either climb over me, or go around. Many visitors to Phoenix may not even include a day of hiking in their Phoenix itinerary. But one look at the majestic peaks surrounding the city, and a trail trek is instantly added. The hiking trails around Phoenix are well maintained and very popular with visitors and locals alike. Every care is taken to insure your hiking experience in Phoenix is enjoyable and memorable. In order for your trail hike experience to be a fun and positive experience, proper preparation for a hike is totally dependent on you. Very often, out of town visitors will be beckoned by the sirens of the peaks. Before they know it, the car is parked and they are all heading up the trail. It’s only eight-tenths of a mile, how difficult can it be? This is how tragedies happen. No one is acclimated, no one is hydrated and no one has brought any water with them.
Proper preparation is the most important thing to do before embarking on any one of the many hiking trails around Phoenix. Hydrating means drinking plenty of water before you begin your hike, not just when you get thirsty on the trail. Protection from the sun is paramount, especially if you are not accustomed to the heat and sunshine of Arizona. Have your phone with you and make sure the battery is charged and the phone works.
Pace yourself as you are hiking. If it gets to be too much, turn around and head back. Even the most experienced hikers know when it just isn’t their day for the trail. Regroup, refresh and retry when you are ready. The trails close to Phoenix are well traveled and well marked. You have to work pretty hard at getting lost on your well-planned, well prepared trail hike. Don’t stray from the path, stay on the trail. You have heard that all your life because it is the best advice, both metaphorically and tangibly.
Let’s start with a few of the best trails that are all close to Phoenix and offer an enjoyable day of hiking for everybody. These are the peaks that visitors can’t resist the moment they see them, and provide an excellent Arizona trail hiking experience.
Camelback Mountain – Phoenix
Resting lazily in the northern region of the Phoenix skyline, Camelback mountain is the one everyone wants to climb as soon as they see it from their window while landing at Sky Harbor airport. There are two trail heads to begin your trek: the Echo Canyon trail is the most popular route, ascending 1,400 feet up the western side of the mountain in just over a mile. The terrain you’ll encounter varies rapidly, from loose gravel to solid rock. This is still a challenging trail, so be prepared to turn back at the first sign of fatigue. On the east flank of Camelback, the Cholla route leads up a well maintained trail but becomes a challenging and technical ascent upon reaching the ridge line. At around 1.3 miles, this route gradually becomes very rocky and very steep. While still not an extreme climb, the hike on Camelback will rapidly elevate you over Phoenix in a breathtaking and spectacular panorama of the city. Keep this in mind if you have an aversion to heights.
Papago Park – Phoenix
I recommend hiking Papago Park for any first time visitor. Only spitting distance from Camelback Mountain, Papago Park has several trails to hike, all on well maintained, very gradual routes. The Papago Buttes offer the next best thing to hiking Camelback Mountain. The terrain is very similar and the view at the top is spectacular. At around 0.14 miles, you can access the hole-in-the-rock butte from almost any one of the many trails slashing through the park. There is a quick and easy trail to the buttes that can be accessed from McDowell road. Parking for this trail access is extremely limited, especially at sunset. There are overhangs, picnic areas and drinking fountains throughout the park. It is still recommended to keep plenty of water with you.
Piestewa (Squaw) Peak – Phoenix
Piestewa peak is rapidly becoming the number one hiking destination in Phoenix. Because this trail is so popular, the crowds of hikers are present and plentiful. If a solitary, peaceful day of bird watching and wildflowers are what you seek, you may want to consider one of the other hiking trails Phoenix has to offer. Parking is extremely limited due to the throngs of walkers, runners and bird watchers that flock to the trail. Once you are on the trail, the attraction of this destination becomes instantly obvious, with exquisite desert flora and fauna, vibrant wildflowers and stunning geology. The view of Phoenix from the summit is like no other. The round trip distance from the trail head to the summit and back is around 2 miles. If you feel up to it, you can take the less traveled Circumference Trail which traces a border route around the mountain. This trip is around 3.1 miles from the peak trail and back to the trail head.
Waterfall Canyon – White Tank Mountains Regional Park
This is the trail I recommend the most for those seeking their first time hiking experience in Phoenix. Rising in the west a short 20 mile drive from downtown Phoenix, the White Tank Mountains offer the best hiking experience for a first time visitor or a rugged backpacker. The trails are well maintained, with picnic areas and water fountains at the trail heads. The 0.8 mile hike to waterfall canyon is easy and gradual, with more Arizona scenery, geology and anthropology along the trail than you could ever dream of. The accessible and protected petroglyphs near the last quarter of the trail are amazing to experience up close. This trail is best traversed in the spring and fall, especially if you want to see the waterfall at the end of the trail. While still a popular trail, the hike to Waterfall Canyon is peaceful, pleasant and perfect for anyone visiting Phoenix.
After trying out some of the popular trails close to Phoenix, you may want to expand your Arizona hiking experience. Take a look at all of the amazing trails Phoenix and Arizona have to offer. Plan your next trip and prepare for your next hike.