Phoenix Arizona Mountains: The 10 Best Hikes

phoenix arizona mountains

The mountains surrounding Phoenix, Arizona are a beautiful feature of the city skyline, and you can explore them the next time you’re searching for an adventure in the metro area.

Known for its moderate winters, Phoenix is the perfect place for those looking to spend a pleasant day outdoors. Add to that the waterfalls, desert wildlife, and cacti, and you have a winning combination for a fun day enjoying nature in the middle of the city.

Here are the 10 best hikes in the Phoenix Arizona mountains:

1. Lookout Mountain Summit Trail

When taking the Lookout Mountain Summit Trail, expect to lose your breath – both from the climb and the view. The hike gains 450 feet in less than a mile, but what you get to see from the top makes the trail less tiring.

On the way to the top, hikers are graced with desert flora such as barrel cacti, teddy-bear cholla, and organ pipe cacti. When you get to the top, you get a view of neighborhoods, Phoenix Mountain Preserve, and to the mountain ranges beyond. If you go at sunset, you can capture a gorgeous memory that will gain you some social media likes.

Distance of Hike: 1.2 miles

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Trail Map: phoenix.gov

2. Hidden Valley

This lollipop loop trail starts steep and can be a challenging 4-mile hike. However, those willing to try will be rewarded with their weight in adventures. There are ancient petroglyphs to decipher, and a small slot lovingly referred to as ‘Fat Man’s Pass’.

The series of 3 trails lead through the desert to a surprise rocky tunnel. The floor is straight sand, and the rocks on the side offer fun climbing for the young and those young at heart. Along the way, there are other fun rock formations for those interested in the geological features of South Mountain Park.

To get to Hidden Valley requires starting on the Mormon Trailhead. At National Trail, go south. Eventually, you will meet back up with the Mormon trail and follow it back to your car.

Distance of Hike: 4 miles

Difficulty Level: Moderately Difficult

Trail Map: google.com

3. Echo Canyon Trail Camelback Mountain

If you know anything about mountains in Phoenix, you will know Camelback Mountain is the crowning jewel. Located in the middle of the state capitol, the summit is one of the highest peaks in the metro area. This ensures you leave with amazing memories, eye-catching photos, a great workout, and a 360-degree view of the city and mountains beyond.

Although this hike is popular, it’s the most difficult on our list. From the parking spot on the north side of Camelback, you will ascend and descend 1200 feet. That’s not an easy elevation loss or gain even when the going is easy. To make it even more daunting, the beginning of the trail features a scramble. You will need both of your hands for this steep rock, as well as the boulder hopping toward the top.

Distance of Hike: 2.4 miles

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Trail Map: phoenix.gov

4. Waterfall Trail

White Tank Mountain Regional Park conceals a rare sight for the desert. The name gives away the most coveted site on the trail, but you won’t be disappointed on your journey to the small waterfall.

This out and back trail winds through saguaros, rocky overhangs, and ancient petroglyphs. It is wide most of the time, making it easy to walk and talk side by side. There is also little elevation gain no difficult steps, so it isn’t too much of a heavy breather.

Local Tip: If you want to see the waterfall, go after the rain passes through. And yes, it does rain in the Sonoran Desert!

Distance of Hike: 1.8 miles

Difficulty Level: Easy

Trail Map: maricopacountyparks.net

5. Double Butte Loop and Hole-in-the-Rock Trail

Both the Double Butte Loop and the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail are located in Papago Park. We had to include both, because if you make the trip for the one you will enjoy the unique beauty of the other. This area is famous for its red sandstone and boasts a quick walk to the Phoenix Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

The Double Butte Loop starts in the West Park parking lot on a dirt trail. This easy loop hike then passes by spring wildflowers and red rocks. Along this trail, there are a few longer routes if you want to see more of Papago Park.

Hole-in-the-Rock trail is an out and back that begins across the street at the East Park. Walk up a few stairs, and you will be able to look out the literal hole in the red rock! This landmark was used to track the solstice in prehistoric days, so you may find yourself lost in history.

Distance of Hike: 2.3-mile loop (Double Butte), 825 feet (Hole-in-the-Rock)

Difficulty Level: Easy

Trail Map: google.com

6. Piestewa Summit Trail

Getting to the Summit of Piestewa at Phoenix Mountain Preserve is the second busiest hiking spot in the city. It isn’t an easy task, but it’s a popular one. And once you see the panoramic view you’ll understand why people sweat their way to the top. Just be sure to watch your feet. Most of the hike is hiking up schist rock, followed by man-made stairs leading toward the top.

Boasting a 1208-foot elevation gain, the Piestewa Summit Trail can get tiring, but doesn’t disappoint in terms of scenery. On the way up you will see ocotillo, wildflowers, and saguaros among other cacti. In the spring, the butterflies and hummingbirds abound.

Distance of Hike: 2.4 miles

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Trail Map: google.com

7. Tom’s Thumb

As you approach this hike in McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the landmark looks like another large rock in a field of large rocks. However, as you make the trek closer you will be able to see the full glory that is a human thumb in rock form.

From the beginning of the trail, Tom’s Thumb looks impossible to reach. The boulder field leading up to the top appears steep and foreboding. What you can’t see from the bottom of the 1,000-foot ascent are the switchbacks snaking up. Once you reach the top, you can play on Tomb’s Thumb or explore the little caves dotted along this rocky vista.

Distance of Hike: 4.6

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Trail Map: scottsdaleaz.gov

8. Siphon Draw Trail to the Flatiron

Just outside of the Phoenix, Arizona metro area is Lost Dutchman State Park. Rich in history and beauty, the Park is named after a (maybe!) mythical lost goldmine. No one that’s entered looking for the mine has ever found it, but maybe you’ll be the lucky one if you’ve got a knack for adventure. Even if you don’t, the lush green vegetation will impress you and you might discover a Gila monster on the trail.

In this park is the Flatiron, an iconic landmark to all those who see it. To get there, this out an back hike begins in open desert on Siphon Draw Trail in the Superstition Mountains. Soon enough, you will find yourself hiking up a slick rock basin. This eventually requires you to scramble on all fours to gain elevation. There is another climbing obstacle at the top before you reach a clear plot of land with stunning views.

Distance of Hike: 6 miles

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Trail Map: hikingproject.com

9. Alta Trail

Located in South Mountain Park down San Juan Road, the Alta Trail provides a difficult yet rewarding climb in the city. You will have to watch your footwork on the rocky dirt trail, but fantastic views at the top make the balancing act worth it. You will be rewarded with a panoramic scene of the heart of the park on one side and the Phoenix skyline on the other.

This trail is in the Sonoran Desert and features flora on the way such as juniper bushes, saguaro, and teddy bear cholla. If you’re lucky, you will hear the packs of coyotes howl. Watch for mountain bikers, and make sure you get to the trailhead between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. However, the park doesn’t close until 11 p.m. so you have a few hours to complete the hike before and after the heat of midday.

Distance of Hike: 4.7

Difficulty Level: Difficult

Trail Map: phoenix.gov

10. Wind Cave Trail

Although this is the most popular hike in Usery Mountain Regional Park, it is well worth heading out earlier or later in the day to explore. The out and back trail blooms gorgeous wildflowers in the spring, and on clear days you can see miles from the cave. The best way to describe the wind cavern is a hole cut into the rock where you can take pictures and find respite from the heat.

Most will find this trail easy, but there are quite a few stairs that might make it difficult for some. On the way to the trek’s namesake, you will pass by prickly pears, cottonwood trees, and ocotillo. In this diverse ecosystem, you could be lucky enough to catch a peek of a snake, deer, or multiple other desert creatures.

Distance of Hike: 3.2 miles

Difficulty Level: Easy-Moderate

Trail Map: maricopacountyparks.net

 

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