The Arizona desert is home to some of the most breath-taking hiking trails in the country. With this beautiful landscape, comes a potentially dangerous environment. It is important that hikers take note of the following tips so that they can safely enjoy the natural beauty Arizona’s trails have to offer.

1. Drink Lots of Water

Many tourists not familiar with the Arizona heat don’t understand how quickly severe dehydration can happen in the desert. Drink more than you normally do and plan hikes and outdoor activities around the coolest part of the day. When hiking in the summer bring a CamelBak or large jug of water; standard water bottles just aren’t enough and you’ll likely gulp the whole thing down in one sip. The best secret to staying hydrated is to drink long before you’re thirsty and before you even set out on your hike. Bringing salty snacks for the trip will also help replenish electrolytes and keep you fueled all day long.

2. Consider Time of Day

While spring and winter offer prime hiking conditions all day long, you’ll want to plan early hikes during the summer and even fall months. If you’re hiking in the summer, keep in mind overnight lows often stay in the high 90s. Plan to hike before the sun comes up around 5 a.m. You should also expect on it taking twice as long to hike uphill as it does downhill. Do your research on where you plan to hike before as you’ll likely want to finish as the sun is rising. Whatever you do, don’t hike midday to late afternoon in the summer. Not even locals can handle that.

3. Consider Time of Season

If you plan on hiking popular mountains like Camelback, McDowell and Piestewa Peak, take note of the time of year. During spring and winter, trails here can become quite busy with out-of-towners. The busiest times of day are often around sunrise and sunset due to the breathtaking views from up top. But they’re also worth it for those cotton candy-colored desert skies.

4. Watch Your Step

It might go without saying to watch out for cacti, but some desert plants can be a little more painful than they look. While desert plants and cacti sure are gorgeous to look at, they’re best enjoyed from afar especially if you’re not familiar with them. The same goes with wildlife. You might catch sight of rattlesnakes, coyotes, scorpions and other desert dwellers, and you’ll be okay if you don’t bother them. Rattlesnakes should pass by without bother, but do watch your step as they can blend in with the desert ground. Coyotes are not fans of humans and usually only consider animals smaller than 40 pounds prey. With that said, take caution when hiking with your four-legged friends.

5. Don’t Go Solo

Bring a hiking buddy along for safety. If you’re setting out on a new trail or area be sure to do your research before so you know what to expect. Always know what your destination is and as pretty as the Phoenix desert is, avoid wandering off trails and marked paths.

Insider Tip: If you’re looking to explore somewhere other than the desert or just want cooler temps, take a day trip to Sedona where you can spend the day hiking among the famous red rocks. Find notable landmarks here like Devil’s Bridge, Cathedral Rock and more.

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