Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Phoenix. With such great year-round weather, it’s impossible to not explore the Valley’s best trails.
If you’re hiking during peak season, expect it to be pretty busy. Popular hikes like Camelback and Piestewa can quickly become congested during early mornings and early evenings. To avoid crowds, head out around sunrise or midday. During the summer, try avoid hiking all together. Even early morning temperatures can hover around 100 degrees and every year, there’s a few tourists that must be rescued off a mountain. With that said, drinking plenty of water is crucial. Locals know to take more than you think you need, especially for those not used to the desert climate. Dehydration can sneak up quickly. Keep reading for the top tips to brave the desert trails and for some of the Valley’s best hiking.
Top Hiking Tips
Drink Lots of Water: A great rule of thumb is to drink one liter every two hours.
Do Your Research: Don’t set out blindly on a trail. Do your research before so you know what to expect. And remember to tell someone where you’re going or bring along a hiking buddy.
Avoid Summer Hikes: Summer temperatures stay hot all day and night. Avoid hiking all together unless you can get out before sunrise. Even then, expect 100-degree heat.
Watch Your Step: Desert wildlife can blend into the scenery. Watch your step for rattlesnakes, lizards and other critters.
1. Camelback Mountain
Easily the Valley’s most popular climb, this centrally located hike is nestled among some of Scottsdale’s most luxurious homes and resorts. Named for the shape the two peaks make — like a camel laying down — it offers two challenging trails to hikers. The Cholla trail is a solid hike which requires some oomph for a decent workout, but the views at the top make it worth it. For more advanced hikers, the Echo trail is a challenge, albeit shorter than Cholla. Expect to use your hands during this steep climb. But once you’ve reached the top, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views.
2. South Mountain
Another popular choice, South Mountain Park and Preserve spans more than 16,000 acres. Located south of Central Phoenix, it offers more than 51 miles of trails. A popular destination, Dobbins Lookout point, can be reached via numerous trails. Holbert Trail is a great choice that offers views of Downtown Phoenix after taking hikers through fields of saguaros. Around four miles round-trip, the hike is moderate and is great for a decent workout with amazing views.
3. Pinnacle Peak
The iconic North Scottsdale peak is popular among all outdoor enthusiasts, from hikers and rock climbers to runners and tourists. The 3.5-mile round-trip trail can be enjoyed by those of all skill levels. The moderate, smooth trail gains about 1,300 feet in elevation and is an enjoyable ascent. Expect lots of desert wildlife like giant Saguaros, plus views of the Valley and McDowell Mountains.
4. Piestewa Peak
This hike pays off with killer panoramic views. To get there, hikers must conquer the 1.2-mile Summit Trail, a somewhat challenging climb that gains nearly 1,200 feet but is well worth it in the end. Climb this one early; its convenient location makes it a popular choice among hikers.
5. Lost Dutchman
Located in the Superstition Mountains, about 40 miles west of Phoenix, Lost Dutchman offers beginner to advanced trails. For a scenic experience, the Siphon Draw Trail is a four-mile round trip hike that winds up into the Siphon Draw canyon and on to the iconic Flatiron. For an easier hike, opt for the Jacob’s Crosscut Trail which runs along the base of the mountain, or the Treasure Loop Trail, a moderate 2.4-mile round trip trail through the Sonoran Desert.