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Nature is Calling: 5 Great Hikes in Phoenix

Residents know this to be true, Arizona is GORGEOUS! We have stunning and diverse landscapes that cover nearly every inch of our state, it’s no wonder that you can’t seem to go a day without running into someone itching to get outdoors. What is great about living here is you don’t have to go far to find somewhere beautiful to visit. In fact, we have found five great hikes that are in Phoenix -or right next door- for you to try the next time you need to get out for some sunshine and fresh air.

View From Camelback Mountain
View From Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain

Located at Camelback Mountain are two different hiking trails, Cholla and Echo Canyon. Both trails are rated difficult, while Cholla is longer and Echo Canyon is steeper. These are very popular hiking destinations, and if you arrive after 6AM you may have difficulty finding a parking spot.

• Echo Canyon Trail– This trail is an extreme and challenging anaerobic hike for the entire 1.23 miles to the top. For less experienced hikers the hike can take you anywhere from one and a half to three hours. You will scale a total of 1,280 ft. in that time. Remember to bring plenty of water, and pace yourself to prevent injury. The first rail section of the trail is the most difficult and steepest part of the trail. Between the first and second rail you will have about 200 feet of low grade hiking. Once you are past the second, less intense, rail section there are large rocks, and exceptional views.
Cholla Trail– This trail is less crowded of the two, and offers a better chance of viewing wildlife. On Cholla trail you get magnificent views and a terrific workout all at the same time. On Cholla, you gain 1,300 feet in close to a mile and a half. You get a winding hike with unbeatable views of Phoenix and Scottsdale. For the first mile you are trail hiking. After you reach what is known as “the saddle”, the hike becomes much more difficult and is more scrambling to the top.


Papago Park

Located by the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden, Papago Park is a great family hiking spot. Dogs are welcome as long as they are leashed. There is a 2.2-mile loop trail that features a cave and is good for all skill levels. You are surrounded by huge, beautiful sandstone buttes that almost feel other worldly. There are other recreational activities that people can partake in at Papago Park such as mountain biking, picnicking, fishing lagoons, an exercise course, and an archery range.


Piestewa Peak

There are several trails on Piestewa Peak. We are giving credit to are the Freedom Trail. This trail is Camelback’s Echo Canyon Trail’s meaner sister. It is all uphill and the stairs and switchbacks that help you do end part of the way up. There is a rail to hold on to near the top to help you reach the summit, but if you get queasy, you may not want to look down. Though this trail is well traveled, it gets less traffic than Echo Canyon, so it is a strong alternative. The mountain fools you into thinking you reached the peak when you really haven’t. At this point you go to the left and continue hiking until you reach the official survey marker. You can get to the trailhead from the Apache picnic area at the far end of the parking area in Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. The hike is around 3 miles with amazing views. Remember to bring a lot of water. There is not much shade available on desert hikes and you can dehydrate quickly.


Woman Hiking in Desert
Woman Hiking in Desert

Pinnacle Peak

The Pinnacle Peak Park Trail has an elevation gain of approximately 1,300 feet and is considered to be a moderate hike. It is a relatively smooth trail with several ups and downs over the course of the 1.75 mile (each way) trail. It takes most hikers around two hours to complete this hike. If you like wildlife, this is the place for you. Pinnacle Peak is a wildlife sanctuary. You are likely to run into jack rabbits, quail, antelope ground squirrels, lizards, and the occasional road runner on your journey. Sometimes people get lucky and catch a glimpse of the larger mammals like mule deer and javelinas. Once in a while a coyote, bob cat or mountain lion may amble through, but they are much more shy and tend to stay away from human visitors. Watch your step, this is the desert and there are snakes. The trail winds up a boulder covered mountain, littered with giant saguaros and offers amazing views of the McDowell Mountains, Four Peaks, Granite Mountain Pinnacle Peak Park Trail.


South Mountain

The South Mountain Park area has numerous hikes. We are going to talk about the National Trail. This is the most diverse as well as the longest (14.3 mile) trail at South Mountain. Hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders all frequent this trail. There are several locations you can access this trail from, however Pima Canyon is the primary location. This trail crosses almost the full length of South Mountain Park. There are amazing views on the interior of the mountain as well as on the ridgeline, and the hike presents various levels of difficulty throughout. You have to walk a mile from the parking lot to even begin the trail, but have no fear the trek is flat. At the start of the trail make sure you stay to the left. If you head to the right, you may end up on the Mormon Loop. Stay on the marked path as it is easy to become disoriented and lost, and bring plenty of water.



* More than 200 hikers annually are rescued from City of Phoenix desert and mountain parks and preserves. Make sure you follow safe hiking practices so you can avoid becoming one of them. Watch the weather, wear the proper clothes, bring plenty of water and food for fuel, don’t push yourself/know your limits, never hike alone, and stay on the trails.