They don’t call it the “Valley of the Sun” for nothing! In the summer months, Phoenix is far from a hiker’s dream. With soaring temperatures, the last place you want to be is out in the heat, scaling mountains and desert terrain. However, come fall and into winter, Phoenix presents ideal conditions to get out and appreciate its natural gifts. And luckily, you don’t have to stray too far from downtown to get out in nature and hike.
Read on to learn about some of the coolest hikes around Phoenix that you should try!
Just east of downtown, all levels of hikers can enjoy the trails running through Papago Park. The trails are designed for beginners and have low elevation gains and smooth paths. Despite the lack of difficulty, you can still appreciate classic southwest scenes as the park is littered with large buttes and red sandstone rock formations. In addition to its hiking trails, Papago Park is also home to the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Just under an hour from Phoenix, hikers will find the McDowell Sonoran Preserve full of great trails. The protected desert habitat is known for its network of trails, specifically for Tom’s Thumb Trail. Named for its appearance, this trail takes hikers up to a rock formation that resembles — you guessed it — a thumb. The hike begins with a number of challenging switchbacks. The reward for your efforts are views of the McDowell Mountains and the chance to take a cheesy thumbs-up photograph with the thumb itself.
Set in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, a diverse desert landscape, you can find yet another popular hike near the city atop Piestewa Peak. Just under 10 miles from downtown, Piestewa Peak measures 2,608 feet in height. The best way to traverse this peak is via the Piestewa Peak Summit Trail. The challenging hike boasts a 1,200-foot elevation gain with plenty of switchbacks and steps to keep you huffing and puffing. After 1.2 miles, hikers can catch their breath and spend some time on top, admiring views of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
You can’t go far in Phoenix without noticing the distinctively shaped Camelback Mountain. Thanks to the fact that it’s only 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, it also makes for one of the area’s most popular places to hike. Camelback Mountain features two main hiking trails: Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail. Both are not recommended for novice hikers as the terrain is steep and uneven. No matter which trail you select, you’ll be treated to 360-degree views of the area — but you’ll have to work for it! Both boast a change in elevation of at least 1,400 feet. Hikers might spot some wildlife along the trails such as the desert tortoise, cottontail rabbits, and even rattlesnakes.
The Superstition Mountains
Located east of downtown, the Superstition Mountains present a number of hikes within reach of Phoenix. The Siphon Draw Trail is just one of those hikes, set about an hour outside of Phoenix. The 4-mile round trip climb is considered challenging as the trail winds into the Siphon Draw canyon. In addition to steep rock formations, you’ll also enjoy open desert landscapes on this jaunt.
What’s your favorite hike around Phoenix? Share your pick with us in the comments below.