One of the biggest perks of living in the Valley is all of the mountains we are surrounded by! Not many people have the luxury of having countless hiking trails located right in their own “backyard.” In Arizona, we are beyond lucky to have a plethora of prime climbing spots to choose from, but with so many, we thought we’d narrow down the list to the top five “must-hikes” here in Metro Phoenix!
Hiking is ideal for many reasons. Right now, the season is perfect for hiking, so take advantage of all that nature has to offer while the weather is optimal (and when it gets warm you can always beat the heat by waking up a little early)! Also, hiking is a great activity for groups. Bring the kids on an easier trail, take on a challenging trek with a crew of friends, or take your date outside to tackle a mountain. The beautiful scenery beats running on a treadmill at the gym any day of the week! Not only is hiking fun, but it is one of the best exercises you can do (and it made our list of the five best winter workouts)! Hiking improves your cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, strengthens your core, helps with weight control, and can even boost your mood and help you get a better night’s sleep.
Don’t take our word for it… Lather on the sunscreen, grab a water bottle, and hit one of these five trails to experience all the benefits that go hand-in-hand with hiking!
The 5 best hiking spots in Metro Phoenix include:
- Camelback Mountain
- South Mountain
- Piestewa Peak
- Papago Park
- Deem Hills
1. Camelback Mountain
Taking the shape of a camel’s hump, Camelback Mountain is a prominent Valley landmark that can be recognized from miles away. Arizona natives and visitors alike flock to Phoenix to experience the thrill of climbing Camelback, taking one of two different trails that lead to the summit, the highest peak of all the mountains in Phoenix. Echo Canyon is the most popular route. It is a moderately demanding trail that definitely delivers a leg-burning workout. Cholla Trail is a much more challenging and technical course however; it involves steep uphill climbs and drop offs. Both routes are just over a mile and reward hikers with picturesque views of the city.
2. South Mountain
South Mountain Park is Arizona’s largest city park! This massive mountainous area spans almost 17,000 acres and can be accessed from either Ahwatukee or South Phoenix. With 11 different hiking trails, ranging from easy to difficult (and everything in between) there’s truly something for everyone! If you’re a beginner, we recommend taking Telegraph Pass for a short but pleasant hike. For a bit more of a challenge, try trekking up Holbert Trail to Dobbin’s Lookout; you’ll definitely want your camera for this view. Pro tip: Watch out for cacti and wildlife on this mountain!
3. Piestewa Peak
Formerly known as Squaw Peak, Piestewa Peak is a favorite hiking spot for many Arizonans. With a distance of just over 1 mile, taking the Piestewa Summit Trail #300 to the apex may seem easy at first, but this hike gradually becomes more arduous as the climb becomes steeper toward the top. This portion of the hike is demanding, but it is completely worth it for the breathtaking views of the Phoenix and Scottsdale skylines. If you want to avoid the crowd on your way back down the mountain, consider taking the Circumference Trail. This less-traveled route takes you 3 miles around the side of the mountain back to the trailhead.
4. Papago Park
Papago Park is easily distinguished by the striking sandstone buttes it is made up of. This sandstone rock is not only beautiful, but it makes for great hiking terrain! Take the Hole- In-The-Rock Trail to the famed rock formation the trail is named after. Bask in the unrivaled view of Tempe and downtown Phoenix from inside this unique natural rock structure that was formed millions of years ago. Also, be sure to check out Hunt’s Tomb, the white pyramid that holds Arizona’s first governor, which also offers sweeping views in every direction. All of the trails at Papago Park range from easy to moderate, with little elevation gains, so it’s safe to bring a beginner along with you for a workout that is perfect for all fitness levels!
5. Deem Hills
One of the newer parks in Phoenix, Deem Hills Recreation Area is one of Phoenix’s best-kept secrets, and therefore it isn’t as busy as many of the Valley’s other parks. Take a secluded, quiet trek along the Circumference trail from both the East and West sides of the park. This longer, moderate hike is almost 6 miles, and as it wraps around the two hills, you will enjoy the scenery at every turn. Alternatively, take the Ridgeline Trail (from the West) or the Palisade Trail (from the East) to cut through the interior. Both trails are considered moderately difficult, but both also connect to a shortcut route, the Basalt Trail, which will shave 1.4 miles off the hike.
- Always bring plenty of water, staying hydrated is a must!
- Don’t skip the sunscreen, even on a cloudy day.
- Wear the correct footwear, such as hiking boots or tennis shoes.
- Hike with a partner, especially if you’re a beginner! The buddy system is always smart.
- If you prefer to hike alone, always let someone know where you are hiking and when you expect to return.
- Listen to your body and take a break when you need to.
- Be respectful of the plants and the wildlife.
- Leave the park exactly as it was. Please don’t litter!
- Enjoy your hike!