There’s no shortage of hiking near Phoenix. One of my favorite things about this city is that wherever you stand in it, you can almost always see a mountain just waiting to be climbed. And, some of the best hikes in Arizona are right in the heart of Phoenix. Below is a list of my favorite hikes around the city. Some are well-known tourist attractions. Others are secluded hidden gems. All will lead to spectacular views and leave you with an appreciation for Phoenix and its desert beauty. Enjoy, and remember to always bring plenty of water. It’s kind of hot here.
Camelback Mountain Summit Trail (Echo Canyon)
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 11.4 miles Length: 2.5 miles Type of Trail: Out & back Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet Dog Friendly: No (leave fur babies at home) Family Friendly: For kids who are steady on their feet and comfortable with hiking Difficulty: Moderate to difficult Trailhead Location: 33.5131858, -111.9479306 Camelback Mountain is one of the most popular in-town hikes in Phoenix. The summit provides an unbeatable view of the Valley and when the weather is nice (basically winter and spring months), Echo Canyon draws a crowd of locals and tourists alike. Don’t let the crowds fool you, though -- this hike is not for the faint of heart. The trail puts even experienced hikers to the test with rapid inclines, slick rock sections and boulder-filled paths that require light rock climbing. Round trip takes about 2 to 3 hours and you can expect an intense hike all the way to the summit. Seriously, though, the view is worth it. Pro tip: Bike to the trailhead. Trying to find a parking spot after 6 a.m. on weekends and holidays is a nightmare. Park your car in a public parking area within a few miles of the mountain and bike to the trailhead. There are plenty of bike lock racks.
Pinnacle Peak Trail
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 32.2 miles Length: 3.9 miles Type of Trail: Out & back Elevation Gain: 1,174 feet Difficulty: Moderate Trailhead Location: 33.7274806, -111.8667761 Dog friendly: No, except for service dogs Kid friendly: Yes Pinnacle Peak Park is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Phoenix. It probably has something to do with its spectacular views and easy accessibility for people of all hiking experience. It could also be that the peak’s distinctive, 600-foot-tall granite summit can be seen from much of the Valley. It kind of looks like a turnip. The trail has a number of ups and downs that will give you a tour of desert vegetation along the way, including saguaros, cholla cactus and creosote plants. Pinnacle Peak is also a wildlife sanctuary, so don’t be surprised to see Gambel’s quail, jackrabbits, cactus wren, squirrels, lizards and maybe even a roadrunner on your hike. Pro tip: There’s an access trail for rock climbers that leads to the summit, but hikers aren’t allowed on this part of the mountain. If you’re planning on rock climbing, keep in mind that the park staff doesn’t create or maintain fixed anchors on any climbing route and new routes requiring fixed anchors aren’t allowed.
Siphon Draw Trail #53 (Superstition Mountains)
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 51.6 miles Length: 5.5 miles Type of Trail: Out & back Elevation Gain: 1,113 feet Difficulty: Moderate Trailhead Location: 33.4593505859375, -111.480102539062 Dog friendly: Very Kid friendly: Yes This is one of my favorite hikes in the state. There’s something magical about the Superstition Mountains, and Siphon Draw trail offers sweeping views of these massive, ancient giants. You’ll head out on the Discovery Trail for about half a mile to get to the trailhead, where you’ll take a left on Siphon Draw Trail #53. During wildflower season, the trail is lined with lupine, Mexican poppies, chuparosa and brittlebush. The steadily grading trail ultimately leads to the base of a slickrock chute called The Basin and a waterfall, which, unless there’s been recent rain, is a small trickle. This is where the maintained portion ends. Experienced hikers can continue on the route to the Flatiron (that huge mass looming over your head) and the summit. Keep in mind, Flatiron is no joke. It’s a steep, 1,700-foot ascent on an unmaintained trail with sections where you’ll need to pull yourself up. Pro tip: Make sure to bring $7 for the entry fee.
Dreamy Draw Recreation Area
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 10.5 miles Length: There are an abundance of trails Type of Trail: Loops and out & back Elevation Gain: Up to 1,190 feet Difficulty: Easy to moderate Trailhead Location: 33.5641431,-112.0310988 Dog Friendly: Yes, but keep them on a leash Kid Friendly: Most trails Surrounding the base of 2,608-foot Piestewa Peak, the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area is a hidden gem right in the center of the city. It offers miles of trails suited for any age and experience level. The area provides a “choose your own adventure” experience -- everything from paved paths and laid-back nature trails to more rigorous hikes up peaks. The variety of paths provides hikers (and trail runners, mountain bikers and horseback riders) with a little more seclusion than busier trails like Piestewa. Even in peak hiking season, you can still find a quiet hike with very little foot traffic. Just off of State Route 51 and Northern, the convenience of Dreamy Draw’s location makes it perfect for a quick hike after work. Or you can make a weekend day of it and enjoy the covered picnic tables and grills in the area. Pro tip: There’s a lot of wildlife on these trails including coyotes, Javelina, snakes and the occasional UFO. Make sure to keep your dogs on a leash and kids nearby in case you run into anything creepy, crawly, or extraterrestrial.
Shaw Butte Trail #306 (North Mountain)
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 15.1 miles Length: 4 miles Type of Trail: Loop Elevation Gain: 670 feet Difficulty: Moderate Trailhead Location: 33.6014118,-112.0794804 Dog friendly: If they’re on a leash Kid friendly: Yes Looking for a quick cardio session in the outdoors? Shaw Butte is the trail for you. This 4-mile loop starts up an old service road and provides approximately 30 minutes of a glute-busting grade that leads you to a great view of the city. You’ll feel the burn almost immediately on this hike and, with the exception of a few flat spots, it’s pretty much non-stop until you reach the top. Transmission towers greet you on the summit. Make sure to stop and take in the view before following the Shaw Butte Trail #306 markers to complete the loop and find your way back. Because it’s (mostly) paved and there isn’t much shade, this trail is best in October through March or early in the morning during warmer months. Pro tip: Parking is pretty limited, but spots open frequently because of the short length of this hike. You can find additional parking off of Central and Thunderbird or at the North Mountain Visitor Center and take Trail 100 over to 101, then up the peak.
Piestewa Peak Summit Trail #300
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 9.4 miles Length: 2.3 miles Type of Trail: Out & back Elevation Gain: 1,167 feet Difficulty: Moderate to difficult Trailhead Location: 33.5473716,-112.0230235 Dog Friendly: Sorry, not allowed Kid Friendly: Only for the more experienced hikers (the trail is steep with lots of drop-offs) Piestewa Peak is known by many different names. Some have even called it the Stairmaster from Hell. Piestewa Peak’s trail is challenging and it’s usually crowded -- you’ve got to work for those views. Rocky stairs rise steeply along the mountain’s many switchbacks and lead to a sweeping view of the city and surrounding mountains. Depending on what shape you’re in and your comfort level with the terrain, making it up this trail can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2+ hours round-trip. If you’re not in a rush, there are plenty of flat places and benches to rest and take it all in. The trailhead is located in the parking lot at the first driveway on the left in Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. To reach the trail to the summit of Piestewa Peak, turn east on Squaw Peak Drive from Lincoln Drive between 22nd and 24th streets. Paved parking, drinking water and restrooms are available. This is one of the most heavily used trails in the nation with 4,000 to 10,000 hikers per week. Because of its popularity, parking can be a challenge. There are many lots to choose from along the base, though, so have patience and explore if you don’t find a spot right away. Pro tip: This is one of the best mountains for a night hike. Just make sure to get to the parking lot before 7 p.m. (you can be there until 11 p.m.) and bring multiple flashlights. It’s unreal how beautiful the city looks from the top at night.
L.V. Yates Trail #8 (Phoenix Mountains Preserve)
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 9.8 miles Length: 4.9 miles Type of Trail: Out & back Elevation Gain: 698 feet Difficulty: Easy to moderate Trailhead Location: 33.5427654,-112.0176728 Dog Friendly: Yes, but they should be on a leash Kid Friendly: It’s a pretty mild hike, so yes The L.V. Yates Trail is truly an escape. Even though you’re in the middle of Phoenix, there’s no sign of the city life when you’re on this trail. Nestled in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, the trailhead is located at the end of 40th Street one mile south of Shea Boulevard. The trail offers a gentle incline for the first mile, then increases in intensity for the final 0.3 mile. All in all, there are only a couple hundred feet of elevation gain but there’s still plenty to see. Heading south, you’ll pass Trail 100 with a view of Dreamy Draw park to the west, Four Peaks to the east and Piestewa Peak to the southwest. Pro Tip: You can access this trail by taking 40th Street south from Shea until it ends at the trailhead parking lot. Enter 9200 N. 40th Street, Phoenix AZ into your GPS for guided directions. The parking area is open from 5 a.m. to sunset.
Apache Wash Trail
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 30.6 miles Length: 3.5 miles Type of Trail: Out & back Elevation Gain: 164 feet Difficulty: Easy Trailhead Location: 33.7674355,-112.0473664 Dog Friendly: Yes, but on leashes Kid Friendly: Yes This hike is less of a workout, and more of a feast for the eyes. Located in the Sonoran Preserve North, Apache Wash Trail is an easy, well-defined out-and-back trail. There's not much elevation, gain but a whole lot of beautiful scenery to take in. It starts out with a little climb, best enjoyed in spring when flowers and everything green is blooming. It descends into the dry riverbed where the flat trail winds across several times. The wash creates a small oasis for deep-rooted trees and shrubs like mesquite, palo verde and ironwood. It’s a great hike if you’re a beginning hiker or just looking for a leisurely nature walk. To get there from Loop 101 in north Phoenix, take Cave Creek Road (Exit 28) and go 4.5 miles north to Sonoran Desert Drive. Turn left (west) and go 3.5 miles to the trailhead on the right. Pro tip: There are public restrooms at the trailhead, but no water. Make sure to bring plenty of your own.
Lookout Mountain Summit Trail #150
Distance from downtown Phoenix: 18.3 miles Length: 1.0 miles Type of Trail: Out & back Elevation Gain: 472 Difficulty: Moderate Trailhead Location: 33.6237809,-112.0542791 Dog Friendly: Yes, but they must be on a leash Kid Friendly: Yes, but watch them closely at the top Lookout Mountain is a short but oh-so-sweet trail. It’s only one mile out and back, and provides spectacular views of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve and surrounding area at the top. The trail starts off easy, then becomes increasingly steep and rocky. You can expect some minor rock climbing near the top. At those spots where you need to climb, there isn’t much of trail. Look for the white dots painted along the way show you where to go. There’s not as much traffic here as Piestewa or Camelback, so you can enjoy the panoramic views of Shadow Mountain and the Phoenix Metro area in solitude. Pro tip: Looking for something a little easier? Try Trail 308 for an easy, 2.2-mile loop that meanders around the peaks.