Welcome to Spring in the Valley of the Sun. Time to take advantage of the best hiking, trail running, and mountain biking opportunities in the Phoenix area.
Outdoor adventurers love it here in the Valley. We’re blessed with city parks, county parks, regional parks, state parks and national forests with hundreds of miles of trails, just waiting to be explored.
Hiking or Trail Running
Here are quick recommendations for nearby, FREE hikes or trail-running options. These are all kid-friendly, too, and (except for Camelback), well-suited for trail running.
- Scenic beginner’s hike: Papago Park (bonus: you’re also right across from the Hole in the Rock, a great place to watch the sunset).
- Easy/moderate hike with amazing scenery: Hidden Valley from Buena Vista at South Mountain.
- A harder hike, with easy options to add variety: Ruth Hamilton and LV Yates Loop at Phoenix Mountain Preserve.
- The most well-known Phoenix hike: Camelback Mountain via Echo Canyon. This is a difficult, challenging hike for those who are fit and prepared to do a little scrambling over boulders. Also, it’s best to go very early or on a weekday to avoid trouble parking (or see the ideas below for other ways to get there).
Would you rather be on two wheels than on two feet? Here are some great mountain biking options:
- Easy: Desert Classic at South Mountain. This map shows it as almost 9 miles one way, but you can go a shorter distance as you’re getting started.
- A little harder: Dixie Mountain Loop Trail at Phoenix Sonoran Desert Preserve. Watch for the pretty forest of teddy bear cholla.
- Challenging: Geronimo Trail at South Mountain. Make it easier by getting a shuttle to the top at Buena Vista Overlook, or ride it both ways.
- Longer: Tom’s Thumb to Bell Pass at McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
If you’re ready to branch out more, you can read about hundreds of hikes all around Arizona on this Arizona Hiking blog. On AllTrails.com, you can also filter the trails to show the activity you’re most interested in.
You don’t even have to drive to get to experience the trails. You’ll find that some of the best trails are almost in the center of town, at the Piestewa Peak and Dreamy Draw Recreation Area. Try this interactive map of the trails. It can help you understand the trailhead locations, too. (Please note: portions of Dreamy Draw are closed due to construction, March 2023)
Phoenix also has the nation’s largest municipal park, at South Mountain. It encompasses more than 16,000 acres and has 9 different official trailheads, leading to over 50 miles of trails. For an interactive map of the trailheads, click here.
If you have a car, great. But, you can also get to great trails a little further out using public transportation or try an Uber or Lyft. One advantage of using public transportation or a rideshare is that you’re not limited to returning to the start of your trail. You can hike from one side of a park to another, then request a ride home from wherever you end up. To save on public transportation or figure out how to catch a ride, check out this post.
Of course, it’s crucial to be safe when enjoying the outdoors. More than 200 hikers around Phoenix each year need to be rescued. Whether you’re a native or a visitor, that isn’t a fate you want to experience. Take a few basic steps to keep from getting hurt and to prevent ending up on the news as a rescued victim (or worse).
- Bring plenty of water. When you’ve finished half of your water, if you’re not yet halfway to your destination, turn around and head back the way you came.
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you will be back.
- Be aware of the weather. You may feel fine hiking in high temperatures, but what if you twist an ankle and have to wait on a hillside without shade for hours? In the hot season, plan your hikes early in the morning or in the evenings when the sun isn’t so brutal. (Bring a headlamp or flashlight, too.)
- Understand the trails rating guide. Don’t tackle one that you’re not ready for – yet. Maybe next time it will be right for you.
- Check out all the tips here.
- Consider bringing these 10 essentials, even on a day hike.
One of the reasons people visit or live in the Phoenix area is our natural beauty. What better way is there to experience it than to be outside?
For more information on walking and hiking at Phoenix’s city parks, click here.
Is there anything we should add? Let us know in the comments below.
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