The Valley of the Sun is the place to be during the winter. While most of the nation is dealing with snow and freezing temperatures, Phoenicians are enjoying the sunshine in the 60s and 70s. And for a lot of people, that means enjoying a hike or two. But you don’t have to drive for hours for a good mountain to hike. Below are some of the top mountains to hike in the Phoenix area.
Let’s just get the most obvious one out of the way. Camelback Mountain is iconic for most of Phoenix and is just 20 minutes from downtown. It’s also the most popular. There are two difficult trails, Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail, that ascent 1,420 feet to the summit. Be warned though, most of the mountain rescues that happened in Phoenix are on Camelback Mountain.
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Echo Canyon Trail: 4925 E. McDonald Dr, Phoenix
Cholla Trail: 6131 E. Cholla Ln, Paradise Valley
The second-highest point in the Phoenix Mountains is Piestewa Peak, which is also the second-most popular mountain in Phoenix. To some of the native Arizonans, it’s still Squaw Peak but the name was changed in 2003 to Piestewa, after Army Spc. Lori Ann Piestewa, the first known Native American woman to die in combat in the U.S. military. The challenging trail feels like a StairMaster as hikers go from 1,400 to 2,608 feet. But the view is worth it.
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So enough with the hard stuff. For those looking for a beginner trail, head to Papago Park. It’s close to Tempe but still in Phoenix and just 10 minutes from downtown. The trails are pretty smooth with little elevation increase. There’s the Double Butte Loop on the west side that’s 2.3 miles and the trail on the east side takes you inside the famous cave, Hole-in-the-Rock, which is great for viewing the sunset.
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South Mountain Park & Preserve
Phoenix is home to one of the largest municipal parks in the country with South Mountain Park and Preserve. With more than 16,000 acres, there are about 51 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking. There are more than a dozen trailheads for the three mountain ranges (Ma Ha Tauk, Gila and Guadalupe).
Park & Preserve: 10919 S. Central Ave, Phoenix
Main Entrance: 10211 S. Central Ave, Phoenix
Pima Canyon Entrance: 4800 E. Pima Canyon Rd., Phoenix
Lost Dutchman State Park
On the edge of the Valley of the Sun, Lost Dutchman State Park is named after the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, the legendary gold mine what was made famous during the Old West. It features one of the hardest trails, Siphon Draw Trail to Flatiron, but also easy trails, like Jacob’s Crosscut Trail, and moderate trails, like Treasure Loop Trail. Cost is $7 per vehicle.
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Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area
If hikers are looking to avoid the stereotypical desert landscape, they should check out the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area in south Phoenix. There are six trailheads to check out that are pretty easy with minor to moderate grades along the Salt River. Since it’s a restoration project, hikers are told not to go into the ponds or the river, or disturb the wildlife.
NE 7th Ave. Trailhead: 2801 S. 7th Ave., PhoenixNE Central Ave. Trailhead: 2439 S. Central Ave., PhoenixSE Central Ave. Trailhead: 3131 S. Central Ave., PhoenixSE 7th St. Trailhead: 2875 S. 7th St., PhoenixSW 7th Ave. Trailhead: 3212 S. 7th Ave., Phoenix16th St. Trailhead: 3203 S. 16th St., Phoenix
Dreamy Draw Recreation Area
For those who don’t want to do the epic climb that is Piestewa Peak, there is the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area. At the base of the mountain, it offers dozens of miles of trails that are often less busy than Piestewa and are secluded enough from the city that hikers can enjoy the Sonoran Desert.
302 Trailhead: 5994 E. Squaw Peak Dr., Phoenix304 Trailhead: 7200 N. Squaw Peak Dr., Phoenix32nd St. Trailhead: 6511 E. Sierra Vista Dr., Phoenix40th St. Trailhead: 9200 N. 40th St., PhoenixDreamy Draw Recreation Area: 2421 E. Northern Ave., PhoenixMyrtle Tunnel Trailhead: 1823 E. Myrtle Ave., Phoenix
North Mountain & Shaw Butte
Located in north Phoenix,North Mountain & Shaw Butte
have several trails ranging from easy to difficult. The Charles M. Christiansen Memorial Trail is moderate but is a whopping 10.7 miles and features both mountains. Shaw Butte Trail features 360 views of the Valley plus a little bit of history where you’ll find the foundation of an old 1960s restaurant that burned down and was never rebuilt.
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Maricopa Trailhead: 10600 N. 7th St., Phoenix
Mountain View II Park: 9901 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix
North Mountain Park: 10608 N. 7th St., Phoenix
North Mountain Visitor Center: 12950 N. 7th St., Phoenix
Shaw Butte Trailhead: 12800 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Lookout & Shadow Mountains
If North Mountain and Shaw Butte had cousins, they would beLookout and Shadow Mountains
. They're just a few miles northeast from each other. They're smaller than other mountains but mostly have moderate/difficult trails that are no longer than 3 miles.
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Lookout Mountain Trailhead: 15600 N. 16th St., Phoenix
Shadow Mountain - Acoma Dr. Access: 2601 E. Acoma Dr., Phoenix
Shadow Mountain - 28th St. Access: 13800 N. 28th St., Phoenix
Reach 11 Recreation Area
Despite its boring name,Reach 11 Recreation Area
is special in that it's less than 1/2 mile wide but about 7 miles long which holds 18 miles of 7-foot-wide trails that go through the entire park. Horses and bicycles are banned so it's just hikers in this area full of desert terrain.
Hikers looking for a lot of easy and moderate trails should head to far north Phoenix to the Sonoran Preserve. It features nearly two dozen trails that are easy or moderate, including the West Skip Rimsza Paseo Trail, which is 3.1 miles long but only has a change in elevation of 15 feet. This is area is popular with mountain bikers as well.
Apache Wash Trailhead: 1600 E. Sonoran Desert Dr., Phoenix
Desert Hills Trailhead: 705 W. Carefree Hwy., Phoenix
Desert Vista Trailhead: 1900 W. Desert Vista Tr., Phoenix
Deem Hills Recreation Area
Near the Interstate 17 and Happy Valley Road, the Deem Hills Recreation Area has about 1,000 acres of Arizona Upland vegetation and also includes volcanic rocks in its landscape. There are only six trails, ranging from easy to difficult with the longest being 5.7 miles. But they have great spots for panoramic pictures and are still a good workout.
Deem Hills Park (West Trailhead): 26606 N. Deem Hills Pkwy., Phoenix
East Trailhead: 27428 N. 39th Ave., Phoenix
White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Probably the farthest from downtown Phoenix,White Tank Mountain Regional Park
is still in Maricopa County and deserves to be on the list. Horseback and mountain bike riders are allowed on the roughly 30 miles of shared-use trails. There's also overnight backpacking with a permit. The Waterfall Trail is a popular hike that's almost 2 miles that has saguaros, ancient petroglyph carvings and a "waterfall."
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Pinnacle Peak Park
Close to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, thePinnacle Peak Park
in Scottsdale has one trail that's 1.75 miles one-way. But it's well-groomed and has a gradual incline to 2,889 feet that's perfect for hikers looking for a moderate hike. The park also has three rock climbing areas and interpretive displays along the trail.
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Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
Another spot worth the roughly 35-mile drive is theSpur Cross Ranch Conservation Area
in Cave Creek. There are more than 7 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Trails are filled with hills of saguaros, creek-side cottonwoods and willows.
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McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Located in Scottsdale, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the largest urban preserve in the U.S. at more than 30,000 acres, 195 miles of trails and is home to one of the most popular hiking destinations, Tom's Thumb. Thanks to McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, there are also guided hiking tours.
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Brown's Ranch Trailhead: 30301 N. Alma School Rd., Scottsdale
Fraesfield Trailhead: 13400 East Rio Verde Dr., Scottsdale
Gateway Trailhead: 18333 N. Thompson Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale
Granite Mountain Trailhead: 31402 N. 136th St. Scottsdale
Lost Dog Wash Trailhead: 12601 N. 124th St., Scottsdale
Quartz Trailhead: SW corner of McDowell Mountain Ranch Rd. and 104th St.
Ringtail Trailhead: 12300 N. 128th St., Scottsdale
Sunrise Trailhead: 12101 N. 145th Way Scottsdale
Tom's Thumb Trailhead: 23015 N. 128th St., Scottsdale
WestWorld: 15939 N. 98th St., Scottsdale
Usery Mountain Regional Park
Located on the edge of the East Valley, Usery Mountain Regional Park offers 3,648 acres of desert landscape. One of the most popular trails is the Wind Cave Trail where you can enjoy lunch in the shade at some "caves."
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So does walking along the two canals in Phoenix count as hiking? I think so, especially for beginners or those who just don’t want to drive. There’s the Arizona Canal Trail and the Grand Canal Trail. They go through some very scenic neighborhoods like Biltmore Fashion Park and Camelback Colonnade. Plus, you can make the hike as long or as short as you’d like.
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