Hiking in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe



More Sports and Activities

One of the best ways to see the beauty of the Valley of the Sun is from above, so hikers of all calibers seek a vantage point in the mountains surrounding the flat Valley. A short drive from downtown, South Mountain Park is the jewel of the city's mountain park preserves, with more than 60 miles of marked trails for hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers. No matter the season, be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water, and a camera to capture a dazzling sunset. It's always a good idea to tell someone where you'll be and when you plan to return.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve System. Much of Phoenix's famous mountains and hiking trails are part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, a series of mountains that encircles the Valley. The city's park rangers can help plan your hikes. 602/262–6862. www.phoenix.gov/parks.

Best Spots

Camelback Mountain and Echo Canyon Recreation Area. This recreation area has intermediate to difficult hikes up the Valley's most outstanding central landmark. Difficult. Tatum Blvd. and McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley, AZ, 85253. 602/262-6862 Phoenix Parks & Recreation Dept. www.phoenix.gov/parks.

Lost Dog Wash Trail. Part of the continually expanding McDowell-Sonoran Preserve (www.mcdowellsonoran.org), Lost Dog Wash Trail is a mostly gentle 4.5-mile round trip that will get you away from the bustle of the city in a hurry. The trailhead has restrooms and a map that shows a series of trails for varying skill levels. Easy. 23015 N. 128th St., north of Shea Blvd., North Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ, 85255. 480/312–7013. www.scottsdaleaz.gov/preserve.

The Papago Peaks. These peaks were sacred sites for the Tohono O'odham. The soft-sandstone peaks contain accessible caves, some petroglyphs, and splendid views of much of the Valley. This is a good spot for family hikes. Easy. 625 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ, 85008. 602/262-6862. www.phoenix.gov/parks.

Piestewa Peak. Just north of Lincoln Drive, Piestewa Peak has a series of trails for all levels of hikers. It's a great place to get views of downtown. Allow about 1½ hours for each direction. Moderate. 2701 E. Piestewa Peak Dr., North Central Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ, 85016. 602/262–6862. www.phoenix.gov/parks.

Pinnacle Peak Trail. This is a well-maintained trail offering a moderately challenging 3.5-mile round-trip hike—or a horseback experience for those who care to round up a horse at the local stables. Interpretive programs and trail signs along the way describe the geology, flora, fauna, and cultural history of the area. Moderate. 26802 N. 102nd Way, 1 mile south of Dynamite and Alma School Rds., North Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ, 85255. 480/312–0990. www.scottsdaleaz.gov/parks/pinnacle.

Waterfall Trail. Part of the 25 miles of trails available at the White Tank Mountian Regional Park, this short and easy trail is kid-friendly. Strollers and wheelchairs roll along easily to Petroglyph Plaza, which boasts 1,500-year-old boulder carvings—dozens are in clear view from the trail. From there the trail takes a rockier but manageable course to a waterfall, which, depending on area rainfall, can be cascading, creeping, or completely dry. Stop at the visitor center to view desert reptiles such as the king snake and a gopher snake in the aquariums. Easy. 20304 W. White Tank Mountain Rd., Waddell, AZ, 85355. 623/935–2505. www.maricopa.gov/parks/white_tank/.