As a Canadian, when I think about the city of Phoenix, I think of hot weather and golf courses. While I’m completely correct about the presence of those two things, the day hiking around Phoenix is far more up my alley! Looking into hiking trails near Phoenix, I was blown away by the incredible variety, easy access, and true beauty of the three massive mountain reserves within a stone’s throw from the city.
1. Tom’s Thumb, McDowell Mountain Preserve
Image via Flickr by raystern
Perhaps one of the more iconic hikes around Phoenix, this 3.7-mile (6-km) trail in the McDowell Mountain Reserve weaves through lush vegetation until you reach the Thumb, a large granite bump. Once at Tom’s Thumb, you can either connect with a multitude of other trails, enjoy the views of Phoenix and Four Peaks, or climb the thumb itself.
2. Alta Trail, South Mountain Preserve
You’ll need powerful lungs and strong legs for this hike, but the elevation gain over the 4.5 miles (7.2 km) means you’ll find some truly massive mountain and canyon views along the way. Interestingly, the Alta Trail was built in 1930 as a Civilian Conservation Corps project, meaning that it offers both a great workout and a history lesson.
3. Shaw Butte Trail, Southwest Mountain Preserve
Another hike with serious elevation gain, this moderate-to-difficult loop trail is thought to be the best hike in the Phoenix area. With sweeping vistas of the North Mountain and Piestewa Peak, all of your hard work will be duly compensated.
4. Piestewa Peak, Phoenix Mountain Park
Image via Flickr by Rick McCharles
Arguably the most hiked area in Arizona after the Grand Canyon, the short but mighty trail up the 2,608-foot summit can provide wildlife sightings and excellent views. The downside is that this trail is so popular that over half a million visitors make the climb each year, meaning the trail is often crowded.
5. Waterfall Canyon, White Tank Mountains Regional Park
Who doesn’t love a good waterfall? The Waterfall Canyon trail will lead you to just that! The smooth surface and short distance make this hike one of the more accessible trails in the area. If you time your hike after a rainy day, the waterfall will be at its best.
6. Papago Park, Tempe
Sunset is the ultimate time to explore the many trails in Papago Park. Scattered with massive sandstone buttes, Papago represents that classic desert landscape we all remember from old Western movies. The four different trails are easy, so this park is more about getting out of the city rush and enjoying the desert quiet.
7. Pinnacle Peak, Scottsdale
Image via Flickr by Kelly DeLay
Pinnacle Peak itself is a 600-foot granite summit that hikers of most abilities can climb to enjoy the spectacular views only that kind of vantage point can offer. Furthermore, Pinnacle Peak Park offers night hiking and astronomy programs, meaning not only can you experience the desert after dark, but you can also learn about the true final frontier.
If the hiking around Phoenix isn’t enough of a draw, the city itself boasts superb dining options, Southwestern cultural attractions, and excellent accommodations around the Phoenix area. Often named one of the best hiking cities in the United States, it would be crazy to breeze through town without experiencing at least one of these amazing trails. In my case, I’ll be exploring all of them!
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