Phoenix is unique for having so many wilderness preserves within its city perimeters. This enables city dwellers to experience the desert wilderness in their own backyards.
National Geographic ranked Phoenix as one of the best hiking cities in America. The combination of desert and mountainous regions make it a hiker’s paradise. Trails are available for all fitness levels, from casual strolls on flat land to grueling workouts through mountain terrain.
Some of the most popular trails in the Phoenix area are found at the following 5 hiking spots.
Papago Park covers 1,200 acres of park recreation and extends to the cities of Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale AZ. It is not the largest park in the city of Phoenix, that distinction belongs to South Mountain Park.
The hole-in-the-rock is the most prominent icon in Papago Park and carries evidence that the prehistoric Hohokam Indians settled this area thousands of years ago. The red butte was created 6 to 15 million years ago and naturally formed with a series of openings caused by erosion. The openings and “chamber” (hole) near the butte’s summit are easily accessed from the rear via a smooth, but somewhat steep path. Those that trek to the chamber hole-in-the-rock are rewarded with great views across the city.
Camelback Mountain is the iconic hiking must-do for any serious hiker. The top of Camelback Mountain is about 2,704 feet above sea level. There are two summit trails up to it, each gaining more than 1,200 feet in elevation. There are a couple of short trails near the base on the Echo Canyon side which make for pleasant desert strolls, but the summit trails are the real deal.
The 2,608 foot Piestewa Peak is not only one of prominent landmarks in the Valley, drawing over half a million hikers to its summit trail each year. The numbers of hikers enjoying Piestewa is second only to the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail.
The elevation of Piestewa is the second highest peak in Phoenix behind Camelback Mountain which is located nearby and features some difficult treks.The lower portions of the trail are easy to moderate. The upper portions become steeper and much more difficult. Inexperienced hikers typically hike the lower portion of the trail and then turn back.
South Mountain Park
With close to 17,000 acres, South Mountain Park is the world’s largest city park. From a distance, South Mountain looks like one big dead mountain, but those that hike it realize that it features some gorgeous scenery and great horizon views in all directions. There are over 50 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trials and more than 2 million visitors trek this mountain preserve every year.
This moderate hike has a very smooth tread with a number of ups and downs over the course of the 1.75-mile trail. Rock climbing, for experienced climbers with appropriate gear, is permitted in three areas of the park with a variety of routes and skill levels. Pinnacle Peak is a popular spot for night hiking.
The desert wilderness surrounding Phoenix is full of adventure. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran hiker, the Valley of the Sun will provide you with perfect trails to suit your needs.