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Best Day Hikes in the Phoenix Area


Anyone in the Valley of the Sun knows that when the weather starts cooling down, desert hiking season has begun!


When I was in college at ASU I was a huge fan of the after-class hike, or the early morning before-work hike. To that end, I got pretty good at zooming to a hike quickly from Tempe and high-tailing it up a mountain to get a good view. After law school when I started living in Phoenix again, I realized how important it is to have a few go-to hikes for after work or on those weekends when you just want to stay in the valley.


This post will cover some of the best day hikes in the Phoenix metro area that aren't too far, too long, or too difficult. These are the hikes that you can do during our prime hiking season (October - March). Of course, you can hike them from March - October as well, just be cognizant of the weather and always take more water than you think you'll need.


To the trails!

 

Camelback Mountain via Echo Canyon (Central Phoenix/Scottsdale)



This one is obviously a classic and most people who have spent time in Phoenix or Scottsdale have seen or done Camelback. But, it's worth having on the list because it's just so dang accessible in terms of its' proximity to most areas of the valley!


While there are two trails for Camelback, I find the Echo Canyon side way more enjoyable. Plus, it's fun to scramble up the rocks! Be careful though, the rocks can get super slick. I prefer to wear grippy trail runners when I hike anywhere in the desert.

You can find my favorite shoes, Solomon Speedcross 5’s, HERE.

There is also a secret cave, below, off the trail!


Camelback is not dog friendly, so leave your fur friends at home! The parking lot is a bit small, so I recommend getting there early in the day to snag a spot. Or, if you live in the area you can always bike to the trailhead and make use of the bike racks they have near the water fountain and restrooms.



Camelback is one of the best spots in the valley to take in a sunset!


While the trail for Camelback is short (only 2.5 miles) it is steep. So, I highly recommend taking it slow and steady for your first time.


Trail Beta:

Length: 2.5 miles

Elevation gain: 1,420 feet

Find more information on the trail HERE.


 

Tom's Thumb (Scottsdale/Fountain Hills)



Tom's Thumb is a great trail to get in a quick workout and actually feel like you're away from the city! It's super convenient to anyone living in the Scottsdale area because it's right in the McDowell Mountains. Tom's Thumb is another slightly steep trail, but you're rewarded with awesome views and you might also catch a view of rock climbers.


My favorite time to hike Tom's Thumb is in the spring when the wildflowers are out. The hillsides get an array of yellow and orange flowers and they're gorgeous! There's bathrooms and water fountains at the trailhead.



Tom's Thumb is one of the most dog-friendly hikes I know of in the Phoenix metro area. Every time I hike the trail I see tons of happy doggos with their humans! Please remember though, it's illegal to hike with your dog when the temperature outside is over 100 degrees.


The end-point of the trail ends at the rock formation known as Tom's Thumb. I like to bring a snack up there and enjoy the view.



There are tons of offshoot trails that go deeper into the McDowell Mountains if you're looking for a longer hike. Tom's Thumb connects to Bell Pass and a bunch of other great loops in the area.


Trail Beta:

Length: 4 miles

Elevation gain: 1,236 feet


Find more information on the trail HERE.


 

Hidden Valley: South Mountain (Phoenix, Tempe, Chandler, Ahwatukee)


Hidden Valley is one of my go-to's during the week if I'm looking to get a quick workout in. It's not as popular as Camelback or Piestewa, so I usually find the parking is easier and it's also dog friendly, which is a huge plus. A downside to the trail is there aren't any water fountains or restrooms at the trailhead so keep that in mind.


It's less steep than both Tom's Thumb and Camelback so it makes for an easier trek. Plus, there are some super cool rock formations you pass as you enter the Hidden Valley section of the trail. Again, one thing I love about this hike is that while you're in the city, you definitely feel like you're out in nature once you get into the valley!


Charlie loves South Mountain!


The rocks on this trail can be super slick, and I've seen a few people tumble so proper shoes with good grip is a must. Also, this trail tends to always make me a little warm so I usually try to wear a baseball cap to shield my face when hiking.


Trail Beta:

Length: 3.6 miles

Elevation gain: 925 feet

Find more information on the trail HERE.


 

Peralta Trail (East Valley)



Peralta Trail is one of my favorite ways to introduce someone to the Superstition Wilderness. It's got saguaros, so many different types of rocks, and you really feel like you're out there in the wild wild west.


It's a bit of the drive from Central Phoenix but totally doable for a day hike.


I personally love this one as a sunset hike, but as a reminder, take a head lamp if you do this! I've also encountered a lot of creepy crawlies on this one (scorpions, snakes, wasps) so it's always good to make sure you're a fan of the desert creatures before heading out to the Superstitions.


It is a dirt road to the trailhead, I've driven a 2wd sedan out there before, but it does get a bit sandy so just keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to do this hike.


As a bonus, at the end of the trail, look for the Lone Pine. There's even a trail over to the Pine tree.



The Superstition Wilderness suffered a terrible fire a couple of years ago so it's imperative that you obey any fire restrictions and please be careful out there with any flames or anything that could start a spark. This area is highly vulnerable to wildfires.


Like most of the trails, this one is best enjoyed with a snack checking out the famous landmark at the end of the trail, the Weaver's Needle. Take some photos and enjoy that desert air.


Trail Beta:

Length: 4.6 miles

Elevation gain: 1,341 feet

Find more information on the trail HERE.

 

Flatiron Via Siphon Draw (East Valley: Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert)



Flatiron is definitely a tough one, but it's super rewarding and is a great day out on the trails. Since it's a lot steeper and longer than Camelback (think two Camelbacks), you want to make sure you're up for the hike before embarking on it. I've seen tons of rescues out on Flatiron because people get stuck up there in the dark, so before I get into the trail specifics I want to give you my must-have list for hiking Flatiron.


  • Good shoes. I wear my Solomon Trailrunners, the Speedcross 5’s, on this one because it can get slick, especially in the winter. I've hiked it in December before and there was ice on the trail!

  • Layers! It can get cold on top of Flatiron, especially if you're hiking December - February. I typically get my outer layers online at Backcountry, you can usually find some great deals! I usually check out the jackets section of the site to find the cutest and comfiest ones!

  • 3L of water, or more. No joke, you will get thirsty and it's always better safe than sorry.

  • A headlamp! It gets dark fast, especially in the winter. It's a super light thing to throw in your pack for peace of mind. I also like to get my headlamps on Backcountry's website.

  • Snacks! Take more than you need. Some of my favorites are GoMacro bars, Apple Sauce packets, and good ole fashioned PB&J sandwiches.


Now, to the trail info. There's ample parking, but you do have to pay to enter Lost Dutchman State Park to get to the trailhead. It is $10.00 Per Vehicle and I usually just bring some cash.


I highly recommend downloading a GPS of the trail, because quite a few people have strayed off trail accidently. The terrain is steep and slick at times so you want to make sure you're going the right way. Once you're about halfway up you'll come to a little saddle area, that's usually where I recommend you check your GPS.



Once you get to the top, it's amazing, you can see so far into the distance. This is your introduction to the Superstition Wilderness!


Trail Beta:

Length: 5.5 miles

Elevation gain: 2,641 feet

Find more information on the trail HERE.



 

I hope this gives you a good starting point to trails in the Phoenix metro area. As always, Leave No Trace and happy hiking! If you have questions, feel free to comment below or shoot me a message!


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