9 Best Hikes Near Phoenix, Arizona
By Carrie Willink
Hikes near Phoenix are some of the most unique kind of trails. The tall saguaro cactus, the smells of the creosote after rainfall, the occasional rattlesnake, lizard, jackrabbit, bobcat or javelina siting. Even lakes and waterfalls can be found on these Sonoran desert hikes — contrary to what you may think of with a desert hike. It is what makes the valley hikes so unique, interesting and inviting. Having lived and explored Phoenix and the surrounding areas for several years, we have grown quite a love for the valley of the sun. And with the Phoenix Escape Campervans depot, your opportunities to explore the area are endless!
Most valley hikes near Phoenix are best to explore from September – May due to the extreme heat. There are still many ways to enjoy Phoenix in the summertime and even hikes that would be okay with the correct knowledge, including a large amount of water and shade!
So grab some sunscreen and lets hike Phoenix!
Camelback Mountain Trails
Unique due to the nature of this being a mountain you can hike, found right in the middle of the city (technically Scottsdale). Moderate to difficult hike. Depending on which trail you take, you are hiking 2 or 2 1/2 miles one way. Restroom at one of the trailheads. This hike is very accessible, but a lot of foot traffic. We would suggest not doing this hike in the summer months- very hot! Because of the popularity of the trail, many people underestimate the difficulty of it. It is actually quite challenging in spots.
Peralta Trail ( to Freemont Saddle)
Trailhead is about an hour from Phoenix. Moderate to difficult. This is a six-mile hike out and back (you can keep on to Weaver’s Needle which is 13 miles.) Restrooms and free parking are right by the trailhead. Child & dog-friendly. We opted for the pack for this one with our 2-year-old because it is a lot for her, but older children would probably enjoy the challenge!
This trail is one of my absolute favorites we’ve done as a family (check out the drone footage)! As you begin the trail it tends to feel like other Arizona hikes. Lots of cactus, dusty, dry. As you start up the trail you will see so many unique views and textures. There are mini waterfalls (if you go during the right season) large boulders & extremely cool rock formations. This hike is pretty much straight up the whole time, so if you can’t do the whole hike I would suggest still trying the hike as many of the viewpoints are just as breathtaking! Again, be careful in the summer months as this is a difficult hike and that Arizona sun is hot!
Butcher Jones Trail
About 45 min Northeast of Phoenix. Easy to moderate hike. 4 miles in and out.
Important Parking Info: You have to get your Tonto parking permit BEFORE you go. They are not available on site. You can purchase these online, or you can stop at the gas station off of Highway 87 in Fort McDowell on your way out and get a pass. 10180 N Fort McDowell Rd, Fort McDowell, AZ 85264. They were last $6.00 and very picky if you don’t have one in your car!
This is its own little hidden gem. There is a small beach where the trail begins. You’ll head out thinking… “oh pretty water” You’ll end by saying “Forget therapy just take a hike here every day.” This hike has another beautiful desert landscape with the lake at your feet and open sky above you! This is perfect for kids and perfect for many picture spots.
Yavapai Point Trail (at Lake Pleasant)
This is 49 minutes north of PHX. This is easy to moderate trail at 3.1 miles in and out with bathrooms and $6.00 parking. Child and dog-friendly.
Oh, Lake Pleasant you have our heart! This trail was built just recently (2014) and is one of the most gorgeous hikes around Phoenix in our opinion, with its bright green landscapes and crystal blue waters! There are a couple trails around Lake Pleasant, but we always seem to pick the one with a summit! ?
At the top, there is a very cool bench (think of the peeps that carried that up there, impressive!) where you could bring a lunch and take a moment to soak in the beauty that surrounds you. Highly suggest making it to the top but be careful with the loose rock and the desert shrubbery that is sometimes closely intruding the trail. (FYI, as a rule of thumb, all desert shrubbery is pokey and wants to cause you pain, not just the saguaro cactus).
McDowell Mountains Regional Park
About 55 min away from PHX. $6.00 entrance fee and bathrooms. Easy to moderate trails. GREAT for children and dogs.
This area has such a simple beauty to it. The rolling mountains are all around you creating a gorgeous masterpiece and still giving you an easy hike. There are many hikes in these mountains and pretty much any are great with kids and dogs. These are flatter hikes and, actually, great for mountain biking as well if you’re into that!
Also, if you have time, stop by Fountain Hills, you’ll find what was once, the largest water fountain ever! It reaches up to 560 feet! There is a mile loop around it and the fountain goes off on the top of the hour for 15 min. Grab dinner at the Euro Pizza Cafe for some good food with a great view of the fountain.
Usery Mountain Regional Park (moonlight trail)
About 40 min from Phoenix. Entrance fee is $6.00. Many hikes, most have bathrooms at the trailhead, some don’t. So fun with kids, most are about a mile long loop.
There are lots of hiking trails at this park but the coolest thing we have found is their moonlight trails! Wow, talk about an experience. Being in the middle of the desert, listening to all the sounds and seeing everything by the moon. These are guided trails where they ask you to turn off your flashlights, let your eyes adjust and allow the moonlight to guide you. Make sure and check the schedule on their website for these tours. It is truly energizing!
Lost Dutchman State Park Trails
About 35 min from PHX. Entrance fee is $7.00 and restrooms. The trail is easy to hard depending on how far you go and which trail. Would be on your way to Canyon Lake (read below).
There are many trails in this park that are all so unique, you have most likely seen in an Arizona postcard! If you can hit sunset or sunrise I highly suggest it. The way the moving sun reflects off the mountains, changing colors as it descends or ascends, is like none other and it is truly a masterpiece. Many different hikes with different levels. I would suggest:
Easy to Moderate:
Treasure Loop Trail: Length 2.4 miles round trip. Get ready for dusty feet and a smile on your face. If you go in early Spring, you may see all of the wildflowers that pop up and only stick around for a couple weeks but are just stunning. About halfway in, you reach a beautiful lookout. This is a perfect place for a rest and some pictures with a new perspective of a very photographed mountain.
Siphon Draw Trail: 5.8 miles round trip, a very scenic hike, this trail winds up into a canyon known as Siphon Draw. It is possible to hike up the Flatiron, although it is not a designated, maintained trail all the way. It’s advised that only experienced hikers in good shape attempt to hike to the top, as the climb is steep and difficult to follow. Allow at least five hours to the Flatiron and back.
About 50 min from Phoenix area. Public bathrooms by the boat docks. You take the old apache trail to drive out from Apache Junction to Canyon Lake. The road is windy and not for the faint of heart, but the viewpoints are incredible. There are a lot of picnic areas and boat docks. Once you arrive at the Canyon Lake area, there is a large marina where you can purchase tickets for a day-cruise, or rent small boats or kayaks. So fun!
Lost Dutchman Ghost Town
Very fun for the kids! Also on the way out to Canyon Lake via the Apache Trail, you’ll notice this authentically restored ghost town. They’ve turned it into a tourist attraction with ice cream shops, $3 dollar museum to see snakes/spiders/etc. Cheap souvenir shops and fun photo ops. Even an old-west-style saloon where you can go and kick back, order a beer and listen to some old western music! Make sure and try the “prickly pear ice cream” or apple dumplings from the Saloon!