Hiking in Phoenix is a true joy, and when visitors aren't exploring the trails close to town, they can venture off to any number fantastic destinations on the side, including Sedona and the Grand Canyon. For those who only have time for the Phoenix hiking trails, it's not far from the Downtown area to Papago Park. Hilly desert terrain characterizes this delightful, 1,200-acre park, and beautiful sandstone buttes add to the relatively austere landscape. For something a little more lofty, both Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak figure among the top places to go mountain hiking in Phoenix, and the South Mountain Park is just one more enticing option.
Camelback Mountain rises to an elevation of just more than 2,700 feet, making it the tallest mountain in Phoenix proper. Part of the Echo Canyon Recreation Area, this peak is extremely popular with hikers, partly because of the amazing views that it offers of Downtown Phoenix and the surrounding area. The trail to the top of Camelback Mountain is one of the steepest Phoenix hiking trails, and hikers can tackle all 1,200 feet of it if they please. The views are definitely worth it, though you might avoid the hike up during the warmest time of the day, especially during summer months. Hiking in Phoenix is most enjoyable in the morning and evening hours when the sun is not as strong, unless you are visiting during the cooler winter months. In winter, highs in the high 60s are the norm, creating excellent hiking conditions.
As for Piestewa Peak, it is only about 100 feet shorter than Camelback Mountain, and this means that its trails can also provide a good workout. It also means that they offer some pretty amazing views. If you don't want to take on the summit trail, there are easier trails at the park in which the peak is found. This park is the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. Another area park that is also worth keeping on the radar if you want to do some mountain hiking in Phoenix is the Pinnacle Peak Park, which is found in nearby Scottsdale.
Some of the best hiking near Phoenix is located in Scottsdale, thanks in part to the McDowell Mountains and Pinnacle Peak Park. The McDowell Mountains rise up on the northeastern side of Scottsdale, separating this upscale city and tourist destination from the smaller city of Fountain Hills. The Scottsdale side of the chain has been designated as a preserve, and it's where the bulk of the trails can be found. The tallest peak in the McDowell Mountains is the 4300-foot East End Peak, and it lies outside of the park boundaries. As for the peaks that can be found in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, they range in elevation from 1,600 to 3,000 feet.
At Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, there is an almost four-mile trail that is wildly popular with exercise enthusiasts, and the mountain views are about as scintillating as can be along the route. As is true at many of the area parks, guided hikes can be enjoyed at Pinnacle Peak Park, with November through April being the season of choice for these tempting tours.
Scottsdale offers what is easily some of the best hiking near Phoenix, but you don't have to venture out of Phoenix proper if you want to find some excellent trails. Some of the top Phoenix hiking trails can be found at the awesome South Mountain Park. At 16,000 acres, this urban park is large, and it offers tons of trails for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders to enjoy. Excellent views of Phoenix are to be had from numerous vantage points, and it can be fun to pick out the major landmarks on the horizon, such as Chase Field and the 483-foot-tall Chase Tower. The former is the tallest skyscraper on the Downtown horizon.
These are just some of the places that you will want to keep in mind when searching for good Phoenix hiking trails. As for the absolute best hiking near Phoenix, destinations that are found outside of the more immediate area can be a true delight. In addition to venturing north to the Grand Canyon or Sedona, heading south towards Tucson can also be a good idea. At the cactus-filled park Saguaro National Park near Tucson, the numerous cacti blend with the hills and mountains to present an almost unworldly atmosphere.
Regardless of where you go hiking in Phoenix, or Arizona for that matter, there are a few things that are worth keeping in mind. Since this is a desert state, oppressive heat is often something to contend with so always carry lots of water. A good pair of hiking shoes or boots and a good hat is a good place to start when packing, as are light-colored clothes and the sunglasses. While it tends to be dry more often than not in this desert land, rain does fall, and especially in the summer, thunderstorms are possible. Flash floods can be the result of rain, and hikers should avoid any and all narrow slot canyons when rain is in the forecast. They can fill with raging waters in an instant once the skies open up.