20 Best Hikes in Arizona
Arizona has many unique hiking opportunities with a wide range of elevation, climate, and views. In the south you can find Saguaro National Park and Catalina State Park near Tucson with numerous trails. Near Phoenix there are many desert hiking trails where you can see huge Saguaro Cacti and many other plants in the Sonoran Desert. Sedona features the popular red rocks with many unique and exciting hikes that will take your breath away. As you continue north the climate drastically changes and so do the plants, with cooler weather and higher peaks in Flagstaff. In addition you can find great hikes in the three national parks in Arizona; Grand Canyon National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, and Saguaro National Park. From my experience hiking in Arizona for the last four years, I put together this list of the 20 best hikes in Arizona.
1. South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
South Kaibab Trail is one of the best hikes in Arizona, located on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. It is not recommended to do more than 6 miles round trip in one day unless you are an expert hiker. The trailhead starts at 7,260 ft and there are three common destinations that people reach on a day hike. The first is Ooh-Aah Point which is the first spot where the view really opens up and requires a 1.8 mile round trip hike with 600 ft elevation gain. Cedar Ridge is the most common hiking point for a day trip which requires a 3 mile round trip hike with 1,140 ft elevation gain. If you are up for it I highly recommend hiking down to Skeleton Point which is a total of 6 miles round trip and 2,060 ft elevation gain. As you go past Cedar Ridge there will be a lot less people and you can enjoy the hike more. Make sure to bring plenty of water, wear hiking boots, and bring trekking poles because sandy ground is slippery.
Difficulty: Moderate to Skeleton Point, hard if you hike further
Length: Ooh-Ahh Point (1.8 miles round trip), Cedar Ridge (3 miles round trip), Skeleton Point (6 miles round trip), Bright Angel Campground (14 miles round trip, don’t attempt in a day)
Elevation Gain: Ooh-Ah Point (600 ft), Cedar Ridge (1,140 ft), Skeleton Point (2,060 ft), Bright Angel Campground (4,780 ft, don’t attempt in a day)
2. Horseshoe Bend, Page
Horseshoe Bend is a horseshoe shaped part of the Colorado River with an overlook 1,000 feet up. The short trail from the parking lot takes you to this beautiful overlook. Although it is a short hike, make sure to bring water with you especially during the summer as it gets very hot and wear sneakers or comfortable walking shoes. As Horseshoe Bend has gotten increasingly popular, try to visit during the weekday for less crowds.
Length: 1.2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 380 ft
3. Painted Desert, Petrified Forest National Park
Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most incredible places in Arizona. You can find a trail down into the Painted Desert starting behind the Painted Desert Inn. You can backcountry hike here for as long as you have time for, just be careful not to get lost! It is an amazing experience to hike through the Painted Desert, and it feels like you are on a different planet with this unique terrain. It is so vast and beautiful and there are barely any people here which makes it even more special.
Difficulty: Easy to hard (varies depending on how far you hike)
Length: Hike as much as you would like to
4. Bear Mountain, Sedona
Bear Mountain is one of the best hikes in Arizona, although it is one of the most difficult hikes in Sedona. The three false peaks on this hike are very misleading and make you believe you have almost reached the top. The hike offers incredible views of Sedona that make it worth 2,000 ft climb in 2.5 miles. Make sure to bring plenty of water and wear hiking boots for better traction.
Length: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 2,000 ft
Parking: There is a parking lot across from Bear Mountain at Doe Mountain Trailhead. Here you will need a Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful Annual Pass. You can also park along the street next to the parking lot for free.
5. Wildcat Trail, Monument Valley
Wildcat Trail is the only hiking trail in Monument Valley that you are allowed to do without a guide. The trail leads you around Left Mitten Butte and allows you to stand right between the rock formations. The hike is relatively easy, but you do walk on high sand at times so make sure you are wearing the right shoes. You could hike this in sneakers but hiking boots are preferred. Bring plenty of water, especially if hiking during the summer. No permits are required for this hike.
Length: 3.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 380 ft
Trailhead: The trailhead is located where the cars start the 17-mile loop, at the end of the parking lot on the side further from the visitor center.
6. Humphreys Peak, Flagstaff
Humphreys Peak is the tallest mountain in Arizona, with the peak at 12,633 ft. This is a very strenuous hike only recommended for experienced hikers. The hike begins in a forest full of aspen trees which is beautiful in the fall when the leaves change color. The numerous switchbacks take you up the forest to the end of the tree line. At this point the hike begins to get more dangerous as you have to climb up rocks. The rest of the hike takes you on the ridge of the mountain where you have to navigate through large rocks with strong winds making this last mile the most difficult. Make sure to wear hiking boots, bring plenty of water, snacks, and a trekking pole. This is one of the most difficult hikes in Arizona but also the most rewarding as you get to hike the highest peak in Arizona.
Length: 10.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 3343 ft
Parking: There is a large parking lot at the trailhead that is free.
7. Boulder Canyon Trail, Tonto National Forest
Boulder Canyon Trail is one of the best hikes in Arizona, offering beautiful views of Canyon Lake and the Superstition Mountains. The trail starts from Canyon Lake and leads you up a hill for amazing views of the lake. Follow the path down the other side of the hill for views of Weavers Needle, a 1,000 foot tall rock. The hike then continues to descend down into a creek. You don’t have to hike the entire trail, as the first couple of miles are the most beautiful parts of the hike.
Length: 8.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft
Trailhead/Parking: The trailhead can be found across from the marina parking lot. You do not need a Tonto Pass to park at the marina parking lot but may need a pass for other parking lots at Canyon Lake.
8. Soldier Pass and Brins Mesa Loop, Sedona
Soldier Pass Trail and Brins Mesa Loop is one of the top hikes in Arizona. The best way to hike this is by forming a loop with Soldier Pass Trail, Brins Mesa Trail, and Cibola Pass Trail. This loop features the Seven Sacred Pools, Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole and incredible views of Sedona. You can hike this trail either clockwise or counter clockwise. If you hike the trail counter clockwise from Soldier Pass Trailhead, you will see a large sinkhole soon into the trail called Devil’s Kitchen. You will then come across the Seven Sacred Pools with red rocks towering above. Then the hike takes you up to Brins Mesa and intersects with Brins Mesa Trail. This takes you to the other side of the mesa where you will hike down and then loop back to Soldier Pass Trailhead on Cibola Pass Trail.
Length: 5 miles loop
Elevation Gain: 830 ft
Parking: There is a small parking lot at Soldier Pass Trailhead but it can get full early. You can find more parking at Jordan Road Trailhead which is about 15 minutes away and requires driving on a dirt road for a few minutes. Make sure to purchase and display a Red Rock Pass or America the Beautiful annual pass.
9. Blue Mesa, Petrified Forest National Park
The 1 mile Blue Mesa loop takes you through the colorful badlands that are scattered with petrified wood. The trail is paved and guides you up hills of sediment with layers of blue colors. This is an incredible and unique hiking trail in Petrified Forest National Park.
Length: 1 miles
Elevation Gain: 108 ft
10. Wilson Mountain, Sedona
Wilson Mountain is one of the hardest hikes in Sedona but offers rewarding views of the surrounding red rocks. About 2 miles into the hike the trail opens up to incredible views. At 3.2 miles in you will reach first bench and be able to rest during the short flat part which takes you to a narrow trail in a forestry area where the incline continues. Once you get to the top you will walk about 1 mile through a forest and reach a point on the side of the mountain where you can enjoy breathtaking views. If you have more energy, on your way back down you can turn left to walk to Canyon Overlook which would be an additional 1.5 miles each way.
Length: 11 miles round trip
Elevation: 2,800 ft
Parking: There is very limited parking at Midgley Bridge which fills up quickly. I recommend starting the hike early to get parking. If you don’t get here in time to park, there are spots along 89A but walking along this road can be dangerous.
11. Kendrick Peak, Flagstaff
Kendrick Peak is a difficult hike in Flagstaff featuring views of Humphreys Peak. The trail has so many switchbacks that you will lose count, but they take you up to an incredible view of Flagstaff and the nearby Humphreys Peak. This is a great hike to do in order to get used to the higher elevation and prepare for Humphreys Peak.
Length: 9.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2690 ft
Parking: Getting to Kendrick Peak requires driving on a dirt road for several miles. There is a parking lot right next to the trailhead.
12. Broken Arrow, Sedona
If you are looking for an easy hike with incredible views in Sedona this is it. Broken Arrow is one of the best hikes in Arizona. The trail takes you up red rocks to Chicken Point which is a beautiful spot with great views. Unfortunately, jeeps have started taking over this area, but they follow a different trail so you don’t have to hike right next to them.
Length: 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 410 ft
Parking: There is a parking lot right at the trailhead that requires driving a couple minutes on a dirt road to get to.
13. Butcher Jones Trail, Saguaro Lake
Butcher Jones Trail is a beautiful hiking trail taking you along the side of Saguaro Lake. At the end of the trail you should continue a quarter of a mile to Burro Cove which offers beautiful views of the lake with Four Peaks Mountains in the background.
Length: 5 miles round trip
Elevation: 540 ft
Parking: There is a parking lot at the Butcher Jones Recreation Site, and the trail starts right past the small beach. You can purchase a Tonto Daily Pass for at a kiosk in the parking lot of the recreation area. Tonto Discovery Passes, annual passes to Tonto National Forest, are also accepted.
14. Yavupai Point Trail at Lake Pleasant
On the way up to your hike at Lake Pleasant, you could experience a Hot Air Balloon Ride over the Sonoran Desert. If you prefer there are also options for a Sunset Hot Air Balloon Ride that you could do on the way back from your hike.
Yavupai Point Trail offers incredible views of Lake Pleasant, Saguaro Cacti, and wildflowers. You will start hiking on the Pipeline Canyon Trailhead and then connect to the Yavupai Point Trail where you see signs directing you towards the left. The trail starts mainly flat and then has moderate elevation gain to reach the peak with breathtaking views of Lake Pleasant. The incline part of the trail is very narrow and is a bit steep, so I recommend wearing hiking boots. The beautiful views of Lake Pleasant make this one of the best hikes in Arizona.
Length: 3 miles round trip
Elevation: 450 ft
Parking: The trail starts from Pipeline Canyon Trailhead North. There is a parking lot in the Cottonwood Day Use Area next to Pipeline Canyon Trailhead North.
15. Romero Canyon Trail, Catalina State Park
Catalina State Park is located in Tucson beneath the Santa Catalina Mountains. Romero Canyon Trail takes you to Romero Pools with amazing views of the state park below. The trail starts flat the first mile and then has steep incline.
Length: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,320 ft
16. Doe Mountain, Sedona
Doe Mountain is a popular trail in Sedona that offers great views and is the perfect option if you want a short hike. When you reach the top you can continue following the trail to see different perspectives of the surrounding red rocks and mountains.
Length: 2.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 600 ft
Parking: The parking lot at Doe Mountain requires a red rock pass, which you can purchase at the kiosk next to the trailhead for $5 for the day or $15 for the week. You can also display an America the Beautiful Annual Pass or park on the side of the road instead of in the parking lot.
17. Peralta Trail, Superstition Mountains
Peralta Trail is a great hike in the Superstition Mountains. There are views of Weavers Needle, mountains, and valley. Note that this hike is popular and can get busy.
Length: 5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,500 ft
Parking: Peralta Trail starts from Peralta Trailhead. To get here you will follow a dirt road for about 20 minutes. There is a designated parking lot next to the trailhead.
18. Bridal Wreath Falls, Saguaro National Park
Bridal Wreath Falls is one of the best hikes in Arizona. Located in Saguaro National Park, the trail features many large Saguaros, beautiful mountain views, and a waterfall (which is sometimes dry). Bridal Wreath Falls is a perfect option to explore one of the three national parks in Arizona.
Length: 5.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1070 ft
19. Toms Thumb, Scottsdale
Tom’s Thumb is one of the most popular hikes near Phoenix, offering incredible views of the desert and a rock formation at the end of the hike that is called “Tom’s Thumb.” This is a great option if you are looking for a true desert hike not too far from Phoenix.
Length: 4 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft
Parking: Free parking in two large parking lots
20. Sunrise Trail, Fountain Hills
Sunrise Trail has incredible views the whole hike with many Saguaro Cacti and a beautiful desert landscape. There is moderate incline the whole hike with a beautiful viewpoint at the end.
Length: 3.7 miles round trip
Elevation: 1,100 ft
Parking: The trail starts from Sunrise Trailhead which has a designated parking lot. If the main parking lot is full, you can park about a 5 minute walk away in the overflow lot.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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