Best Hikes Near Phoenix
Phoenix is surrounded by many mountains and lakes, offering unique hikes with great views. On the hiking trails near Phoenix you can find caves, different species of cacti, lakes, and varying views. After hiking around the Phoenix for four years, I curated this list of the best hikes near Phoenix.
Tips for Hiking in the Desert
- Wear hiking boots for the traction and ankle support. If you wear sneakers you can easily slip, especially on the way down.
- Always bring a lot of water! This is the desert after all.. I recommend at least 2 bottles in the winter and at least one bottle per mile when it is more than 80 degrees and sunny. This reusable water bottle is perfect to keep your water cold throughout the hike.
- Don’t skip the sunscreen. Yes a tan can be flattering, but a bright red nose isn’t, and the sun is STRONG. I always use Neutrogena Face Sunscreen, which is only 3 oz so it is perfect for travel.
- Bring high protein snacks for energy like CLIF bars.
- If you are hiking between May and October, only hike very early in the morning and make sure to bring a lot of water, a hat, and apply sunscreen. You don’t want to be the person that has to be lifted out by a helicopter. I call this season helicopter season.
- Be careful of the cacti, especially the Cholla Cactus. If you touch it or brush against it the barbed spines can detach and stick to you, and they can be very difficult to remove. It is often recommended to remove them with a comb, although luckily I haven’t needed to try this.
These are some of the items that have come in useful for me when hiking around Phoenix:
Boulder Canyon Trail
Boulder Canyon Trail is one of the best hikes near Phoenix. The trial starts from Canyon Lake and ascends for amazing views of the lake. It then continues down past the peak to clear views of Weavers Needle, a 1,000 ft high rock. The hike then continues to descend down into a creek.
Location: Canyon Lake, Tonto National Forest
Length: About 8.5 miles out and back. Doing shorter parts of the trail is still worth it! The views of Canyon Lake are in the beginning of the hike.
Elevation: 1,800 ft
Difficulty: Moderate – you don’t have to do the whole hike!
Parking and Trailhead: Park at Canyon Lake Marina and across the street from the parking lot you will see the trailhead. It is free to park at Canyon Lake Marina, you do not need a Tonto Pass, however if you park elsewhere in Canyon Lake area you might need one so be careful.
Butcher Jones Trail
At Saguaro Lake you can find Butcher Jones Trail, a wonderful 5 mile out and back hike along the lake. The trail is moderate, with only slight elevation gain. At the end of the trail you have the option of continuing 1/4 of a mile to Burro Cove and 1/4 of a mile to a spot labeled as shore line access. Burro Cove offers beautiful views of the lake with Four Peaks Mountains in the background and is worth the extra distance. The shore line access brings you closer to the water but there isn’t any beach area and the views aren’t as good as at Burro Cove. Butcher Jones Trail is one of the top lake hikes near Phoenix.
Location: Saguaro Lake, Tonto National Forest
Length: 5 miles out and back
Elevation: 540 ft elevation
Parking and Trailhead: 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 $12 at a kiosk in the parking lot of the recreation area. Tonto Discovery Passes, annual passes to Tonto National Forest, are also accepted. America the Beautiful annual passes are only accepted at the picnic sites.
Yavupai Point Trail
Yavupai Point Trail is a 3 mile out and back trail that offers incredible views of Lake Pleasant. In the spring you will also get to see a lot of beautiful wildflowers. The trail starts at the Cottonwood Day Use Area from the Pipeline Canyon Trailhead North. 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.
Location: Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Length: 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 450 feet
Parking and Trailhead: 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. It costs $7 to enter Lake Pleasant Regional Park.
Peralta Trail offers great views of Weavers Needle and the surrounding mountains. The views and the large amount of plant life here makes this one of the best hikes near Phoenix.
Location: Superstition Mountains
Length: About 5 miles out and back
Elevation: 1,500 feet
Parking and Trailhead: Peralta Trail starts from Peralta Trailhead. To get here you will follow a dirt road for about 20 minutes. If you have high clearance and four wheel drive that is preferred but not required, you can still drive with low clearance and two wheel drive but it will just take you longer. There is a designated parking lot next to the trailhead.
Bluff Spring Trail
Bluff Springs Trail is a trail in the superstitions with great views and a wash. The trail starts from Peralta Trailhead but instead of going to the left you will go towards the right and follow signs for Bluff Springs. The trail begins with a steep 800 ft climb with views of surrounding mountains. Then you go down into a wash which gets filled with water after it rains. You will then continue ascending again where you will be able to see views of Weavers Needle. At this point you can turn around, which will be about 2.5 miles one way, or you can continue on Bluff Springs Trail to Dutchman Trail and loop back. If you continue to Dutchman Trail the full loop will be 9.5 miles.
Location: Superstition Mountains
Length: About 5 miles out and back, or 9.5 mile loop
Elevation: 800 ft
Parking and Trailhead: This trail starts from the same spot as Peralta Trail which has a designated parking lot. To get to Peralta Trailhead you will follow a dirt road for about 20 minutes. If you have high clearance and four wheel drive that is preferred but not required, you can still drive with low clearance and two wheel drive but it will just take you longer. There is a designated parking lot next to the trailhead.
Sunrise Trail to Sunrise Peak
Sunrise Trail is an incline trail with amazing views at the top. Throughout the trail you will see huge cholla and saguaro cacti. This hike is one of the best hikes near Phoenix for great views.
Location: Near Fountain Hills
Length: About 3.7 miles out and back
Elevation: 1,100 feet
Parking and Trailhead: 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.
Spur Cross Trail
Spur Cross trail has some of the biggest Saguaros I have ever seen around Phoenix. During the rainy season (July-September) there is usually a river on this hike, but it does dry out. This trail is a great option if you are looking for something without too much elevation gain, but still with great views and a descent length.
Location: Near Cave Creek
Length: 5.4 mile loop
Elevation: 460 feet
Parking and Trailhead: Parking lot near the trailhead, $3 fee to enter the trail. If you have trouble finding where the trail starts, there are volunteers answering questions at the pay stations and providing maps.
Tom’s Thumb is one of the best 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.”
Location: McDowell Sonoran Preserve, northeast of Scottsdale
Length: About 4 miles out and back
Elevation: 1,200 feet
Parking and Trailhead: There are two large parking lots near Tom’s Thumb Trailhead.
Wave Cave Trail
Wave cave trail is a unique hike that leads to an interesting cave. The hike also offers great views along the way up to the cave.
Location: Superstition Mountains
Length: About 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 850 feet
Parking: There is a parking lot near the trailhead and overflow parking along the road.
If you are still looking for hiking boots, Amazon is a great place to look. Search below to find the perfect pair of hiking boots for you. I wear my hiking boots on every hike around Phoenix, and they have been very helpful to prevent slipping and ankle injuries. If you need advice on finding the right pair of hiking boots for you, comment below!
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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