Since Metro Phoenix is located in a valley, there’s no shortage of nearby mountains to explore and hike. From easy trails to those that will challenge even the most experienced of hikers, there is a location perfect for every level of hiker. For those who attempt to reach any of the mountain summits, the reward also includes incredible views.
Piestewa Peak rises 2,610 feet, making it the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains. Located in Phoenix Mountain Preserve, it’s only just over a mile, but is a difficult, steep hike. The reward? The stunning 360-degree views of the Metro Phoenix area.
Camelback Mountain (noted for its resemblance to a reclining camel) offers two trails—the Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla Trail—to get to the summit, which is the highest in the Valley. Though iconic to hikers, both trails are difficult, so proceed with caution. For those who make it to the top, the 360-degree views are breathtaking.
Setting the Stage
In Phoenix’s Papago Park, take the Double Butte Loop, which begins in the West Park Parking Lot, and enjoy the red sandstone formations on this easy hike. On the park’s east side, a quick climb takes you to Hole in the Rock—a giant hole in the mountain that frames a view of the Valley.
In South Mountain Park and Preserve, take the Mormon Loop to National Trail Loop for fantastic city views. Along the way, enjoy some unique rock formations that are perfect photo spots.
With the name Lookout Mountain Summit Trail (located at Phoenix Mountain Preserve) you’d assume the views are worth the hike to the top—and they are. This is a short, but steep trail.
There are plenty of trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale as well. A favorite with both locals and visitors is Tom’s Thumb. A more moderately difficult hike, the trail’s signature formation is a pile of boulders that resemble, yes, a thumb (you’ll catch many hikers taking a photo in front of it while flashing a thumb’s up themselves).
In North Scottsdale, Pinnacle Peak Park Trail—located in Pinnacle Peak Park—offers a relatively easy climb that’s 1.75-miles each way, and offers views of the Valley and the nearby golf courses and large homes.
Short Day Jaunts
A short drive north toward Sedona or south toward Tucson yields popular hiking destinations and scenic spots. With its stunning, famous red rocks, pretty much all of Sedona, which is about a two-hour drive from Phoenix, is scenic. The 1.2-mile (out-and-back) Doe Mountain Trail is a relatively easy trail that rewards with picture-perfect views and the chance to wander around the top of a mesa. One of the most popular trails is Devil’s Bridge Trail, which leads to a giant, amazing natural sandstone arch. Walk across the arch, both to say you did and to admire the surrounding views.
If you head to Tucson, also about a two-hour drive from Phoenix, try the popular hike to Romero Pools in Catalina State Park. The hike is easy at the beginning, but then turns steep and rocky to get to the actual pools. If it’s hot, bring a swimsuit and go for a quick swim. The water is present year-round, though levels vary depending on the time of year.