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23 Best Beginner-Friendly Hiking Trails in Phoenix

23 Best Beginner-Friendly Hiking Trails in Phoenix

Hiking is undoubtedly one of the best outdoor activities one can do in Phoenix. It’s a good form of exercise, it’ll give you scenic views of the valley, and it’s free!

The thriving metropolis is surrounded by beautiful lakes, mountains, and parks that offer several trails for enthusiasts. And, these all come in a variety of difficulty levels.

In this comprehensive guide, however, we’d like to walk you through some of the best beginner-friendly hikes in and around Phoenix. Plus, we give you our tried-and-tested tips, along with some helpful reminders when conquering new heights.

Best Beginner Trails in Phoenix

There are a ton of easy trails that are beginner-friendly in Phoenix. We rounded up our favorite ones and categorized them for first-time hikers, for those with a bit of experience, and for those who are looking for a little more challenge.

TrailLocationTrail LengthAverage Completion TimeRoute Type
Hole-in-the-Rock TrailPapago Park0.5 km10 minutesOut-and-back
Double Butte LoopPapago Park3.5 km45 minutesLoop
Warpaint LoopSouth Mountain Preserve3.5 km45 minutesLoop
Judith Tunnell Accessible Trail South Mountain Park2.08 km45 minutesLoop
Desert Botanical Garden Loop Desert Botanical Garden3.4 km40 minutesLoop
Apache Wash Loop TrailPhoenix Sonoran Preserve4.5 km55 minutesLoop
Pima Wash and Beverly Canyon LoopSouth Mountain Preserve3.1 km50 minutesLoop
Coach Whip Mini Loop TrailThunderbird Conservation Park1.9 km30 minutesLoop
White Tank Waterfall TrailWhite Tank Mountain Regional Park2.9 km45 minutesOut-and-back
Wagner Trail LoopMcDowell Mountain Regional Park3.5 km45 minutesLoop
Quartz Trail LoopCave Creek Regional Park5.6 km1 hour and 30 minutesLoop
Lost Dog Wash TrailMcDowell Sonoran Preserve7.1 km1 hour and 50 minutesLoop
Desert Classic Mountain Bike TrailSouth Mountain Park14.2 km3 hoursPoint-to-point
Secret and Desert Classic LoopSouth Mountain Preserve6 km1 hour and 20 minutesLoop
Cat’s Peaks Loop TrailUsery Mountain Regional Park4.5 km1 hour and 10 minutesLoop
Stoney Mountain LoopStoney Mountain Park5 km1 hour and 15 minutesLoop
Vista Canyon Park GreenwayVista Canyon Park6.9 km1 hour and 30 minutesOut-and-back
Lookout Mountain Summit TrailPhoenix Mountain Preserve1.4 km1 hour and 10 minutesOut-and-back
Hidden Valley via Mormon TrailSouth Mountain Park5.8 km2 hoursLoop
Freedom TrailPhoenix Mountain Preserve5.8 km2 hours and 11 minutesLoop
Pinnacle Peak TrailPinnacle Peak Park6.4 km3 hoursOut-and-back
Holbert TrailSouth Mountain Park6.8 km2 hours and 15 minutesOut-and-back
Tom’s Thumb TrailMcDowell Sonoran Preserve6.4 km2 hours and 30 minutesOut-and-back

Allow us to give you a virtual tour of each one.

For your first hike:

For the uninitiated, we laid out some easy trails that are relatively shorter and take less than an hour to complete. Even so, these trails will have you catching your breath and enjoying the stunning views.

1. Hole-in-the-Rock Trail at Papago Park

Hole-in-the-Rock Trail at Papago Park
Image Source: Alexis Parker via

Trailhead: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Trail Length: 0.5 km

Elevation Gain: 10 m

Average Completion Time: 10 minutes

Route Type: Out-and-back

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The Hole-in-the-Rock trail is one of the most popular easy hikes for beginners here in Phoenix. It’s great for those with zero experience, as well as younger kids who already know how to climb stairs.

The trail starts off relatively flat and loops around the rock towards the back side of it. And from this point, you’ll find a set of steep, man-made stairs that lead all the way to the top of the rock.

You’ll feel most of the burn on your thighs and calves, so make sure to stretch before strapping your hiking boots on. The upside is, you’ll be treated to beautiful rock formations that look somewhat red in certain lightings.

The path itself is wide enough to accommodate the many, many tourists and locals looking to experience the famous hike. It’s especially crowded on weekends, so we suggest coming early or later in the day before the park closes.

The main attraction is the Hole-in-the-Rock at the top of the trail. Not only does it give you a gorgeous view of the park, but of the city skyline as well!

It’s believed that Phoenix’s early settlers, the Hohokam Tribe, used this hole as a calendar to track the summer and winter solstices. You’ll notice some markings on a few boulders that mark where the sun hits at certain times of the year.

2. Double Butte Loop at Papago Park

Hole-in-the-Rock Trail at Papago Park
Image Source: Derek Bierd via

Trailhead: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Trail Length: 3.5 km

Elevation Gain: 35 m

Average Completion Time: 45 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes

If you’d like a slightly longer trail in the park, then you shouldn’t skip out on the Double Butte Loop Trail. It only has a small elevation gain, which still makes it ideal for families, kids, and all hiking beginners.

The Papago Buttes are beautiful red sandstone formations that were said to have formed nearly 15 million years ago. Each one is unique and has interesting beauties of their own.

Contrary to the Hole-in-the-Rock trail, the Double Butte Loop will take you to the other side of the park and give you 360-degree views of the west side buttes. You may opt to conquer the trail in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion – it’s up to you!

We do suggest doing the latter, as more people prefer to do it clockwise. This way, you’re not bumping shoulders with them.

Early in your hike, you’ll find trail markers that are quite unreliable. Don’t worry, though, it’s quite difficult to get lost here.

Just keep following the trail that’ll lead you around and up the big butte towards the back. Follow the dusty trail and head straight to bypass the little butte.

The rocks may seem fragile, but remember that they’ve been here for millions of years. Feel free to try out rock scrambling if you’re in the mood.

The great thing about this path is that despite the heavy crowds, there are some wide spaces that allow for breathing rooms and moments of solitude. And in the middle of your hike, you’ll find a composite rock wall you can stop at and rest for a bit.

The back portion of the trail becomes narrow. Towards the center of it, you’ll see an old, empty amphitheater which was built way back in 1933 as a venue for concerts and community events.

Keep walking until you notice the foliage becoming more lush and you’re able to see the big butte more. Follow it around and down to the parking lot where you started your hike.

3. Warpaint Loop at South Mountain Preserve

Warpaint Loop at South Mountain Preserve
Image Source: Brooke Doehrman via

Trailhead: Warpaint North, Phoenix, AZ 85042

Trail Length: 3.5 km

Elevation Gain: 45 m

Average Completion Time: 45 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The Warpaint Loop is another easy hike that’ll give you mountain views without needing to climb an actual mountain. It’s a casual path that’s popular for kids, families, and hikers of all skill levels.

One of the most notable things about this hike is the abundance of wildlife nearby. You’ll spot some colorful birds, maybe a few snakes, and you might even hear coyotes howling in the distance.

The downside is that it’s quite populated with mountain bikers. We have nothing against bikers; just a fair warning to be alert on where you walk to avoid accidents.

From the trailhead, walk towards the Warpaint North Trail that leads to a fork. Go left, and you’ll eventually merge with the Warpaint South Trail.

Keep following the beautiful trail amidst hills and mountain views. Once you reach the fork, go right and this should lead you back to where you started.

We’d like to point out that even though this is a fairly easy path to hike, it is still a desert hike. Dress appropriately for proper sun protection and remember to stay hydrated all throughout.

The trail itself is well-maintained, marked clearly, and relatively flat. Parking is right along the side of the road and it tends to get busy especially around sunset.

4. Judith Tunnell Accessible Trail at South Mountain Park

Judith Tunnell Accessible Trail at South Mountain Park
Image Source: Lilia Kummerer via

Trailhead: South Mountain Environmental Education Center, 10409 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042

Trail Length: 2.08 km

Elevation Gain: 32 m

Average Completion Time: 45 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

For a really easy, paved hike all throughout, you might want to consider the Judith Tunnell Trail located inside South Mountain Park. It’s completely barrier-free, which makes it disabled- and wheelchair-friendly.

There are two loops you can take – the Challenge Loop and the Interpretative Loop. The former requires a few ascents, while the latter is more flat and is widely considered as the easier one among the two.

Either way, both trails are littered with educational signs and facts about the local flora and fauna. We truly think kids will love going through the trails, as it does feel as though you stepped into the wild desert.

It’s also worth pointing out that both of these paths are well-equipped with water fountains, shaded ramadas, and lots of benches to rest at. There’s also one attraction where you’ll find ancient petroglyphs carved into old boulders.

All things considered, we think this trail would be a great one to take if you’re just getting into hiking. Take it slow and pace yourself!

5. Desert Botanical Garden Loop at the Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden Loop at the Desert Botanical Garden
Image Source: Chad Wible via

Trailhead: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

Trail Length: 3.4 km

Elevation Gain: 23 m

Average Completion Time: 40 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: No

Beautiful desert flora and fauna set amidst a botanical experience – that’s exactly how we’d describe the Desert Botanical Garden Loop. 

This trail is among our favorites simply because it’s scenic, not too strenuous, and there’s fewer chances of encountering crowds.

We especially love coming here at sundown right before nighttime as the place truly lights up. Just imagine how serene it is walking through lighted pathways and seeing a colorful array of cacti and wildflowers.

Doesn’t that sound like a romantic date idea? Perfect for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, or other special occasions!

The trail is mostly paved and poured with gravel. You’ll encounter some shaded areas, but for the most part, you’ll be under direct sun.

You’ll also come across several hydration stations, water features, garden sculptures, and proper restrooms. Unfortunately, pets aren’t allowed, so you might want to consider leaving your fur babies at home or at a dog boarding facility.

Note, however, that the hike is a paid experience. You’d need to purchase tickets in advance for access to gain access to the garden itself.

Our tip is to visit on the second Tuesday of any month, as the garden usually offers free admission during these days.

6. Apache Wash Loop Trail at the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve

Apache Wash Loop Trail at the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve
Image Source: Rachael Morford via

Trailhead: Apache Wash Road, Phoenix, AZ 85085

Trail Length: 4.5 km

Elevation Gain: 41 m

Average Completion Time: 55 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The Apache Wash Loop Trail is another easy, casual hike that would be perfect for hikers of any age. It’s slightly rocky with minimal elevation, which makes it great for getting in some light cardio.

Along the way, you’ll find a good selection of desert fauna alongside Palo Verde trees. Even though the path is directly under the sun, the variety of plants and trees do help moderate the temperature.

You’ll need to begin your hike at the trailhead and go in a counterclockwise direction. You can even make a little side trip to the Ocotillo Trail, but for an easier hike, just stick to the original path.

The ground is mostly hard packed with several shallow, sandy paths designed to keep you on the trail. We also saw some Saguaro cacti and cholla, along with colorful wildflowers when we went in the spring.

During summer, hikers are advised to keep their guards up for rattlesnakes. They tend to show up frequently around midnoon and at dusk.

Know that there are no water stations along this trail, but there are restrooms. Remember to bring your own jug!

7. Pima Wash and Beverly Canyon Loop at South Mountain Preserve

Pima Wash and Beverly Canyon Loop at South Mountain Preserve
Image Source: Blake Schaffer via

Trailhead: 4500 E Pima Canyon Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85044

Trail Length: 3.1 km

Elevation Gain: 81 m

Average Completion Time: 50 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The Pima Wash and Beverly Canyon Loop is a scenic hike that’ll give you stunning views of the South Mountain Preserve. It’s not usually crowded, too, which makes it great for quiet adventures on the trail.

We absolutely love how this trail leads to a beautiful canyon at the far northeastern end of the entire preserve. The path is relatively easy to follow, and during spring, it’s colorfully lined with blooming wildflowers.

Pets are allowed on the trail, but they must strictly be kept on a leash as there have been coyote sightings in the area. Tons of pretty, colorful birds, too, especially during the morning.

Begin at the trailhead at head to the National Trail on the left side of the path. Continue along this trail towards the base of the ridge, then make a right heading to Beverly Canyon Trail.

The trail ends on the other side of the canyon. It’s quick, casual, and there are several beautiful points you can stop at for some selfies.

It’s easy to get distracted by the many, overlapping trails. We highly-suggest having a map with you on your phone, as some trails aren’t properly marked and you might miss the right turns.

8. Coach Whip Mini Loop Trail at Thunderbird Conservation Park

Coach Whip Mini Loop Trail at Thunderbird Conservation Park
Image Source: Jessica Kirsh via

Trailhead: W Pinnacle Peak Road and N 55th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85031

Trail Length: 1.9 km

Elevation Gain: 29 m

Average Completion Time: 30 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

For a short but sweet hike, we recommend the Coach Whip Mini Loop Trail. Most of its visitors are residents and locals, so it doesn’t get too busy with crowds of tourists.

You can’t miss the trail as the head is right by the road. Look for the big sign and the lush growth of wildflowers.

It’s not a difficult hike, but it’s also not the easiest one on this list. The most challenging thing about this trail is that it’s extremely rocky, so it’d be a good idea to wear proper hiking shoes.

Still, it’s a nice, solemn hike that would help build endurance for beginners. Even kids can hike this path, so feel free to bring the young ones along.

At the trailhead, head towards the H1 trail leading to the hill and keep following the path. You’ll soon arrive at the base of the left hill, so make a right and cross the road.

Once you do, you’ll be back to where you started. Quick and easy!

There’s also visibly no shade on this trail, so wear a hat, sunglasses, and lather on that sunscreen. Rattlesnakes have been spotted, too, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

9. White Tank Waterfall Trail at White Tank Mountain Regional Park

White Tank Waterfall Trail at White Tank Mountain Regional Park
Image Source: Drew H via

Trailhead: 20304 West White Tank Mountain Road, Waddell, AZ 85355

Trail Length: 2.9 km

Elevation Gain: 70 m

Average Completion Time: 45 minutes

Route Type: Out-and-back

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The White Tank Waterfall Trail is popular for scenic reward – a seasonal waterfall! The major downside is that it’s a rare occurrence, one that can only be chanced upon during the winter months.

The trail is partially paved and begins at the park’s picnic area #6. It welcomes hikers with signs that say cool facts on the local plants and animals, as well as hieroglyphics along the ride side of the trail.

Remember to stay on the path as you traverse deep within the valley. Once you reach the end of the pavement, you’ll know that you’re near where the “waterfall” is.

Keep walking until you find the stone stairs at the end of the waterfall trail. At the top of these are the plunge pools, or where the waterfall falls into.

It’s not normally advisable to hike during or after heavy rains, but that’s one of the ways to see water running in this beautiful site. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the chances of seeing water here is quite slim, even during winter.

Then again, if you choose to brave the rain and slippery path, you might just consider yourself one of the lucky ones to witness such a glorious view! You’ll often find groups setting up picnics here with snacks before heading back.

We’d like to remind you to be wary of large and loose rocks along the path. And towards the end, the trail does get a bit more steep so watch your steps.

You do need to pay a small $7 fee per vehicle entry to the White Tank Mountain Regional Park. That’s already good for an entire day’s use.

If you don’t mind busier trails, then you might consider hiking here. But if you’d like some peace and quiet on your walk, you’d probably be better off somewhere else.

10. Wagner Trail Loop at McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Wagner Trail Loop at McDowell Mountain Regional Park
Image Source: Norm Frechette via

Trailhead: 16300 McDowell Mountain Park Dr, Fort McDowell, AZ 85264

Trail Length: 3.5 km

Elevation Gain: 36 m

Average Completion Time: 45 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The Wagner Trail Loop is a great hiking spot for beginners in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This is because it’s well-marked, mostly flat, and relatively easy to follow.

What we love about this trail is how scenic it is. Along your walk, you’ll see stunning views of the Four Peaks on your east and the Weaver’s Needle on the southeast side.

Once you get past some of the winding tails, you’ll find yourself at an amazing spot to view the Fremont Saddle. Really, it’s a casual hike that’s best taken at a slow pace to help you appreciate the beauty of your surroundings.

Trail traffic is mostly from mountain bikers and horseback riders. Don’t worry about the place being too crowded, as the paths are wide enough to accommodate everyone coming.

There are also several trails you can take to get back to the trailhead. Feel free to take one trail after another, as the signages are all clear and there’s little chance of getting lost.

Park entrance is $7 per vehicle. To get to the trailhead, simply make a left turn at the Nature Center to park and begin your hike.

If you have a bit of hiking experience

If this isn’t your first time hiking but would like to try a longer trail, we’ve got you. Below are some of our top picks for hikes that are more than an hour long but are still considered to be beginner-friendly.

11. Quartz Trail Loop at Cave Creek Regional Park

Quartz Trail Loop at Cave Creek Regional Park
Image Source: Daniel Reeder via

Trailhead: Quartz Trail, Scottsdale, AZ 85259

Trail Length: 5.6 km

Elevation Gain: 124 m

Average Completion Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

To start off fairly easy, we recommend the Quartz Trail Loop located inside Cave Creek Regional Park. It’s one of the more popular hikes there, as the trail is known to be littered with beautiful, scattered quartz clusters all throughout.

The trailhead can be accessed through either the Slate and John Go Trails. Prepare for a bit of cardio on the front end, but the rest of the hike continues on a relatively flat surface.

The cool thing about this hike is that it’ll let you pass by stretches of the protected Sonoran Desert that’s part of a residential neighborhood. You’ll encounter a diverse and thriving ecosystem of desert flora and fauna – including the iconic Saguaro Cacti!

Don’t worry – even though you’ll technically be in a residential area, it almost doesn’t feel as such. So if you’re not into urban hiking, this trail would still be a great choice to consider.

The path will take you through a few winding ridges where you’ll be able to see stunning views of the east and north side of the park. Towards the end of your hike along the John Go Loop, the west side of the valley comes into full view.

Fun fact: gold mining in the park was a contributor to the economic development of Cave Creek in the late 1800s. The mining sites are still there, but they’ve long been closed for public safety.

12. Lost Dog Wash Trail at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Lost Dog Wash Trail at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Image Source: Erika Marigliano via

Trailhead: 12601 N. 124th St. Scottsdale, AZ 85259

Trail Length: 7.1 km

Elevation Gain: 158 m

Average Completion Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The Lost Dog Wash Trail is a major access point for the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It’s a popular attraction that draws in not just hikers, but mountain bikers, runners, and horseback riders, as well.

It’s a family-friendly hike that even kids would have no trouble completing. The amenities are great, too – complete with shaded ramadas, restrooms, water troughs, and hitching rails.

The trailhead opens up to an old jeep trail where you’ll need to steadily climb towards the north. At around half a mile, turn west and pass by a couple of washes before heading north again.

At this point, you’ll be climbing a low ridge that offers gorgeous views of the entire valley. Continue cresting before dropping down along the west side towards a T-intersection.

Mind where you step because most of the path is lined with loose rocks. Keep your gaze down, but remember to enjoy the beauty of nature on this particular hike, too!

Make a right and follow the north path towards Talliesin Ridge. Here, the trail will begin to climb in and out of small washes, so be careful when descending towards the ridge.

If you decide to stay for a bit on the Talliesin Ridge, feel free to do so! There’s a designated overlooking area where you can see the vastness of Camelback, Pinnacle Peak, and Squaw Peak.

We know it sounds complicated, but the hike is actually easy to follow as there are well-marked signages all throughout. Plus, we find the differences in the landscape more fun than a straight up flat hike.

If what you’re looking for is that desert cactus and rock climbing descending experience, then we think this place would be a great place to start.

13. Desert Classic Mountain Bike Trail at South Mountain Park

Desert Classic Mountain Bike Trail at South Mountain Park
Image Source: Jon Miller via

Trailhead: 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042

Trail Length: 14.2 km

Elevation Gain: 213 m

Average Completion Time: 3 hours

Route Type: Point-to-point

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

More known among locals as the “DC” classic, it’s a well-known spot for no-fuss, easy hikes and bike rides. To be fair, you’ll probably see more bikers than hikers, but it’s still a nice trail to go on especially since there aren’t a lot of technicalities in it.

From the parking lot, head down south with the mountain on your right. The trailhead is right outside the lot, so head left upon passing Marcos De Niza Trail and keep walking towards the TV towers on the mountain.

Upon starting your hike, you’ll need to cross a lot of small washes running down from the mountain. It’s pretty much a steady pace with little elevation changes from here on out.

The path is hardpack with some sandy patches and ends right in the junction of Telegraph Pass Trail. The way is well-marked and relatively easy to follow, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.

What makes this trail a bit more challenging, though, is the time it would take to complete. It’s quite long, and to be honest, we’ve seen better views; however, we think it’s an excellent trail to build your endurance as a hiker.

Another thing we like about this trail is that it gets busy, but never to the point of being rowdy. A lot of people coming here are locals, and from our experience, everyone is nice, courteous, and respectful of the great outdoors.

Like we’ve mentioned, a lot of bikers come here so remember to give way to avoid unnecessary accidents. And apparently, some areas see more bees, so it’s best to keep your eyes and ears peeled.

14. Secret and Desert Classic Loop at the South Mountain Preserve

Secret and Desert Classic Loop at the South Mountain Preserve
Image Source: Alexis Black via

Trailhead: 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042

Trail Length: 6 km

Elevation Gain: 72 m

Average Completion Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

In our humble opinion, the Secret and Desert Classic Loop really is a secret gem in the local hiking community. This is because it’s frequented as a bike trail, and the paths seem to be more designed for them.

However, we think it’s a great trail to try out when you’re just starting out your hiking journey. It doesn’t necessarily have the prettiest path, but it’s lined by colorful wildflowers at certain times of the year and you do get to see nice desert vegetation.

We’d describe this trail as one that’s a good mix of hilly areas, loose terrain, and relatively flat ones. What makes it slightly more challenging is that there are several inclines and very little places to rest and find shade.

We think it would be great for people who are just starting on their hiking journey, as you’ll be able to experience a bit of everything. This, and that it’s nothing too strenuous for any fitness level.

Another thing to take note of is that the trails are poorly-marked. We highly suggest downloading a map on your phone prior to trying out this path as it’s quite easy to get lost.

Some areas will also have narrower paths, so stay alert for incoming bikes. And, we’ve heard of some people spotting a few rattlesnakes here and there.

15. Cat’s Peaks Loop Trail at Usery Mountain Regional Park

Cat’s Peaks Loop Trail at Usery Mountain Regional Park
Image Source: Tiffany Hughes via

Trailhead: Cat Peaks Trail, Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona 85207

Trail Length: 4.5 km

Elevation Gain: 60 m

Average Completion Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

Hiking Cat’s Peak Loop Trail is a wonderful way to explore the scenic desert beauty of Usery Mountain Park. It’s within the area of the Tonto National Forest, so you get a lovely foliage walkthrough, too.

The trailhead is at the big parking lot of the staging area. You’ll have to enter through Pass Mountain, walk east for about half a mile, and cross the National Forest boundary to the Cat Peak’s junction on your right.

Take note that the trail pattern looks sort of like figure eight, as the main loop is a large oval that goes around both peaks. To cross in between, head towards the Cats Pass cutoff over the saddle.

What’s beautiful about this trail is the panoramic view of the Superstition Mountains on the eastern part of the horizon. You’ll also find an abundance of Saguaro, Cholla, and hedgehog cacti.

During spring, the path blossoms with pretty wildflowers such as Lupine, Fairy Dusters, Globemallow, Thistles, and more. There’s visibly no shade, though, so we suggest coming early in the morning for some reprieve from the Arizona heat.

The path itself is relatively flat, so families and kids can easily manage. A lot of senior citizens actually love this path for some light exercise!

16. Stoney Mountain Loop at Stoney Mountain Park

Stoney Mountain Loop at Stoney Mountain Park
Image Source: Amanda Grimmius via

Trailhead: 2421 E. Northern Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85028

Trail Length: 5 km

Elevation Gain: 88 m

Average Completion Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

Stoney Mountain Loop is another underrated hiking trail right here in Phoenix. It’s much less crowded, making it perfect for those who love enjoying nature’s quiet.

To get to the trailhead, you’ll need to access Highway 51 from Dreamy Draw. Head towards Northern Avenue and make a left turn.

From the parking lot, walk towards the back to the tunnel or Trail 100. Make a right at the junction and keep walking for about 200 yards.

On your left, you’ll find the trail leading up to Stoney Mountain. Head up towards it and continue the trail to the other side and back towards the junction.

It’s a little tricky to get to, but we find the solace well worth the extra effort. Plus, the trail is beautiful with nice scenery and heavy foliage.

The trail is mostly loose gravel with a few rocky inclines. Nothing too strenuous, but it does give a little more challenge as you’ll have to go slow.

We also suggest downloading a map on your phone. Apart from the relatively confusing trailhead, the trails aren’t marked well and it’s easy to stray off path.

17. Vista Canyon Park Greenway at Vista Canyon Park

Vista Canyon Park Greenway at Vista Canyon Park
Image Source: Marcia Decker via

Trailhead: 16020 S 30th St, Phoenix, AZ 85048

Trail Length: 6.9 km

Elevation Gain: 45 m

Average Completion Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Route Type: Out-and-back

Pets Allowed: Yes

For a good urban hiking experience, one of our top suggestions is Vista Canyon Park Greenway. It’s no different from taking a really long walk, but the change in scenery and slight elevation inclines do make us consider it as a hike.

The park itself is beautiful and well-maintained. From here, the greenway extends towards the north where South Mountain Preserve is.

It’s a really easy hike that’s mostly paved and relatively flat. There’s also a lovely canal you’d walk on the side of, but it’s typically dry and overgrown.

Still, it does give off a very secluded nature hike, despite being at a city center.

As you keep walking, you’ll start to notice buildings getting sparse and lush green getting thicker. Wildflowers grow on the path frequently, too, and there are a lot of shaded areas for some heat respite.

If you love bringing dogs along with you, we think this would be a great trail to do so. It won’t be too rocky for their little paws and there are a ton of grassy areas for them to run around at.

18. Lookout Mountain Summit Trail at Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Lookout Mountain Summit Trail at Phoenix Mountains Preserve
Image Source: Kenneth Sheffield via

Trailhead: 15600 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85022

Trail Length: 1.4 km

Elevation Gain: 143 m

Average Completion Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Route Type: Out-and-back

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

Another quiet hiking trail we’d recommend is the Lookout Mountain Summit Trail. Because Lookout Mountain is quite isolated in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, it’s naturally a scenic spot to see the city skyline and its surrounding peaks.

The hike experience itself is simple and not-so-technical. There are a few sections that’ll require some light scrambling, but nothing that even beginners can’t handle.

We will say, though, that the path does get rocky and you’d need to do a bit of hands-on climbing. We’d suggest wearing gloves and wearing proper hiking shoes, as regular rubber shoes tend to not have that extra grip you’d need.

The hike starts off nice and steady-paced, but eventually becomes steeper once you do switchbacks heading up. The markers here are Shaw Butte and North Mountain, and when you see them, head left and stay on the ridgeline towards east. 

There aren’t a lot of signages to follow, but keep heading up. Take your time and don’t rush – especially along the steep portions

Once you get to the summit, you’ll be able to spot the entirety of the preserve along the south and southeast end. These include the North Mountain, Piestewa Peak, and Shadow Mountain, too!

Heading down is easier, as you’ll only need to retrace your steps.

We love this hike simply because it’s a forgiving one that still provides hikers a good, realistic adventure for much harder trails.

19. Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail at South Mountain Park

Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail at South Mountain Park
Image Source: Michelle Juliet via

Trailhead: Hidden Valley Trail, Phoenix, AZ 85042

Trail Length: 5.8 km

Elevation Gain: 282 m

Average Completion Time: 2 hours

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The Hidden Valley Trail is a popular hike for a few good reasons. For one, it’s on the secluded part of the South Mountain Park with lots of unique rock formations and vegetation.

You’ll have to make a few detours from other paths to get to this trail. The most direct and ideal one to take would be Mormon Trail.

Right off the bat, the Mormon Trail is an immediate incline that only lets up once you get to the National Trail junction. It’s only a little over a mile long, but it’ll definitely get your heart rate up – consider it a good way to warm up your body!

From here, you’re going to continue to the National Trail for a few minutes. It’ll eventually lead down and you’ll find yourself on flat ground.

Really, the most challenging parts are the first few miles. Past that, it’s an easy hike already with a lot of change in scenery.

The Hidden Valley is actually one of the many branches on the National Trail. There are two markers – one, towards the tunnel side; and further down, the Fat Man’s Pass end.

The more common option is to head towards Fat Man’s Pass, as this is the way down and you get a more even view of the trail.

Before that, though, you’ll pass by a ton of tunnels and dried-up waterfalls along the Hidden Valley Trail. Lots of flowers and desert fauna, as well.

Once you get to Fat Man’s Pass, you’ll need to squeeze through. It’s literally a tight squeeze so you might need to take your backpack off for this. 

And if you don’t want to squeeze through, no worries! You can either walk on top of the rocks or slide down as they’re mostly smooth from all the weather erosion.

Past this, you’ll arrive at a sandy wash area that’s brimming with wildlife. It’s also an excellent place to go birdwatching, as you’ll often see colorful birds fluttering around.

The important thing is to keep following the path which will eventually lead back to where the loop began.

A lot of people tend to disregard the signs because of how many false paths there are, but please avoid doing this. It’s generally discouraged to hike off-trail because of how rocky and cactus-filled the surrounding areas are.

20. Freedom Trail at Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Freedom Trail at Phoenix Mountains Preserve
Image Source: Julie Huebner via

Trailhead: GXVF+83, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Trail Length: 5.8 km

Elevation Gain: 337 m

Average Completion Time: 2 hours and 11 minutes

Route Type: Loop

Pets Allowed: No

The Freedom Trail is the third longest trail in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. It’s a good hike to take if you’re looking for something easy but relatively longer in miles.

Most of the hike is steep and rocky, so keep a solid footing on the ground and wear the proper hiking attire. 

Our suggestion is to start your hike from the Apache picnic area and find the Trail 302 sign. This is otherwise known as the Freedom Trail, and it’s usually a lot less crowded than other trailheads.

From the first trail junction, head right. Because the trail has a lot of intersecting trails, it’d be best to keep moving left to complete the loop.

Just make sure to have the Piestewa Peak on your left side at all times, and you won’t get lost.

The view from the top is gorgeous! It doesn’t feel as though you’re near the city center, and it’s nearly all green from the lookout point.

The path follows a low-lying desert where you’ll spot a lot of Saguaro, barrel, and cholla cacti. It’ll then lead up to a saddle with a 360-degree view of the park.

From here, the path will descend whilst hugging the north face side of the Piestewa Peak. There will be a lot of dips and highs, but it won’t be too challenging for first-timers with a bit of hiking experience.

Once again, the trail dips and rises to some switchbacks towards another saddle that overlooks the parking lot. This intersects with the more popular Summit Trail, so expect to see a lot more people around this area.

Keep following the path and it’ll eventually lead you down to the parking lot.

If you’re looking for a little more challenge.

For those determined to build their endurance and take up more challenging trails, we rounded up a list of the best ones. These are mostly longer both in hike time and in miles, along with some moderate inclines that are still forgiving.

21. Pinnacle Peak Trail at Pinnacle Peak Park

Pinnacle Peak Trail at Pinnacle Peak Park
Image Source: Gladys Lavisores via

Trailhead: 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Trail Length: 6.4 km

Elevation Gain: 315 m

Average Completion Time: 3 hours

Route Type: Out-and-back

Pets Allowed: No

Hiking the Pinnacle Peak Trail is a must for any hiking enthusiast. It’s one of the most popular trails in Scottsdale best known for its unique, granite summit that sits at about 600-feet above the desert floor.

And because of its popularity, one can expect that the city made it accessible to all. The trails are well-maintained, well-marked, and truthfully, beautifully-groomed.

While beginners can certainly hike it, it does come with more than a few challenges. For one, it sits at a high elevation which requires some steep climbing in certain areas.

Another is that it’s an out-and-back trail, which makes the actual traversing is quite long and usually takes hikers more than 3 hours to complete a round trip.

Then there’s the boulder topography and thick foliage of the Sonoran Desert. Along the way, you’ll most likely encounter bobcats, gila monsters, and yes, the common diamondback rattlesnake.

Typically, though, these snakes only appear during the warmer months and it’s unlikely for them to spring up and leap at you. Unless you provoke them, they will just mosey across and leave you be.

Apart from those, other majestic creatures such as jack rabbits, cactus wrens, javelinas, and even a roadrunner have also been spotted within the area. Know that the mountain is a wildlife sanctuary, so be respectful to those who live there.

There are also a fair amount of ups and down throughout the trail. While it’s mostly smooth, it’s a winding way and there are some areas that are quite rocky.

The amazing thing about this hike is that it gives visitors scenic views of the McDowell Mountains, the Four Peaks, Granite Mountain, and more. 

Unfortunately, hikers are only allowed to reach a certain point near the mountain’s summit. This is because the actual summit can only be accessed by experienced rock climbers with equipment.

Still, you’ll be able to enjoy the Grandview lookout where most beginner hikers opt to end their hikes and come back down.

22. Holbert Trail at South Mountain Park

Holbert Trail at South Mountain Park
Image Source: Michelle Litwin via

Trailhead: S Phoenix S Mtn Park, Phoenix, AZ 85042

Trail Length: 6.8 km

Elevation Gain: 304 m

Average Completion Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Route Type: Out-and-back

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

The Dobbins Lookout is a famous scenic spot in South Mountain Park. And to get to it, you can either drive up, or hike the equally famous Holbert Trail.

Naturally, we recommend taking the 2-hour hike to the summit, as the experience just makes reaching the summit so much more worth it.

You’ll need to start your hike at the entrance of South Mountain and turn left past the visitor’s center. Continue straight towards the sign that says “Holbert Trail”.

Most of the challenge is actually in the beginning part of the trail. It begins relatively flat, wide, and smooth, but once you make it past the sandy washes, you’ll come to an area with massive rocks.

This is where it gets a little technical. You’ll need to really watch where you step and figure out the best way to get across.

It’s generally recommended to take it slow and be very careful in the placement of your feet. This is also why proper hiking shoes with a good grip and some gloves would be a good idea when hiking this trail.

This area is notorious for being frequented by diamondback rattlesnakes, especially during the summer. Make sure to keep your ears peeled for that familiar hissing sound and be extra careful not to step on one.

You’ll have to do a lot of switchbacks in many areas. Past this, though, the trail is easy to follow and becomes relatively easier to do.

And once you get to the summit, congratulations! Take a deep breath in and enjoy the beautiful view of the valley below.

Getting down is another challenge on its own, which is why a lot of hikers opt to take the National Trail to Kiwanis. The Holbert Trail can be quite steep and scary for beginners when it’s time to make the descent.

23. Tom’s Thumb Trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Tom’s Thumb Trail at McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Image Source: Mary Lenartz-Johnson via

Trailhead: 23015 N 128th St Scottsdale AZ 85255

Trail Length: 6.4 km

Elevation Gain: 377 m

Average Completion Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Route Type: Out-and-back

Pets Allowed: Yes, but must be kept on a leash

Tom’s Thumb is another famous hiking destination in Scottsdale, known for its eponymous main attraction and turnaround point. It’s a magnificent rock feature with tall, towering granite slabs that’s believed to be over a billion years old!

You’ll need to take advantage of the trailhead’s many amenities, as there won’t be amenities along the trail anymore. Note that there are no water refilling stations, so it’s best to fill up your jug and make sure you have enough for the hike.

The early part of your adventure starts off easy. It’s actually quite lovely with manicured surfaces and a beautiful array of desert flora and fauna, including huge Saguaro and yellow cholla cacti.

At around the half-mile marker, the path dramatically inclines as you near the ridgeline. Our suggestion is to take it slow, stay hydrated, and enjoy the gorgeous views of the surrounding areas.

You may start to feel a burn at your legs at this point, so take as many breaks as you need. Stay alert, as you’ll be doing a lot of switchbacks and avoiding some whizzing mountain bikers.

Upon gaining the ridge, the trail mellows out into a smoother tread that circles the hillside. Make a right turn at the first junction towards the huge granite boulders.

The second junction is a little easier to miss if you’re not paying close attention. Just be very adamant at following the signs towards another cluster of large boulders – this is your marker to Tom’s Thumb.

At this point, you can already end your hike and start your descent, or continue up. But for beginners, we highly suggest the former.

The view here is absolutely spectacular with panoramic sights of the far mountains and the valet below. Feel free to bring out snacks and take a break here.

To descend, you’ll need to retrace your steps. Remember to be careful, as some areas can be slippery and loose.

What should I bring before hiking?

In hiking, it’s important to remember that comfort and functionality should go hand-in-hand. Below are some of the things you should ideally pack for a day hike.

1. A proper-fitting daypack.

Your daypack is your main bag that’ll contain all your essentials, as well as your water reservoir. The general rule of thumb is to pack 1 liter of water for every 2 hours of hiking.

Opt for a daypack with lots of pockets to help keep even the smallest items in your bag organized. Choose one that’s durable, too, and ideally, water- and abrasion-resistant should you encounter sharp branches.

More experienced hikers also suggest using one that has a mesh back panel, especially if you sweat heavily. 

Other things to consider are the fit and comfort of your pack. Make sure that the hip belts and shoulder straps are snug and not too long on you, so that you’re not constantly having to readjust while hiking.

2. Weather-appropriate clothing and gear.

The first thing you’ll need to do is to check the weather on the day you’ll be hiking. This will help you prepare which clothes to wear and to bring should you decide to change.

In Phoenix (or Arizona, for that matter), the sun is quite unforgiving. Make sure that you bring a hat (preferably wide-rimmed), sunglasses, and a long-sleeve shirt for sun exposure protection.

Weather-appropriate clothes also include moisture-wicking undies and shirts, dri-fit pants or shorts, and a lightweight jacket. As for socks, synthetic or wool fabrics will help keep your feet dry.

3. Basic safety and emergency kits.

Even if you’re only doing a day hike, you should never go without a first aid kit. Ideally, it should have bandages, gauze pads, antihistamine, and antibiotic or topical ointments for various creature bites.

A snake bite kit would be good to have, too, if you’re going somewhere that’s known to have snakes.

You can’t always rely on GPS, so it’s best to have a printed map and a compass with you. Learn how to navigate using just these, in case you have trouble finding a decent connection.

Another necessary thing to have would be a whistle or a locator beacon. The former is a non-expensive option, but it could save your life in case of an emergency.

You should also always have a flashlight with you and a spare pack of batteries. Similarly, never forgo bringing a lighter or any form of fire starter that will help you stay warm in unforeseen and unfortunate events.

4. Handy tools and hiking accessories.

Pocket knives are essential to hikers. Not only will these come handy in emergencies, but it’s also a self defense tool.

If you’re not used to walking on inclines, it might be good for you to invest in hiking poles. These are super helpful in gaining your stability and balance, as well as in alleviating some pressure off your knees.

Some sporting goods and hiking stores readily sell repair kits. Typically, these contain items that will fix common issues such as broken zippers or small rips, so we highly suggest getting yourself one.

Binoculars aren’t exactly necessities, but they are great in enhancing your hiking experience. These are especially nice to use in places that have high peaks or are frequented by birds.

5. Snacks and easy-to-eat food.

It goes without saying that you should never forget to pack snacks when doing strenuous outdoor activities.

Opt for ones that are light and nutritious. Hikers often bring granola bars, sandwiches, bananas, nuts and seeds, and even beef jerky on their excursions.

What animals should I worry about in Arizona?

Because Arizona has a desert landscape and weather, common animals you’ll encounter along hikes are scorpions, spiders, snakes, and bees. It’s also likely that you’ll spot some javelinas and coyotes, especially in denser forests.

It’s important to do your research well on which animals to avoid where you plan on hiking. This will allow you to prepare your safety kits well in case of an unfortunate encounter.

What are the best months to hike in Arizona?

The best months to hike in Arizona are the months of spring and fall, which are usually from February to June. Around this time, the temperature cools down a bit and beautiful wildflowers line trails all over the state.

Because of how hot summers in Arizona get, it’s not usually recommended to pursue hiking activities during this time. You are much more prone to heatstroke, dehydration, and extreme sunburn.

What city in Arizona has the best hiking?

According to LawnStarter, Phoenix was rated #1 in the hiking access category, with Tucson coming in at #2. Both cities have several hiking spots that are free to the public.

Let us know in the comments below where you plan on going for your first hike! And if you have any more suggestions on beginner-friendly trails in Phoenix, we’d love to hear them!

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