Tips for Hiking in the Valley
With the cooler temperatures and desert wildflowers in bloom, springtime is the perfect time of year to go hiking in Phoenix.
Hiking is an activity everyone in the family can enjoy – and it’s easy on your wallet! If you’re new to hiking, it doesn’t cost a lot to get started. Most of us just need some basic gear – a good pair of hiking shoes or boots and a container to carry water like a sports bottle or hydration backpack. Also, depending on where you hike, other costs can include entrance fees and parking fees.
Where to Hike
With 200+ miles of trails in the Phoenix area – from beginner to difficult – you won’t have to drive far to find a trail that fits your skill level! You can find information on the best places to hike for your skill level on the internet – info like maps of the area, descriptions of the trails, estimated duration of the hike, trail hours, and parking and entrance costs if applicable. For a list of Phoenix-area trails, check out the Phoenix Parks and Recreation website.
Some of Our Favorites
We asked Steve Compton, an avid hiker and fellow Arizona Federal employee, about some of his favorite places to hike in the Valley. Here are a few of his picks for beginners and more advanced hikers.
Usery Mountain Regional Park
- Skill level: Beginner
- Length: 3.1 mile loop
Wind Cave Trail
- Skill level: Moderate
- Length: 3.2 miles round trip
- Skill level: Moderate-Strenuous
- Length: 12.4 miles (But most people just go to the top and back – about 3 miles each way.)
- Tip: According to Steve, “Going up takes about 90 minutes, then 90 minutes down through a canyon.” He says the top overlooks Weaver’s Needle, a popular spot for rock climbers.
Massacre Falls Trail
- Skill level: Moderate
- Length: 5 miles round trip
- Tip: According to Steve, “If you go a few days after a good rain, you can see the falls.”
Other popular spots around Phoenix include Piestewa Peak (make sure you head out on the Nature Trail if you’re a beginner!), South Mountain, Camelback Mountain (for experienced hikers), Papago Park and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.
Always bring water! Even if you’re hiking in cooler temps, keep in mind the arid desert climate makes it easy to get dehydrated. Here are a few more essentials to pack:
- Water (it's worth repeating)
- Cell phone
- Printed map of the trail (in case your cell phone doesn’t have service where you’re hiking)
- First-aid kit
- Snacks to keep up your energy
- Hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
For a fun and safe hike, do a little homework about the area before you head out – and use some common sense. It’s easy to get turned around in the desert, so stay on the trail or path. If you’ll be hiking alone, tell your family where you’re going and what time you should be back. In the spring, you’ll also need to keep an eye out for snakes.
“Know your limits and don’t push yourself,” Steve advises. “And before you start your hike, check to see if your cell phone has a signal. It’s OK if you don’t, but just be aware.”
If you’re new to the area or just looking for people to hike with, you can find information on the internet about hiking clubs in Phoenix and how to join.