Arizona is known for its desert climate, mountain ranges, and many outdoor activities. Hiking, for example, is a common activity that attracts tourists and locals alike. Many of the most popular hiking destinations are near the city of Phoenix or within the Phoenix metropolitan area. When planning a trip to the Phoenix area, outdoor enthusiasts will naturally want to spend time enjoying the beauty that Arizona has to offer. Fortunately, there are hiking opportunities for all skill levels as well as numerous other outdoor adventures to be had.
Before planning a hiking vacation, day trip, or overnight excursion, it is important to properly plan and prepare. The Phoenix area experiences extremely high temperatures, and excessive heat can cause a number of problems for hikers, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Hikers should dress carefully for these conditions by wearing the right clothing and footwear. Clothes should be loose-fitting and made of a material that will help keep the body cool. One’s arms should be covered with long sleeves, and the head and face should be protected by a hat with a brim. Hiking boots are ideal, but sneakers with high tops are also acceptable, as they provide support for the ankles. Drinking plenty of water is also important to prevent heat-related problems and dehydration. People should sip on water throughout their hike, even if they aren’t feeling overly thirsty. Once the supply of water is half gone, turn back to avoid running out of fluids.
There are many trails to choose from when planning a trip. One should consider their skill level as a hiker and their level of physical fitness. Trails are generally rated easy, moderate, difficult, or extremely difficult. Camelback Mountain, for example, has two hiking trails, both of which are for more experienced and fit hikers. The first is the Cholla Trail. This is a moderate to difficult hike that is approximately 3 miles long from start to finish (up and back) and takes 60 minutes to the top. The second trail is called the Echo Canyon Trail. It is considered a difficult or extreme hiking trail that is approximately 55 minutes and 1.33 miles long to the top. The Piestewa Summit Trail is another moderate to difficult hiking trail. This trail, which overlooks Phoenix as well as Scottsdale and is within the Phoenix Mountains Park, is a 1.2-mile hike to the top that starts off as a moderate trail but becomes increasingly difficult closer to the summit.
Double Butte Loop in Popago Park is located near and managed by the city of Phoenix and is rated as an easy trail. It is one of the more popular, and thus busy, trails in the area. Another location that offers easy hiking opportunities is the Hassayampa River Preserve. Located approximately 30 miles west of Phoenix, hikers will find trails such as the River Ramble, Mesquite Meander, and other mostly flat trails. While hiking, people may see herons, egrets, and red vermilion flycatchers. During the slower periods, such as sunset or early in the morning, hikers may encounter various types of wildlife, including ground squirrels and jackrabbits, and they may even see coyotes. Other animals commonly found in the Phoenix area include lizards such as chuckwallas or Gila monsters, desert tortoises, gray foxes, javelinas, and rattlesnakes. Seeing a wild animal is an exciting experience that is also often frightening and potentially dangerous. Hikers should always be aware of what is around them and where they step or sit, as rattlesnakes are venomous and may bite if frightened. Hikers should know how to react if they encounter any animal, and they should know what to do if they are bitten while on a trail.
Hikers interested in camping overnight have numerous options. Lake Pleasant, which is located approximately 30 miles from Phoenix, has hiking trails and several campgrounds that allow for day or night camping. At Usery Mountain Regional Park, there are a number of hiking trails, including the easy Merkle Trail and more difficult Wind Cave Trail. There is also a 73-site campground that accommodates RVs.
Easy Hiking Trails
Moderate Hiking Trails
- Tom’s Thumb Trailhead
- Alta-Bajada Loop (South Mountain)
- Apache Wash Trail
- Cholla Trail
- Siphon Draw Trail at Lost Dutchman State Park
Hard Hiking Trails
- Arizona Hiking Tips
- Arizona Park Ranger Offers Advice for Hiking in Record Heat
- Hiking Tips: Hike Smart
- Safety Tips for Traveling in the Desert
- Eight Tips for Hiking in the Desert
- Outdoor Safety Trail Tips
- Tips for Viewing Wildlife
- Hike Camelback: Wildlife
- Be Bird and Animal Friendly
- Wildlife of Phoenix Mountain Preserves
- Safety Tips for Snakebite Season
- Are You Safe in the Arizona Wild?
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