The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Travel by Brit

From the Grand Canyon to Sedona, Arizona is known for its scenic hiking trails that offer panoramic views of the desert landscape. However, you might be surprised to discover that you don’t have to ever leave Phoenix to encounter incredible hikes for all skill levels.

As a Phoenix native, I’ve grown up hiking all the trails in the Phoenix area. Hiking is my favorite way to stay active, and I love that I can literally cross the street and hike a mountain in the afternoon for a work break.

If you’re ready to experience the incredible views Phoenix has to offer, check out this list of the ten best hikes in Phoenix! All the trails on this list are free, and they are located within Greater Phoenix.

But before you embark on the best hikes in Phoenix, please read these tips for staying safe. Newsflash: It’s really hot in Phoenix. Like really hot. Please bring plenty of water, and hike when it’s cool outside to avoid heatstroke.

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Pinnacle Peak Park 

Location: Scottsdale, AZ 

Trail Map

1) Pinnacle Peak Trail 

Length: 4.0 miles 

Elevation Gain: 1,033 feet 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trail Type: Out & Back 

Dog-Friendly: No 

The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Pinnacle Peak
The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Pinnacle Peak

Pinnacle Peak Trail is a busy, well-maintained trail that offers spectacular views of North Scottsdale. This is one of the best hikes in Phoenix for beginners who are looking for something a bit more challenging—you’ll gain over 1,000 feet in elevation, but over several miles. 

The gorgeous desert wildflowers that bloom in March, April, and early May are definitely the highlight of this trail. There’s nothing more spectacular than admiring the orange, yellow, purple, and pink blooms against the crystal blue Arizona sky. I adore Phoenix in the spring, and these gorgeous wildflowers are a huge reason why (despite what my seasonal allergies might think). 

Aside from admiring the flowers and hiking, this trail is also great for running, bird watching, and hiking with kids. However, dogs are unfortunately not allowed on this trail. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of other awesome hikes to bring your pup on! 

McDowell Sonoran Desert Preserve 

Location: Scottsdale, AZ 

Trail Maps: South Region & North Region

2) Gateway Loop Trail 

Length: 4.4 miles 

Elevation Gain: 655 feet 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trail Type: Loop 

Dog-Friendly: Yes 

The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Gateway Loop Trail - McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Gateway Loop Trail - McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Just a few miles south of Pinnacle Peak lies the McDowell Sonoran Desert Preserve, home to dozens of fabulous hikes in Scottsdale, including the Gateway Loop Trail!  

The Gateway Loop Trail is a busy trail located in the South Region of the McDowell Mountains and accessed at the Gateway Trailhead. You’ll start the hike from the parking lot on Saguaro Trail (0.3 miles), leading you to the Gateway Loop Trail.  

This trail is relatively flat, which makes it one of the best hikes in Phoenix for mountain biking. Try this mountain biking tour to explore the Sonoran Desert with a professional, trained guide! Also, you can bring your dogs on this hike. We took our golden retriever puppy, Sedona, and she met lots of furry friends on this trail!  

Bonus Tip: Stop at the Gateway Saddle about halfway through the hike for a scenic photo! 

3) Tom’s Thumb Trail 

Length: 4.0 miles 

Elevation Gain: 1,236 feet 

Difficulty: Difficult 

Trail Type: Out & Back 

Dog-Friendly: Yes 

The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Tom's Thumb - Tom's Thumb Trailhead

Also located in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Tom’s Thumb is an iconic, well-maintained hike that features a large granite boulder (aka thumb) that’s easily visible in Scottsdale.  

You can access Tom’s Thumb from Tom’s Thumb Trailhead, located in the North Region of the McDowell Mountains. This hike is challenging (it’s an uphill climb for the first mile or two), but it levels out toward the end. Once you reach the pinnacle, there are tons of large boulders to sit on so you can enjoy the incredible views of Scottsdale!  

Dogs are permitted on this hike, but I wouldn’t recommend bringing them unless they active, large-breed dogs. Also, watch your step coming down—there’s lots of loose gravel on this hike, and it’s easy to lose your footing.

Thunderbird Conservation Park 

Location: Glendale, AZ 

Trail Map

4) Cholla Loop 

Length: 3.5 miles 

Elevation Gain: 567 feet 

Difficulty: Moderate 

Trail Type: Loop 

Dog-Friendly: Yes 

The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Cholla Loop - Thunderbird Mountain

Cholla Loop is a fantastic hike on the west side of Phoenix in Glendale, AZ. It’s a great workout without being strenuous, and it offers incredible views overlooking the Phoenix area. This trail is less known than others on this list, so it’s usually less busy. Plus, you can bring your dog along!

Thunderbird Mountain also offers some other great hikes—like the Arrowhead Point Loop. Cholla Loop is my favorite, however, because it’s the perfect length. You’ll know you’ve reached the top once you see the American flag waving at you! 

Papago Park 

Location: Phoenix, AZ 

Trail Map 

5) Hole-In-The-Rock Trail 

Length: 0.2 miles 

Elevation Gain: 200 feet 

Difficulty: Easy 

Trail Type: Out & Back 

Dog-Friendly: Yes 

The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Hole-In-The-Rock - Papago Park

Hole-In-The-Rock is the shortest hike on this list (it’s a five-minute walk, to be honest) but provides a unique view of Downtown Phoenix. You won’t believe you’ve only gained 200 feet in elevation!  

This hike gets its name from the large, red sandstone butte with a naturally eroded hole you can walk inside at the end of the trail. It’s a great photo opportunity, making it one of the best hikes in Phoenix during a trip to Arizona.  

Dogs are permitted on this hike, and it’s an easy, manageable trail to take small children on. However, it’s so short that I recommend pairing it with the Double Butte Loop Trail located just across the street so you can get a “real” hike in, too. 

6) Double Butte Loop Trail 

Length: 2.3 miles 

Elevation Gain: 50 feet 

Difficulty: Easy 

Trail Type: Loop 

Dog-Friendly: Yes 

The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Double Butte Loop Trail - McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Double Butte Loop Trail - McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Located in Papago Park, the Double Butte Loop Trail takes you around two impressive buttes in just 2.3 miles. This hike is excellent for all skill levels—you’ll only gain 50 feet in elevation, so it’s more like a long, scenic walk.  

Because this trail is flat and partially paved, it’s one of the best hikes in Phoenix for mountain biking, and dogs and children can complete this hike with ease.  

One thing to note about this trail is that there aren’t any restrooms, and it’s not well-marked. I would suggest bringing this trail map with you to help navigate your way around the mountain and use the restroom before you come! 

Phoenix Mountains Preserve 

Location: Phoenix, AZ 

Trail Map 

7) Piestewa Summit Trail 

Length: 2.2 miles 

Elevation Gain: 1,137 feet 

Difficulty: Extremely Difficult 

Trail Type: Out & Back 

Dog-Friendly: No 

The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Piestewa Peak - Phoenix Mountains Preserve
The Best Hikes in Phoenix - Piestewa Peak - Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Looking for a rewarding challenge? Piestewa Peak is one of the best hikes in Phoenix for you—it’s the second-highest peak in the Phoenix Mountains!  

The best way I can describe climbing Piestewa Peak (formerly known as Squaw Peak) is a series of stairs that just keep going, going, going, and going. It’s a steep incline with lots of switchbacks, stairs, and some rock climbing until you reach the top.  

This hike is not for the faint of heart, but the views of Phoenix are absolutely breathtaking (and totally worth it!). Once you reach the summit, there are plenty of places to sit while you catch your breath and relax.  

Dogs are not allowed on this hike (for a good reason), and only experienced hikers should attempt this trail. Wear hiking shoes or tennis shoes with good traction, and bring plenty of water. 

Desert Vista Trailhead 

Location: Phoenix, AZ 

Trail Map 

8) Dixie Mountain Loop

Length: 3.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 401 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Type:  Loop

Dog-Friendly: Yes

The Dixie Mountain Loop is one of the best hikes in Phoenix for someone looking for a trail that’s not swarming with people.

Located in North Phoenix, the Dixie Mountain Loop is one of the dozens of hikes in the Sonoran Preserve—the Desert Vista Trailhead is just one of three trailheads on this mountain range! The other trailheads are called the Apache Wash Trailhead and the Desert Hills Trailhead.

To get to this hike from the trailhead, start at Hawk’s Nest and proceed to Dixie Mountain Loop. It’s a dog-friendly trail, and although it’s a longer hike, it’s not too difficult.

If you’re looking for a challenge along the way, climb up the Dixie Moutain Summit when you pass it on the trail. You’ll gain nearly 700 feet during a 0.2-mile summit for incredible views.

Plus, keep your eyes peeled for the old, rusty Jeep frame you’ll pass towards the end of the loop. It’s one of the fun things to spot on this trail!

9) Desert Tortoise Trail

Length: 1.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 53 feet

Difficulty:  Easy

Trail Type:  Out & Back

Dog-Friendly: Yes

The Desert Tortoise Trail is one of the best hikes in Phoenix for an easy climb that offers beautiful views of the Sonoran Desert. You’ll walk on the desert floor and see a variety of cacti, desert flowers, and wildlife. I’ve seen cactus wrens, owls, jackrabbits, and all kinds of critters on this hike! I haven’t seen a desert tortoise on this trail yet, but it’s honestly one of my goals.

To access this hike from the trailhead, you’ll take Hawk’s Nest to the Desert Tortoise Trail, and then turn around once you’ve reached the end.

Or, take to Desert Tortise to Valle Verde Trail (1.2 miles) & back Hawk’s Nest (0.4 miles) to make it a loop. It’s 2.7 miles in total this way, and you’ll gain 533 feet in elevation instead. 

Camelback Mountain 

Location: Phoenix, AZ 

Trail Map 

10) Echo Canyon Trail

Length: 2.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,280 feet

Difficulty: Extremely Difficult

Trail Type:  Out & Back

Dog-Friendly: No

Not only is Echo Canyon Trail one of the best hikes in Phoenix, but it’s also considered the most challenging hike in the Greater Phoenix area. It’s located on Camelback Mountain, which gets its name from the two rock formations that make the mountain look like a kneeling camel.

This hike is a steep, uphill scramble to the top, and you may have to use your hands at some points. However, the challenge is rewarding, because you are met with stunning views of Greater Phoenix once you reach the top!

Echo Canyon Trail should only be attempted by experienced hikers. Make sure you bring proper shoes and plenty of water. I have some recommendations for items to bring along below.

Also, expect the trail to be busy, especially if you’re hiking in the spring or winter. This hike is one of the most popular in the Phoenix area!

Hiking Supplies to Bring Along

Although Phoenix is a beautiful and fun place to hike, it can also be dangerous, especially when it’s hot outside. It’s important to have the right supplies to ensure you stay cool & safe. Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Hiking Backpack (especially for trails when you’ll need to use your hands, like Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain)
  • Hiking Boots (or tennis shoes with good traction)
  • Snacks!
  • Refillable Water Bottle
  • Dog Water Bottle (we love using this one for Sedona)
  • Sunscreen
  • Flashlight or headlamp (if you’re hiking to catch the sunrise or sunset)

Start Exploring on the Best Hikes in Phoenix!

And there you have it! The ten best hikes in Phoenix. I love that no matter where you are in Phoenix, there’s always a hike nearby!

I’d love to know…. have you been on any of these hikes? Or are there any hiking trails that aren’t already on my list that I need to try? Let me know in the comments below!

Travel by Brit

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Save the Best Hikes in Phoenix for Later!

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Brit! I'm a writer from Phoenix, AZ who loves coffee, golden retriever puppies, and obviously, travel! I help ordinary women (like me!) dream, plan, and do extraordinary travel experiences.

  • These trails all look so beautiful! Being from Canada, I find desert landscapes so interesting. If I’m ever in the area I’ll definitely be going for Piestewa Summit Trail. I love a tough trail that rewards you with epic views. Thanks for this inspo!

  • I would happily do any of these hikes, what amazing scenery, and such incredible looking trails. The Piestewa Peak looks like the one I wouldn’t want to miss, but I just love that the landscape is so different from where I am in Canada. I’d love to see some of those giant cacti in real life

  • Aww, love this! I’ve been to Arizona last December and was fascinated by the red rocks and all the Saguaro cacti! Haven’t had the chance to spent much time in Phoenix itself. But did a lot of hiking in Sedona and around Tuscon.

    • Yes! We have a super diverse terrain here… even Sedona & Tuscon are so different from Phoenix! Thanks for much for reading, Stefanie. I hope you can visit & experience Phoenix soon!

    • Oh, yes! Tuscon can be SUPER hot, especially in the summer. We’d love to have you back in the spring & fall for some beautiful hikes in Phoenix! Thanks for reading, Katherine! 🙂

  • I had no idea there were so many cool hikes in the Phoenix area! I used to go a lot as my ex’s family lived there but usually it was unbearably hot and hiking was the last thing on my mind. Lol. But I’d love to go back to hike some of these in the winter or spring and see some wild flowers!

  • This must have been a really fun one to compile. It looks like there are some fantastic hikes in Phoenix, I especially like challenging ones with views so Piestewa Summit Trail looks up my street!

  • All these hikes look cool, but I’d love to tackle the Echo Canyon Trail. Sounds exactly like my cup of tea! Thanks for sharing all these great alternatives, and especially for mentioning whether it’s ok to bring our furry friends 🙂

  • Wow! So many cool trails – hiking is also one of my favorite ways to stay active! My top picks would be Hole-In-The-Rock Trail and Piestewa Summit Trail! Thanks for the inspiration

  • Lovely scenic views! I’m in Ontario so I’m used to lots of green trees and water – hiking here would be such a breath of fresh air! Can’t wait to come back to Arizona and check some of these out!

  • We did not do much hiking when we visited Phoenix because it was just too hot for us. But it was great to read and discover all the hiking options for a return visit. Especially ones that give a scenic viewpoint! Although I guess I could say we did the Hole-In-A-Rock hike 🙂

    • I completely understand. I don’t really hike much unless it’s between October – May, otherwise, it’s scorching! I’m glad you got to check out Hole-In-The-Rock, at least 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • A wonderful collection of excellent hikes around Phoenix for all levels. I think I’d love to try the Double Butte Loop Trail as it seems around my level and what a hike! Thanks for the excellent suggestions.

  • Arizona is beautiful. Make sure you have water and snacks (or drink with electrolytes. Too much water can actually cause health issues and it is a bigger risk in the desert.

    • Yes, definitely! Safety while hiking in Phoenix is super important, especially in the summer. I live here, and I typically avoid the trails in the summer because it’s too dang hot, even in the mornings! Thanks for reading, Christina 🙂

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