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There tons of great reasons to visit Arizona – the weather, the scenery, and the wide open spaces. But one of the best ways to explore all of that is to simply pull on some sturdy boots and go for a hike! Arizona hiking conjures up images of vast, desert landscapes, but there’s actually a lot of diversity in this large southwestern state.
Whether you’re looking to just get a little exercise, keep the kids entertained, or set out on a multi-day backpacking trek, Arizona’s wilderness has lots to offer. It’s hard to narrow down the list of amazing hiking areas and trails in the state down to just 10. But here’s a sampling of what you can experience on your own two feet when you set out on a hiking adventure in Arizona.
Sabino Canyon Trail, Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
For some of the best views of the epic saguaro cacti of Southern Arizona, head to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. This is a unique desert trail because there is actually a creek with water along it. This helps other species of plants grow here as well, including wildflowers, junipers, and cottonwoods. Make a point to hike the Sabino Canyon Trail in the spring, because that’s when the flowers are in bloom. To get an overview of the area, you can take a tram ride into the canyon, which is also the quickest way to get into the canyon. You’ll travel about 7.8 miles round-trip if you take this trail to Hutch’s Pool. It’s moderately difficult, and dogs are not allowed.
Flat Iron Trail, Superstitions Mountains and the Lost Dutchman State Park
Another incredible hiking area in Arizona is the Lost Dutchmen State Park, and this is where you’ll find the Superstitions Mountains. These mountains have a golden beauty, and the saguaro cacti add to the mysterious stories that this wilderness area has. The Siphon Draw Trailhead is a good place to start if you want to check out the Flat Iron Trail. The trail is pretty well used and isn’t hard to follow if you’re paying attention. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a view of a rock outcropping called the Flat Iron. It’s huge, and you can get some lovely views from here. Trails in Lost Dutchman State Park are the Treasure Loop Trail (2.4 miles), Prospector’s View Trail (0.7 miles), Jacob’s Crosscut Trail (0.8 miles), Siphon Draw Trail (4 miles), and the Discovery Trail that connects the campground and day-use areas.
Kelsey-Dorsey Loop, Flagstaff Ranger District, Coconino National Forest
Located in Northern Arizona, the Coconino National Forest is a wonderful place to take a hike. The Kelsey-Dorsey Loop is about 7.3 miles long and moderately difficult. You can bring your dog along if he’s on a leash, and even if your horse if you’d rather go that route. To get to the trailhead, a high-clearance vehicle is recommended. The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is a protected area that encompasses a canyon and forest. Expect to see a trail packed with pine needles, rocky terrain, oak trees, and lush grasses. The trailhead GPS coordinates are N 35˚04.465’, W 111˚55.795’.
Boynton Canyon Trail, Sedona
Boynton Canyon is one of the most scenic areas around Sedona and believed to be a powerful vortex site. You’ll find the iconic red sandstone rocks here, as well as mysterious rock spires and even lush vegetation. There are also some cliff dwellings in the canyon that date back to 1,200 A.D. The Boynton Canyon Trail extends five total miles and is an out-and-back hike. It’s pretty easy and takes about three hours to complete. Come here for outstanding scenery and surprisingly plentiful flora. This is a nice hike to do any time of the year.
Summit Trail, Mount Humphrey’s, Arizona Snowbowl Skiing Area
Mount Humphrey’s is the highest peak in Arizona, so any dedicated hiker will want to put this mountain on a bucket list. The Summit Trail is great route to take if you want to reach the top in about five miles. The peak stands well over 12,000 feet tall, and the trail starts at the Arizona Snowbowl ski area. In total, the trail to the summit is strenuous and takes about eight to 10 hours to complete. If you have time and want to experience more of the area, there are some other great Mount Humphrey’s trails to check out too. Late spring and fall are nice times to hike to the top of this peak, but winter gets quite snowy.
Camelback Mountain, Phoenix/Scottsdale
A hike that anyone with a moderate hiking ability who visits Phoenix should do is Camelback Mountain. You’ll see this iconic mountain as you drive around town, so why not make your way up to the top? Start your journey at the Echo Canyon Trailhead, and get ready to start gaining some elevation right away. The hike isn’t very long (about 1.2 miles), but it does gain some height pretty quickly. Recommended trails are the Ramada Loop Trail, Cholla Trail, and the strenuous Summit Trail. The top of the mountain is about 1,400 feet from the base. Keep in mind that this is a very convenient hike from the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale, so expect to find crowds on the trail. But with that said, the summit hike may be too tough for beginner hikers and young children. It also gets very hot in this area during much of the year, so start your hike early in the morning to avoid some heat and crowds. The whole thing should take you a couple hours round-trip. Down below, you’ll get some nice views of luxury homes and a busy metropolis.
Finger Rock Trail to Mount Kimball, Catalina Mountains, Tucson
A Trail near Tucson worth checking out is the Finger Rock Trail, which you can hike for about five miles to reach Mount Kimball. This is an impressive and accessible peak in the Catalinas. However, the hike itself is tough. The trail itself is about 8.2 miles long and gives visitors a chance to see wildlife. Horseback riding and trail running are also popular on this trail.
Wildcat Trail, Monument Valley
With a name like “Monument Valley,” you know a hiking area is going to be impressive. You can explore this area in a few different ways, but the Wildcat Trail is the only way that you can explore this area without being accompanied by a Navajo guide. Start your hike at the campground, and then start descending to the valley floor. You’ll curve through some juniper trees and go around West Mitten to see the Mitten formations for yourself. Overall, the trail is pretty easy, so you can focus on looking around and not on fancy footwork. This self-guided trail is about 3.2 miles in length with 5,400-foot elevation, and it’ll take you about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. The general admission entry fee is $20, although children six or younger can visit for free.
Havasu Canyon Trail, Seligman
If you want to reach the beautiful waterfall pictured here, you’ll need to get a permit from the Havasupai Indian Reservation. There’s a trailhead that takes you about eight miles into the village of Supai and then a couple more to reach the campground. This is an adventure best saved for a long weekend, because it’ll likely take you at least a couple days to reach the falls and get back. In total, the Havasu Canyon Trail is 20 miles long, and it is accessible year-around. Plan to do this hike as a backpacking trip for a really memorable excursion.
South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon
There are lots of amazing hiking routes in the Grand Canyon, but one of the most enduringly popular ones is the South Kaibab Trail. If you take this trail to Bright Angel Campground, that’ll be about 27.8 miles of very strenuous hiking. The Tonto Trail in Cottonwood Creek will take you about 4-5 hours, and the route from there to South Kaibab takes about 10-11 hours. This is a hike best saved for either March through June or September through November. Plan to spend 4-5 days on this hike. Mules also travel along the South Kaibab Trail.