TravelTrained is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. See our disclaimer.

Unveiling Phoenix’s 11 Best Hikes: Epic Outdoor Adventures!

best hikes in phoenix

Hey there, adventure seekers! Are you ready to discover the absolute best hikes in Phoenix to escape the hustle and bustle of this Arizona city?

Well, we’ve got your back with the raddest guide to the 11 sickest hikes in town!

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, these handpicked trails offer something for everyone, y’all. Picture yourself surrounded by jaw-dropping desert panoramas 

Get ready to dive headfirst into the awesomeness of Phoenix’s nature scene, ’cause we’re about to unveil the absolute best hikes that’ll leave you craving more.

Let’s kick some dirt, soak up the sun and go hiking in or near Phoenix, where unforgettable experiences await at every turn.

Our Top 3 Recommendations

Our team enjoyed hiking the various trails we completed in the Phoenix area. However, if you’re short on time on this article as well as for the hike, save yourself the effort and look at our top 3 from this article right here:

  • Best Easy Trail — Papago Park Butte Loop because of its proximity to the city, a distance of only 2.3 miles, well-marked trails, small elevation gain of only 118 feet, and various desert plants and cacti. 
  • Best Moderate Trail  — Camelback Mountain because it is the highest Phoenix altitude (2,704 feet), and it allows for the most stunning 360-degree views of Phoenix and the surrounding metropolitan area. 
  • Best Challenging Trail  – Piestewa Peak because you gain a significant elevation of 1200 feet in just about a mile of hiking and it requires a short amount of scrambling to reach the top. Once you get there, the 360-degree views of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Camelback Mountain, the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, and Phoenix prove amazing. 

Our other recommendations include: 

  • Hike in the morning or evening hours to avoid the hottest parts of the day. 
  • Carry a filled-up reusable water bottle when hiking. Most of the trails do not have facilities to refill water and take place in desert landscapes with no spring water on the way.

1. Pinnacle Peak Trail

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging 

Length: 3.5 miles 

Approximate Time: 2 hours 

Elevation Gain: 2,889 feet

Pinnacle Peak hiking trail with views of Mt. Rainier
Courtesy of cornfusion @ Flickr

Pinnacle Peak Trail is located near Scottsdale, Arizona (about 45 minutes from Phoenix) and is a very popular hike that is pleasant to visit any time of the year.

Although the name suggests that you are hiking to a peak, that is not technically the case as the trail does not take you up to the summit. 

The views are still worth it, though, as are the views for many of the Scottsdale trails.

You will experience panoramic views of the valley, Scottsdale’s many golf courses, and the nearby McDowell Mountain as you hike the trail. 

We find the trail is moderately challenging, mainly due to parts toward the end that can be pretty steep, although most of the climb is gradual.

You won’t find any facilities along the trail, so make sure that you use the restroom and fill your water bottles at the trailhead. The pathway is clear and well-marked. 

Keep in mind that during the busiest times, you may encounter large amounts of trail runners and joggers in addition to the other hikers. If you wish to avoid these crowds, try hiking during early morning hours or during the week instead of a weekend. 

2. The Wave Cave Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 3.2 miles 

Approximate Time: 2 Hours 

Elevation Gain: 900 feet 

the wave cave, arizona
Courtesy of Greg Meyer MD(H) @ Flickr

The Wave Cave Trail is located just east of the Phoenix area in a location known as the Superstition Wilderness and for the Superstition Mountain hiking trails.

It is an extremely popular hike on the weekends, so if you desire solitude, try to visit during off-peak times, such as on a weekday.

Its popularity has to do with a very-photographable wave formation inside the cave. It is an out-and-back hike, so after reaching the cave, you return the way that you came. 

As you walk, you will find that it can be quite steep in some parts, and there is a tendency to be loose areas of rock which could make it slippery, especially on the way back down.

As you finish the trail after hiking about 1.5 miles, your reward is the view of the cave, where you will see the wave-like rock formation at its entrance.

Take time there to enjoy the view, explore the rest of the cave, strike your best hiking pose and take some fun pictures of the unique formation.

If you’d like to rest a bit longer, you can pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the shade of the cave area before heading back down the trail. 

3. Echo Canyon Trail (Camelback Mountain)

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 2.3 miles

Approximate Time: 2 Hours

Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet

Echo Canyon Trail arizona
Courtesy of daveynin @ Flickr

The Camelback hike is an urban hike that is very convenient to the Phoenix area but still packs the thrill of a mountain climb.

It is the highest Phoenix altitude, and many consider it one of the quintessential Arizona hikes.

Beginning hikers should note that the trail is an incredibly steep incline and should only be attempted by those physically-fit enough to meet the challenge of the 1,300 feet elevation gain in just a little over a mile. 

The trail is well-maintained and well-marked, so you will have no trouble finding your way up to the top of Camelback mountain.

You can hike it all year long, and it tends to be particularly busy during the winter months.

Summer months can be scorching hot and challenging. Once at the top, you will see some good Phoenix views down below.

You’ll be able to see for miles and miles. Rest for a few minutes and take them in before heading back down the way you came up. 

Make sure you bring lots of water for the hike and wear some sturdy hiking boots.

You will encounter areas where you need to know how to scramble and areas of rocks and loose gravel. These areas can prove challenging to navigate on the way down. 

Post you may like: Best Outdoor Activities in Denver
Best Hikes Near Phoenix Video

4. Tom’s Thumb Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 2.5 miles

Approximate Time: 2 to 3 Hours

Elevation Gain: 1,300 feet

Tom’s Thumb Trail Arizona
Courtesy of Al_HikesAZ

Tom’s Thumb Hike is an interesting “thumb-shaped” rock formation on top of a mountain in the Sonoran Desert in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The area is a popular technical rock climbing destination, and you may see climbers practicing there.

Many people enjoy this hike for its fun factor and impressive views.

At the top, you will see views of the Phoenix skyline and the McDowell Mountains. 

Although we find this trail moderate, there is something for everyone here.

If you don’t want to make the complete ascent to the top, you can branch off the Tom’s Thumb trail to the Mesquite Canyon or Marcus Landslide trails which are perfect for families.

You can also bring dogs, as long as they are on a leash.  

You’ll always see Tom’s Thumb rock as you hike to the top, so it is easy to set your sights on the goal.

Once you reach the top, you’ll experience rewarding views of the area, including Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak.

If you’re up for some more, take the path west of Tom’s Thumb that leads to the Ogre’s den, a cave created by boulders leaning up against each other. 

Tom’s Thumb hiking trail also makes a great place to see big birds of prey and their roosting areas and many other bird species.

5. Shaw Butte Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 4.1 miles

Approximate Time: 2 hours

Elevation Gain: 700 feet

Shaw Butte Trail near phoenix
Courtesy of RightBrainPhotography @ Flickr

Another hike that is exceptionally close to Phoenix, the Shaw Butte trail, provides a good mountain view without traveling very far.

This hike is a loop trail, so you can take it in either direction from the trailhead.

Although the trail is marked, make sure you pay attention as there are a few junctions because it is possible to get off track. 

After about 1.4 miles of hiking, you will reach an area with a small spur trail. Take that trail to reach the top of Shaw Butte.

You will have gained an elevation of 700 feet, and from there, you will see a view of Downtown Phoenix, Lookout Mountain, and North Mountain. 

There are several other views to check out on the way back, including the old Cloud 9 restaurant, which burned down in the 1960s and was never rebuilt. In this area, you can stop and see some additional views. 

This hiking trail is very popular, so if you’re looking for solitude, you likely will not find it here.

There will often be between 25 to 50 other hikers on the trail. Because of that, the parking area gets crowded as well, so you may want to avoid peak times to ensure that you can find a spot. 

6. Flatiron Peak via Siphon Draw Trail

Difficulty: Difficult

Length: 5.8 miles total

Elevation Gain: 2400 feet

Approximate Time: 5 Hours

Flatiron Peak via Siphon Draw Trail
Courtesy of Al_HikesAZ @ Flickr

The Flat Iron Peak hike starts from the Siphon Draw Trail in the Superstition State Park, east of Phoenix.

Because of this, guidebooks sometimes refer to it as the Siphon Draw, but locals refer to it as Flat Iron because the end of the hike resembles an upside-down iron. 

This hike requires lots of scrambling, so beware before you venture out to try it.

We found that many of the sections required us to use both our hands and our feet to cross over the paths that are filled with boulders.

It is not recommended to try with young children or others who will have trouble with the elevation gain and terrain. 

However, if you are up for a challenge, it can make for an enjoyable hike close to Phoenix and one of the extraordinary summit hikes here.

When you make it to the top, the views include the desert and beautiful rock formations. If you visit just after it has rained, the colors of the desert will look incredible. 

Note that you may not be able to complete this hike during certain times and due to conditions. It recently had to close for several months in 2021 due to wildfires.

Make sure that you check the current conditions before you visit. 

Those who travel to mountain-tops are half in love with themselves and half in love with oblivion.

Robert MacFarlane, British Writer

7. Double Butte Loop from Papago Park

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Length: 2.3 miles total

Approximate Time: 2 Hours

Elevation Gain: 118 feet

Papago Park Butte Loop 
Courtesy of Mira Mechtley @ Flickr

Papago Park Butte Loop is one of Phoenix’s “Points of Pride” due to its scenery, hiking trails, and popularity. Located just minutes from downtown Phoenix, you can also access the Phoenix Zoo from this area. 

The most popular in Papago Park is the Papago Park Butte Loop, sometimes called the Double Butte Loop.

This loop is easy enough for all skill levels to attempt and loops you around two buttes. It is also stroller-friendly and wheelchair friendly, which lends to its popularity. We found the trail is clearly marked and very easy to follow.

Along the way, you will see a variety of cacti and other desert plants, including Sonoran Desert Cholla and Saguaro Cactus. Interconnecting trails between the buttes allows you even further to customize your distance. 

Although you don’t gain any elevation during this hike, it still offers some dramatic views of the local geology and, as a loop trail, is one of the great places to walk in the area in either direction that you take. 

8. Lookout Mountain Trail

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging 

Length: 1.2 miles

Approximate Time: 1 hour

Elevation Gain: 433 feet

Lookout Mountain Trail 
Courtesy of Loren Javier @ Flickr

This out and back trail takes you to the peak of Lookout Mountain, which is located in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve a little bit north of the city. It also includes a loop around the circumference of the mountain.

The summit trail of Lookout Mountain is the more difficult of the two, but both are only considered moderately challenging. If you choose just to make the circumference trail, your total hike around the loop will only be 1.5 miles. 

Both trails start from well-signed parking areas. If you are making the summit trail, you will head up to the side of Lookout Mountain that faces the parking area.

The trail is well-marked initially, but you will see several trails to choose from as you get up further toward the top. Make sure that you continue the signs for trail #150.

Although this is a short hike, it becomes rocky at the top of the mountain but does not require scrambling.

The views you will see here include the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, including Piestewa Peak and North Mountain and Downtown Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs.

After taking in the view, return down the way you came. 

If you choose to continue and complete the loop trail, follow the markers for trail #308. This trail takes you an additional 1.5 miles around the mountain. As you walk, you will pass a few Saguaro Cacti and may even see some wildlife.  

9. Piestewa Peak Summit Trail

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Length: 2.4 miles

Approximate Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Elevation Gain: 1200 feet

Piestewa Peak Trail 
Courtesy of Al_HikesAZ @ Flickr

Piestewa Peak Trail is the second-highest elevation in Phoenix after Camelback Mountain. Located in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, it rises to 2608 feet above sea level.

It is very popular, so expect to see others completing it simultaneously as you. Because of its steepness, you will not want to try it with children.

It is also not a dog-friendly hike due to the rocky hills and elevation, so leave your furry friends at home.

There are two main trails at the mountain, the Summit Trail and the Freedom Trail. You can choose to do both if you want to add some distance to your hike, but most people aim for starting with or just doing the Summit Trail. 

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the hike is short. You gain over 1200 feet of elevation in that short time, which makes it rather strenuous.

There are a few benches along the way where you can rest and take in some of the views. 

The trail starts with stairs, but as you get closer to the top, the stairs disappear, and you finish by climbing a dirt and rock trail. You’ll have to do a short scramble at the summit, and a final set of stairs takes you to the peak. 

The views are beautiful, and you’ll see the Valley and other mountains. After enjoying the view, return back down the way you came.   

Post you may like: Best Hikes in Seattle

10. Holbert Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 4.6 miles

Approximate Time: 2.5 to 3 hours

Elevation Gain: 1115 feet

Holbert Trail near phoenix
Courtesy of Bill Cole @ Flickr

This trail in the South Mountain Preserve near Laveen, Arizona (about a 30 to 40-minute drive from the city) is an excellent place for scenic views, wildflowers, and to view some historic rock art (petroglyphs).

You may want to bring a pair of binoculars so that you can better see the ones that are on the higher-up rocks.

This out and back trail is popular but usually not highly crowded and is a good hike for those seeking a bit more solitude. You can take your dogs on this one, but they must remain on a leash.

The first part of the trail is relatively flat, and then the rest of the climb is gradual but steady up to the top. The trail is well-defined the entire way.

As you get to the top of the trail, you will likely encounter more people, particularly in the Promontory Point area, a vista with parking, restrooms, and scenic views. When you reach the Dobbins Lookout, it treats you with city views.

Take a few minutes to enjoy the views and return to the way you came up. 

In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world.

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States

11. Treasure Loop Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2.5 miles

Approximate Time: 2 to 2.5 hours

Elevation Gain: 800 feet

Treasure Loop Trail Arizona
Courtesy of K e v i n @ Flickr

Located in the Superstition Wilderness near Apache Junction, Arizona, this loop trail is an easy way to start your exploration of the area and get a mountain view without too much effort.

With well-marked signs and a very gradual elevation climb, hikers of all levels will enjoy the scenery, wildflowers, and exercise.

You’ll need to pay a parking fee in Lost Dutchman State Park to access the start of the trail, which begins at an elevation of about 2000 feet.

As you begin the hike, make sure that you stay on the trail as the Jumping Cholla cactus is in the area, and you can get pricked by one just by walking too close!

Make sure that you take the time to check out the views around you as you make your way up. 

Once you reach the summit, you’ll find picnic tables and benches where you can rest and take in the impressive views of the Superstition Mountains and Apache Junction.

Many hikers say that this hike is stunning during sunset. If you decide to go during sunset, make sure to bring a flashlight for the way back down.

If you want to continue further, take the spur trail up to the Praying Hands. Note, though, that this trail is more strenuous and less defined than the Treasure Loop, so not everybody will want to complete it.

Since this trail is a loop, you simply continue along the marked path, which will take you through the same types of scenery and lead you back to the parking lot.



Does Phoenix Have Good Hiking?

Yes, in addition to having a warm, dry climate most of the year, Phoenix also has many great regional wilderness preserves. Visitors will find many different trails of different levels in these areas throughout Maricopa County.

What is the Most Difficult Hike in Pheonix?

The most difficult hike in Pheonix is the Piestewa Peak summit trail, where you gain 1,300 feet of elevation in a mile. The Camelback Mountain summit trail is a close second in which the hiker gains 1200 feet of elevations in just 1.3 miles.

What is the Easiest Hike in Phoenix?

The easiest hike in Phoenix is the Hole in the Rock Hiking Loop Trail. It clocks in at just over a quarter of a mile but provides some striking scenery. At the end of the trail, the kids will enjoy seeing a rock with a photographable hole.

What Mountains Can You Hike in Phoenix, AZ?

Within the city of Phoenix, AZ, you can hike several summits in the Phoenix Mountains. These include Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak, Two Bit Peak, Mummy Mountain, Shaw Butte, North Mountain, Lookout Mountain, and Shadow Mountain. You’ll find several other mountain ranges outside the city but still within the metro area.