Let’s Take a Hike!
It’s prime hiking season in Phoenix. There’s no better way to multitask than simultaneously enjoying a good chat with a friend or deep solo thinking, taking in fresh air and gorgeous views, basking in our glorious weather, and having a fantastic workout. Here are five of the best hiking trails in and around the Valley of the Sun, all beckoning you to come play. Pack a picnic, grab a map, sunscreen, water, and start climbing!
Piestewa Peak Summit Trail (Central Phoenix)
Park at the main lot just north of Lincoln and Squaw Peak Drive. The trailhead is well marked and heavily traversed, so it’s safe to do alone or with a group from sunrise to sunset. Enjoy views of the famous Wrigley Mansion and Arizona Biltmore to the south during the first part of the hike, then Dreamy Draw and North Mountain to the northwest midway. From the top of this central location, the McDowells, White Tanks, South Mountain, Superstitions, and San Tans that form our valley are all within view, along with unique features like Cardinals Stadium, Chase Field, Indian reservations, downtown, freeways, and golf courses. This is a perfect hike for anyone new to Phoenix wanting a thorough 360 degree overview and orientation of the city. Average round trip takes about 75 minutes, and as expected the steepest portions are near the summit. More information: https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/piestewa-peak/hiking-trail-map
Goldmine Trail (Queen Creek)
Park in either the Goldmine Trailhead parking lot near Wagon Wheel and Hunt Highway, or the San Tan Regional Visitor Center near Phillips and Thompson Road. A round trip between either of these two parking lots takes you completely out of civilization for about 90 minutes (as in you won’t see any cars or buildings for portions of the trip), with mostly gentle rolling hills and a steep up-and-over saddle of Goldmine Mountain right in the middle. Sunsets from the bench atop the saddle are spectacular. There are many trails here and it’s a big park, so have a planned route and stick to it. The visitor center offers special events, animal exhibits, and clean bathrooms, and the trails also facilitate biking and horseback riding. More information: https://www.maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/san-tan-mountain-regional-park/
Tom’s Thumb (NE Scottsdale)
Access Tom’s Thumb Trailhead by heading east on Happy Valley Road from Scottsdale Road and following the signs. The parking lot and bathroom facilities are clean and modern, making the launch and return nice and gentle. Pick any length loop that will take you to or around the famous Tom’s Thumb Rock formation. Spend an hour or all day winding through trails here. Expect steady climbing with switchbacks south and east through several saddle points, surrounded by massive, miraculously stacked boulders and views of the Verde River Valley, Four Peaks, and Tonto National Forest. For fun, see if you can locate the famous “Snow White’s Dwarf” rock along the way. More information: http://www.mcdowellsonoran.org/trailhead/toms-thumb/
South Mountain Telegraph Pass (Ahwatukee)
South Mountain is one of the country’s largest municipal parks, spanning 16,000 acres and 51 miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. One of the most popular hiking trails starts at the Telegraph Pass Trailhead in Ahwatukee, on the south side of the mountain. Follow a short paved path that turns into heavily traversed switchbacks and washes. Meander up toward the unmissable rock hut picnic spot, and eventually turn back around or continue to the intersecting 14 mile National Trail which follows the spines of all three mountain ranges in the park. Round trip to the top of the Telegraph Pass Trail takes about 70 minutes, but plan a few minutes for gorgeous pictures from wherever your summit may be. You’ll look north directly at downtown Phoenix, and south toward the Gila River Indian Reservation. More information: https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/south-mountain
Peralta Trail to Fremont Saddle (Gold Canyon)
This one will take a big chunk out the day because it’s a longer hike and access isn’t as easy as other spots. Getting to the trailhead includes a seven mile stretch of dirt road (tough for small cars in some conditions), after a hefty jaunt out to Gold Canyon. But this is one of the most gorgeous, colorful spots in all of Arizona, so it’s totally worth it! It’s a 2.2 mile hike up to the Fremont Saddle overlooking the spectacular Weaver’s Needle, where legends say the Dutchman’s Lost Gold is buried. The lower trail passes over tiny creeks and beautiful flora, then watch the rocks change color from grey to green to brilliant red in vivid stripes along the canyon walls. Eerily humanesque rock formations will peer down at you from the top of the canyon for the last third of the climb, and the dramatic first peek at Weaver’s Needle and the Superstitions is breathtaking. Plan to spend plenty of time beholding the beauty and celebrating your climbing accomplishment. Round trip for the hike can take close to three hours, so pack plenty of water. More information: https://www.arizonahighways.com/explore/hiking/peralta-trail