Best Hikes Near Phoenix  by Bruce Grubbs

Best Hikes Near Phoenix Guide Book

by Bruce Grubbs (Falcon Guides)
Best Hikes Near Phoenix  by Bruce Grubbs
40 of the best hikes within an hour's drive of the greater Phoenix area, including outings near Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, and Apache Junction. Ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous multiday backpack trips, the routes in this guide offer something for every hiker, within easy reach of the city.

© 2008 Bruce Grubbs/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Hikes Near Phoenix" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 40.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 40.

This backpack trip has it all—scenic canyons, views from high ridges, seasonal creeks, and a well-preserved pre-Columbian ruin. Upper Rogers Canyon is one of the gems of the Superstition Wilderness, and Angel Basin is a surprising open valley in a country of deep canyons and rugged peaks. The route also crosses one of the highest passes in the Superstition Mountains, providing views of much of the range.
Apache Junction, AZ - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 12
For those hikers who want a taste of the possibilities opened up by cross-country, offtrail hiking, this loop is a great place to start. Highlights include scenic Peralta Canyon and Fremont Saddle, famous for their towering rhyolite pinnacles—the “stone ghosts” of the Superstition Mountains—and the classic view of Weavers Needle. The cross-country portion of the hike follows Barks Canyon downstream to meet a good trail, so navigation is simple.
Apache Junction, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 4.6
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An easy day hike in the Sonoran Desert foothills on the north end of the Sierra Estrella, this loop trail makes a good introduction to the trail system in Estrella Mountain Regional Park. It is less crowded than the better-known trails in the city and is also an ideal trail for beginning hikers and even nonhikers. Start on the signed Gila Trail, a barrier-free interpretive loop. Stay left and follow the Gila Trail clockwise to a ramada. Turn left here onto the Baseline Trail, which gradually climbs southwest up the left side of a ravine to another junction. Stay left here—the right fork will be the return from the Baseline Trail loop portion of the hike. Climbing gradually, the Baseline Trail continues over a saddle, then contours around the south slopes of the peak.
Goodyear, AZ - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.1
This loop day hike follows good trails though the southwestern Superstition Mountains. The many-pinnacled summit of Miners Needle and the cliffs of Bluff Spring Mountain are special treats on this enjoyable and scenic hike in the Superstition Wilderness.
Apache Junction, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 7.7
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Browns Peak is the highest, northernmost summit of Four Peaks, the prominent group of peaks at the southern end of the Mazatzal Mountains and within Four Peaks Wilderness. Most of the hike is on trail, but the ascent of the peak requires cross-country travel, and the summit involves a short rock scramble. Since Four Peaks is visible from so many places in the Phoenix area, you would expect the views from this 7,657-foot summit to be panoramic, and you won’t be disappointed. This is the highest hike in this book. surface: Dirt and rocks.
Mesa, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 4
This trail is north of the Four Peaks Wilderness and south of Slate Creek Divide, in the southern half of the Mazatzal Mountains. The hike starts amid granite boulders in classic Sonoran Desert terrain and climbs onto intermediate-elevation slopes higher in the mountains. As an option, you can hike through the ponderosa pine stands near the crest of the range and on to the far end of the trail at the Cline Trailhead.
Mesa, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 9.2
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North of Phoenix, the low-lying, flat Valley of the Sun abruptly gives way to the foothills of the New River Mountains, a complex of mesas, canyons, Sonoran Desert peaks, and even some seasonal streams. This loop hike follows portions of Cave Creek, one such creek within the southern portion of the New River Mountains in the Tonto National Forest. Start on the Cave Creek Trail (Forest Trail 4), which follows the creek, crossing it a few times. After about 4 miles, turn left onto the Skunk Tank Trail. After another 5 miles, turn left onto Forest Trail 247 to return to the trailhead. Along Cave Creek is a lovely riparian habitat featuring Fremont cottonwood and Arizona sycamore. This is a great birding area, especially in late spring and early summer.
Carefree, AZ - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 10
Starting from the easily accessible Peralta Trailhead, this backpack trip loops around rugged Coffee Flat Mountain. It passes the many-pinnacled summit of Miners Needle and climbs up scenic Red Tanks Canyon. It crosses Red Tanks Divide, one of the most remote passes in the Superstition Mountains, then descends through Upper La Barge Box, a narrow portion of La Barge Canyon.
Apache Junction, AZ - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 16.9
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Another hike into the seldom-visited southern end of the Mazatzal Wilderness, this trek is for backpackers who want a challenging trail and cross-country hike into beautiful and remote country less than 50 airline miles from downtown Phoenix. There are two seasonal springs, and great views reward you after the steep climb up from Sheep Creek. surface: Dirt and rocks. Start the hike on the Saddle Mountain Trail, which climbs the ridge west of the trailhead, then passes through two saddles, passing the junction with the Little Saddle Trail. The trail contours north along the east slopes of a ridge, and then passes through another saddle on the southeast slopes of Saddle Mountain. Follow the trail around the east side of Saddle Mountain.
Mesa, AZ - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 16.9
This loop hike traverses several deep canyons in the eastern portion of the Mazatzal Wilderness and has several options for exploring the forks of Deer Creek. The return portion of the loop descends a spectacular ridge, taking you from pine and fir forest on the crest of the Mazatzal Mountains to desert grasslands and treating you to yet more stunning views along the way. From the trailhead, start northwest on the Deer Creek Trail (Forest Trail 45) as it climbs onto a low ridge. The Gold Ridge Trail, which will be our return from the loop portion of the hike, branches left. Soon the South Fork Trail also branches left; stay right on the Deer Creek Trail at both junctions. The Deer Creek Trail crosses the South Fork of Deer Creek, then turns west into Deer Creek just upstream of a ranch located on private land. Now the trail follows the creek west toward the mountains.
Mesa, AZ - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 15.8
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This loop hike is very popular, and for good reason. It stays on well-graded, good trails throughout, yet passes through a variety of scenic terrain in the western Superstition Mountains. Highlights include the pinnacles of Miners Needle; the towering triple summits of the Superstition Mountains’ most famous landmark, Weavers Needle; and the “stone ghosts”—volcanic stone hoodoos—of upper East Boulder Canyon and Peralta Canyon. It is an especially good introduction to backpacking for those new to the sport. surface: Dirt and rocks.
Apache Junction, AZ - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 16.2
Camelback Mountain is the defining landmark of Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun. This trail starts on the north side of the “camel’s head,” traverses below some towering cliffs, climbs to the saddle between the head and the “hump,” and then runs up the west ridge of the camel’s hump to the highest point on the mountain. Because this scenic trail is in the middle of the urban area, it is very popular, and the parking lot fills quickly on weekend mornings. Your best chance at a parking spot is to hike early on a weekday.
Willcox, AZ - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
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The classic eastern Superstition Wilderness loop hike, the Fireline Loop takes you through the highest portion of the Superstition Wilderness. Stands of ponderosa pine grow along this route, which surprises many hikers who are only familiar with the more accessible, and much lower elevation, western Superstition Mountains. You’ll have a chance to climb 6,266-foot Mound Mountain, the highest peak in the range, and visit the site of the historic Reavis Ranch. A long section of the loop follows Campaign Creek, one of the most beautiful of Superstition Wilderness canyons.
Roosevelt, AZ - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 14.5
For those hikers who want to penetrate a little deeper into the Superstition Mountains, this moderate walk offers a glimpse of the mesas, buttes, and deep canyons lying at the heart of these desert mountains. Especially striking are the stone towers, or hoodoos, found in the vicinity of Parker Pass. These formations reveal the violent volcanic past of the Superstitions.
Apache Junction, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 8.8
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This trail winds through the lush Sonoran Desert foothills near Cave Creek, north of Phoenix. The first part of the loop follows an old road dating from the prospecting and mining era of the nineteenth century. After crossing a pass, the pleasant foot trail traverses the north side of some low hills, providing views north to the remote New River Mountains area. There are also good views of the Cave Creek area and the McDowell Mountains. surface: Dirt and rocks. This pleasant loop gives hikers a good introduction to the Sonoran Desert. From the trailhead, the Go John Trail first heads north up a drainage, climbing to a low saddle in the desert hills. It then drops north down a dry wash. As the trail turns east, watch for unmarked unofficial trails that leave the park; stay right, on the Go John Trail, at each junction. The trail crosses several minor drainages as it skirts the base of the hills on their north slopes.
Cave Creek, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 4.8
An easily accessible walk around a prominent hill in the Sonoran Desert, this trail provides a 360-degree view of the northern suburbs of Phoenix. Though you’re still near those suburbs, it doesn’t feel like it, and you can easily imagine the time, not so long ago, when this was all open desert. Keep an eye out for coyotes. You might also spot typical desert birds such as roadrunners or Gila woodpeckers. For those who want a little longer hike, a spur trail leads to the top of Lookout Mountain. surface: Dirt and rocks
Phoenix, AZ - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8
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Starting from one of the most accessible of the Superstition Wilderness trailheads, near Canyon Lake, this exceptionally scenic cross-country hike takes you into a classic “box” canyon. Towering walls and seasonal pools of water add to the charm of this remote spot. Cross the highway and start up the Boulder Canyon Trail, which climbs steadily southeast up the ridge above Boulder Canyon. A spur trail soon branches right and descends to La Barge Canyon, but stay left on the Boulder Canyon Trail, which continues to climb via a switchback or two, then levels out along the top of the ridge. Look behind you at the expansive view of Canyon Lake and the Four Peaks region. Now the trail contours high above Boulder Canyon and soon leaves the sights and sounds of the man-made lake behind. Rounding a rock spur, the trail drops steeply into La Barge Creek. This is a popular destination for both day hikes and overnight hikes, and there’s usually water in the creek during the cool half of the year.
Apache Junction, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 11
Both the South and North Maricopa Mountains are within wilderness areas. Separated only by a railroad corridor, both are encompassed within the Sonoran Desert National Monument. This hike takes you across Sonoran Desert plains into a scenic canyon in the North Maricopa Mountains. You’ll see man-made attractions on this hike too, such as relics from the prospecting and ranching days.
Phoenix, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 10.4
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This good day hike in the southeast corner of the Mazatzal Wilderness can be combined with the Squaw Flat hike to make a much longer day hike or overnight backpack trip. The trail starts from the Cross F Trailhead, one of the few Mazatzal Mountains trailheads that can be reached from a paved road. The Squaw Flat Trail starts on the west side of the highway and can be difficult to locate. It crosses under the power line, then heads west up an unnamed tributary of Sycamore Creek. It follows this tributary as it turns north and enters a canyon. The trail turns northwest and climbs through a low saddle to meet an old jeep trail, which it follows to the northwest along a ridge. At the point where the Squaw Flat Trail turns northeast and starts to traverse the slopes south of Potato Patch, turn left and hike the short spur northwest to Marion Spring, our goal for this hike.
Mesa, AZ - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 7
This is an enjoyable hike through the middle section of Boulder Canyon and the lower end of La Barge Canyon—two of the most rugged canyons in the Superstition Mountains. The transition between the canyons traverses Marsh Valley, a rare open valley in this wilderness of deep canyons, high cliffs, and sharp buttes. Several options for side hikes extend the trip for those who want to explore more of the area. surface: Dirt and rocks
Apache Junction, AZ - Backpacking,Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 16.4
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