Phoenix Hiking Guide

Hey guys! I have spent many years hiking the trails here in Phoenix and these are my top 10 favorites. Some are well known and there's some you may not have heard of. These trails all range from easy to hard so there is something for everyone.

Please avoid these trails in the summer months as you put yourself in danger of suffering from heat stroke and be alert during rattlesnake season (I've had a couple of unexpected encounters). Always be sure to check the weather and avoid these trails if there is rain in the forecast as most are subject to flash flooding. Be sure to to always bring plenty of food and water. Bring what you think you need and then double that. I can't tell you how many times I thought I brought enough water and then cut my hike short because I didn't have enough. The dry desert heat can be REAL even on days in the 70's so please be mindful of this. My absolute favorite time to go hiking is right around sunrise or sunset as opposed to the middle of the day. The golden hour sun just lights up the desert and makes the scenery so gorgeous and photogenic!

1. Toms Thumb

This is probably one of the most scenic hikes in the Phoenix area (in my opinion). Toms Thumb is located in North Scottsdale which is a beautiful drive out to the trailhead. It is pretty difficult for the first 2/3 of the hike and can have you huffing and puffing so make SURE that you bring plenty of water and food! Definitely bring your camera to snap a photo of the iconic "thumb" boulder at the end of the trail! But also remember to snap photos along the way because the whole trail is super scenic. This hike is on the longer side so my husband and I made sandwiches to eat when we reached the "thumb." I was glad we did because I would have not wanted to hike this calorie burner without a snackaroo.

Total Distance: 4.3 miles

Elevation gain: 1,420 ft

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Parking: Free

2. Butcher Jones Trail

Okay, I hate to pick favorites but this would probably have to be my favorite Phoenix area hike overall. You just can't beat the mix of scenery that Butcher Jones has to offer. It's pretty rare to get mountains, forest, cactus, and gorgeous lake views all in the same hike.

The hike is very moderate (hence, why I am in jeans in most of these pics) so it's great for beginners or just someone who is looking for a more leisurely hike with beautiful views. I'm also not going to lie, the first couple of times I did this one, I didn't even make it halfway because I was so busy taking pictures the whole time (LOL). The trailhead starts at a parking lot for Butcher Jones Recreational Area which is a little beach where you can swim, paddle board, or kayak. If you are visiting during the warmer months, it can be a great spot to take a dip after your hike! This hike does require an $8 Tonto Day Pass which you can easily pick up at a nearby gas station. You can find a list of gas stations that sell the pass here.

Total Distance: 5 miles

Elevation Gain: 541 ft

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Parking: $8 parking fee

3. Flatiron via Siphon Draw

Siphon Draw Trail is located in the Lost Dutchman State Park. The cool thing about this trail is that you can camp anywhere along it with your paid park entrance fee and overnight vehicle fee ($15 total). I'm not going to lie, this was probably one of the most challenging hikes I have ever done. The 50 pounds of camping gear on my back may have attributed to that but it was still pretty challenging and not a hike for beginners. However, with the more difficult climb comes some pretty rewarding views. There is nothing like waking up to a sunrise from the top of Flatiron.

Some of my memories from this hike/camp include: stargazing with a clear sky full of stars, bringing a pizza along for dinner, running into a plane crash memorial at the summit (which was a little eerie at night). If you do decide to camp out here, be sure to bring some clothes to bundle up with as it can get cold and windy at night!

Total Distance: 5.5 Miles

Elevation Gain: 2.641 ft

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Parking: $7 per vehicle per day ($15 to camp overnight)

4. Treasure Loop Trail

If you're looking for a less intense hike within the Lost Dutchman State Park, then this is the hike for you. This trail is very mild and offers some amazing sunset views. I call this hike my "picnic hike." It's perfect for setting up a blanket and enjoying some beautiful desert golden hour views!

Total Distance: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 534 ft

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Parking: $7 per day per car

5. Peralta Trail

The Peralta Trail is located out in the Superstition Wilderness and is kind of "out there" so it's not too heavily trafficked. You will also need to drive down a dirt road to reach the trailhead but we made it in a little Yaris so four wheel drive is not needed. This hike is beautiful and offers a gorgeous view of the classic Weavers Needle rock formation!

Total Distance: 4.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,345 ft

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Parking: Free

6. Piewesta Peak (aka Squaw Peak)

This is one of my absolute favorites hikes to catch a sunrise or sunset. It's centrally located in Phoenix so it's not really too far if you are looking for a great, quick workout. The whole way up is pretty much nature's stair stepper so be sure to bring plenty of water. Squaw Peak is popular and you will most definitely be passing others along most of the trail but that's just something that comes along with the convenient location. One of my favorite views? Being able to watch sunset from the peak and watching all of the city lights glisten when I'm on the way back down.

Distance: 2.4 miles out and back

Elevation Gain: 1,208 ft

Dogs Allowed: No

Parking: Free

7. Camelback Mountain

In my mind Camelback is the "classic" Phoenix hike. It's centrally located right in the heart of Scottsdale and there are two trails to reach the summit. Both of which are heavily trafficked. The first is the Cholla Trail which is the more gradual/long ascent and the other is Echo Canyon which is a bit more short/steep. Both are beautiful trails but I tend to favor Echo Canyon because of the parking situation and it has more of those iconic orange/red rock formations. The Cholla Trail is just parallel parking on the side of a busy road and Echo Canyon has an actual parking lot but be sure to get there early on holidays and weekends as it can fill up. My favorite time to do this hike is December because they have a Christmas tree at the summit and Santa can be found handing out candy canes at certain times!

Total Distance: Cholla- 3.1 miles Echo - 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: Cholla - 1,540 ft Echo - 1,424 ft

Dogs Allowed: No (both trails)

Parking: Free for both trails but can become limited on weekends and holidays

8. Dreamy Draw

Dreamy Draw Recreation Area is a series of trails located in Central Phoenix. These hikes are very mild and offer some gorgeous sunset views of the City of Phoenix. I wish I could give you guys an exact trail distance and stats. But the couple of times that I have been here, I just wandered. There is a main sidewalk with lots of little trails that stem out from it. Sometimes it's half the fun to just kind of wander around and not know exactly where you're going, right? ;)

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Parking: Free

9. South Mountain

There are SO many beautiful trails at South Mountain. My favorite two are Fat Mans Pass and the Pyramid Trail. Pyramid Trail is located right where Chandler Boulevard ends in the Ahwatukee Foothills. When I first moved to Phoenix, I probably did the Pyramid trail 5 days a week. I really like this one because there's HARDLY ever anyone else there. Fat Man's Pass is also fun because you eventually come across some fun rock formations that you have to pass through, hence the trail name.

Total Distance: Pyramid - 6.2 miles Fat Mans Pass- 3.8 miles

Elevation Gain: Pyramid - 1,322 ft Fat Mans Pass - 918 ft

Dogs Allowed: Yes (both)

Parking: Free (both)

10. McDowell Sonoran Preserve

This was another hike where we just kind of wandered. There's lots of trail options out here as well as some gorgeous scenery! We saw SO MANY saguaro cacti on this one which I love. The day we went it was cloudy which was nice for keeping us and our pup cool. There's up to 30,500 acres of desert to explore with these trails and the facilities here are super well-kept.

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Parking: Free

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