I’m in Tempe, Arizona from mid-April to mid-May and it is already close to 100 degrees in the afternoons here. I’ve learned very quickly that when hiking you must go very early. Most recommend being off the trails by 11am as it gets too hot but I would say even earlier- the sun is so strong here! I have been starting my hikes before sunrise around 5/5:15am and I have been hiking much shorter trails than I would typically do in Colorado. I’ve also been trying to get hikes in during the weekdays before I start work and I have found so many close, beautiful trails that pack in some elevation gain!
There are quite a few little mountain ranges right around the Phoenix/Tempe/Scottsdale area that are easily accessible from the city and where I’ve been doing most of my hiking so far. They include: McDowell Mountains, Phoenix Mountains, Salt River Mountains, South Mountains, North Mountain and a few others. If you want to really get out of the city, a bit farther away are the Superstition Mountains which offer a ton of hiking options and beautiful views to go along with it. With all the mountain ranges surrounding the city, there are no shortages of nearby hiking options!
Since I’ve been hiking in Arizona, I’ve noticed a few things that I thought would be helpful/fun to note:
- Springtime in Arizona is bee season and the bees are very active! If you are hiking in the spring, be ready for a lot of bee activity along the trails. The bees haven’t bothered me since I’ve been here but there is a constant buzz throughout my time on the trail.
- The trails have been consistently very rocky! This is a great way to strengthen your ankles but also be sure to use caution and watch your step when navigating.
- Arizona hikers hike REALLY early. Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time so the sun rises around 5:30am during the spring. To catch sunrise from the mountain you have to start before then. I’ve seen more people at 5am at the trailheads here than I have anywhere else (except for maybe when hiking 14ers in Colorado).
- I’ve noticed quite a few female solo hikers on the local trails. It’s refreshing to know that I’m among a community of ladies who also feel comfortable hitting the trail alone.
- I LOVE saguaro cactuses. I didn’t know I would love them so much but they are beautiful and live to be about 200 years old. In fact, I have seen many saguaro cactuses that are 150 years and older. They are majestic.
Below are some of the closer hikes near Tempe, Scottsdale, and Phoenix that I’ve been enjoying during my time here. They are listed in order with my favorite trails at the top. Though, you can’t go wrong on any of these!
- Gateway Loop Trail– Located in the McDowell Mountains, there are a slew of trails that start at this trailhead. This trail quickly takes you back and drops you between mountains so you feel like you are far away from the city. There are a ton of saguaro cactuses in this area which makes this hike even better and the trail is a loop so you don’t go back the same way you came.
- Tom’s Thumb– In the same mountain range as Gateway Loop, this trail boasts saguaro cactuses and beautiful mountain views. This trail also takes you into the mountains so you feel far from the city. It’s very popular for good reason so go early to avoid crowds and heat.
- Phoenix Mountain Preserve is home to the Phoenix Mountains and has a ton of trail options. The most popular trail in that area is Piestewa Peak specifically during sunrise. Piestewa Peak is a short 2.1 mile out and back trial but climbs 1,148 ft. over the first mile. It’s tough but the views at the top are well worth it! I highly recommend enjoying this hike for sunrise.
- Sunrise Mountain Trail– My sister and I hiked this trail and it was great, especially for sunrise. There are quite a few homes nestled in the foothills throughout the first mile and there were also a ton of tall saguaro cactuses.
- Hidden Valley Trail Via Mormon Trail– I was pleasantly surprised on this trail when I happened upon a rock tunnel that the route took you through. It was very fun though this trail gets a little difficult to follow so I would recommend using AllTrails to make sure you stay on the path.
- Pinnacle Peak Trail– Located in north Scottsdale, this trail is very well groomed and has great signage depicting plant and animal species. Instead of the rocky trails on most of the other hikes listed, this trail is a maintained, packed path making it a popular option for trail running. It meanders up and down so the elevation gain is sprinkled throughout the whole hike. There are views of very large, beautiful homes throughout as well – fun to dream!
- Ruth Hamilton Trail– The parking lot to start this hike is very small so I recommend going really early to get a spot. I did hear there are other parking options available but I did not find them. There are a lot of trails in this area and this route offers views of Piestewa Peak. This is a very popular area (for good reason!), especially for the locals who live nearby.
- Hole in the Rock Trail– This is a very short hike to a quite literal hole in the rock that is a very popular spot to watch sunset. There are a few other trails in this area and since it’s located so close to the city it is usually very trafficked and has a park like feel. This is a good area to check out after work and for sunrise but is not a destination trail.
I’ve enjoyed all the hikes I have done locally so far and I hope this list helps when you are picking your next trail to explore! Arizona is a destination definitely worth checking out.
Until the next tale… Happy trails.