What No One Tells You About Phoenix Hiking Trails

New to hiking in Phoenix? Hiking can seem intimidating at first. Especially if you don’t know where to go and what to expect. For this reason, HikePhoenix has broken down the Phoenix hiking trails.

What to Expect on the Phoenix Hiking Trails
What NOT to Expect
Trail Condition
Safety
Phoenix Hiking Trail Etiquette
Where Are the Phoenix Hiking Trails? 
North Phoenix
Central Phoenix
East Phoenix
South Phoenix
Phoenix Hiking Trail Essentials

springtime in desert with green and yellow shrubs mountain peak in background

What to Expect on the Phoenix Hiking Trails

Sun

You can expect that the sun is likely going to be out and that your hiking trail will not have a lot of shade. For this reason, bring along the sunscreen and/or wear sun protective clothing.

Wildlife

During the warmer months of Spring and Summer be mindful of rattlesnakes, especially during sunrise and sunset. However, it is very unlikely to run into a snake on a busy trail. Remember they are more scared of you than you are of it.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake along Phoenix hiking trails
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Other Hikers

Expect to see other hikers. The Phoenix hiking community is full of the nicest and friendliest people. So, be prepared to receive some smiles, nods and polite greeting while passing by some of the other hikers on the trail.

What NOT to Expect     

Water

 Bring your own water with you. And then bring a little extra.

For a moderate hike, it’s recommended to drink 8-10 ounces for every mile you plan on going. For a more strenuous hike, then drink about 16-20 ounces per mile.

Bathrooms

Not every trailhead has a bathroom. If they do….know that it could be a porty potty, stalls with no doors or a perfectly functioning normal bathroom. As a female, I recommend carrying some toilet paper, as sometimes the bathrooms are lacking it.

Phoenix Hiking Trail Conditions

The City of Phoenix regularly maintains the hiking trails, making them very easy to follow.  

In areas where confusion may arise, the city has placed hiking trail markers to lead you to the correct direction. Mainly, the trails are clear to see and follow.

brown trail marker along side of paved road along hiking trail. rocks placed along incline like steps and mountain in background. Alta hiking trail on South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona

However, there are a few exceptions. On the less popular hiking trails in the Superstition Mountains, (which is part of the Tonto National Forest) the trails are not maintained and need some navigating skills.

The Phoenix hiking trail areas will also have good phone reception. If your unsure you can always pull up whatever maps app you use and see where you are.

Lost on the Trail?

If you do find yourself in a spot in which you are not sure where to go…then back track to the last stop where you knew for sure it was the trail. Maybe wait a little bit for other hikers to come and follow their lead.

black man got lost with smartphone in forest

Safety

In Phoenix, due to the extreme heat and dry conditions is very important to keep yourself safe on the trails. While out of towners may feel more compelled to be worried about rattlesnakes, the truth is…that most hiking injuries/death result from dehydration.

Since, it’s a dry heat, you may be sweating, without realizing it. The dry air can quickly evaporate the sweat coming off your body. For this reason, it’s important that we consume more electrolytes on hiking days.

Bored of Water?

Leave the Trail Before Your Water Runs Out

For this reason, it’s important to know your limits. If half of your water is gone…then that may be the trigger to tell you, it’s time to head back.

Again, most Phoenix hiking injuries occur due to dehydration issues.

Phoenix Hiking Trail Etiquette

Hikers going up have the right of way. This means that anyone coming down, should stop and let you by.

Why?

Two reasons.

First is that the person coming down is in more control since they are able to look out and see everything that is occurring in front of them.

series of rock step inclining up mountain with hikers climbing up. Piestewa Peak hiking trail on Phoenix Mountains in Phoenix , Arizona

Second, is that going up requires more traction. When you have good traction going on…the last thing you want to stop that traction….to only have to restart it again.

Although, if the path is wide enough for two hikers, then usually there is no need to pull over as both hikers can fit on the same trail at the same time.

As a general rule, equestrians, people with horses, will have the right of way over, hikers and bikers. Therefore, bikers have to stop for everyone on the trail. However… most of the Phoenix hiking trails are wide enough to accommodate a hiker and bikers.

hiking trail sign showing etiquette for bikers to yield to hikers and equestrians

Not everyone is aware of the trail etiquette and at times it can be harder to follow then others. But, generally hikers are always kind and are willing to share the trail.

Where Are the Phoenix Hiking Trails?

In Phoenix and the surrounding area there are numerous areas where hikers can go. Depending on your location, you’re never that far away from a hiking trail.

North Phoenix

North Phoenix is home to the Phoenix Sonoran Preserves, North Mountain and Shaw Butte area. It is also home to smaller areas located within Phoenix neighborhoods, for a quick hike or escape without getting out of the city too far, which are: Lookout Mountain, Deems Hills, Shadow Mountain.

Easy/Moderate Phoenix Hiking Trails
Deem Hills, Circumference Trail
North Mtn, National Trail

Hard Phoenix Hiking Trails
Shaw Butte Hiking Trail

brown railing alongside a paved hiking trail as it's curving around mountain. Desert, lots of green shrubs and mountains in background. National Hiking trail on North Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona

Central Phoenix

Due to location, the hiking trails in central Phoenix also tend to be the most popular. For this reason, the parking lot at these trailheads fill up very quickly. The best advice is to get to the trailhead as soon as the park opens.

Easy/Moderate Hiking Trails
Ruth Hamilton Hiking Trail

Hard Hiking Trails
Camelback – Echo Canyon
Piestewa Peak

hikers on stone steps leading towards top of mountain. Piestewa Peak hiking trail on Phoenix Mountains in Phoenix , Arizona

East of Phoenix

Some areas East of Phoenix, include Papago Park located in Tempe. Usery Mountain, about a half hour out of the city. The McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale and the Superstition Mountains, about an hour out of the city.

Easy/Moderate Phoenix Hiking Trails
Wind Cave

Hard Phoenix Hiking Trails
Flat Iron

Phoenix hiking trail leading towards mountain with yellow wildflowers on sides of trail

                     

South Phoenix

South Mountain is the largest city park in the country, and therefore this one park covers a lot of hiking trail ground.

Easy/Moderate Phoenix Hiking Trails
Max Delta
Holbert Trail

Hard Phoenix Hiking Trails
Pyramid Trail

mountain range lit up by sunrise. Pyramid hiking trail on South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Hiking Trail Essentials

As mentioned earlier, most hiking injuries revolve around dehydration. For this reason here are some Phoenix Hiking Trail Essentials that should be in your pack for any Phoenix hikes.

  • Water
  • Sunscreen/Sun Protected Clothing
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Salty Snacks (electrolytes)
  • Durable shoes

Phoenix
70°
Partly Cloudy
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Feels like: 70°F
Wind: 1mph ENE
Humidity: 54%
Pressure: 29.91"Hg
UV index: 0
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90/72°F

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