What to Wear in Phoenix, when Hiking in Summer

Imagine this scenario:

You’re hiking along the base of South Mountain in the dry desert heat. The air is thick and doesn’t let up. Even when there’s a breeze it feels like a hot blow dryer aimed at your face.

You’ve hiked for a about a mile and the trail is directing you up an incline up to your destination. Everything is brown and dry. Even the tall saguaro’s you pass by are looking pale green and seem to be waiting for relief of the blistering sun to set.

The sweat is forming on your thighs as you begin hiking up and you know it’s just a matter time before the chaffing starts. “Why didn’t you wear longer shorts?” you begin to wonder.

You’ve now hiked a half mile more and you begin to feel burning sensations upon your shoulders. You look down and see the bright pink tone spreading along the top. “Shoot! The sunscreen!” you frantically think. You told yourself to remember but since you began the hike while it was still dark outside, it completely slipped your mind.

You reach your destination and head back towards the trailhead, but now as you look at your shoulders you see they turned a darker pink color and the burn has increase. You also start noticing that your knees are burning and pink as well.

As you continue, the sweat is rolling down your forehead and seeping out every pore on your body.

As the heat rises up from your cheeks, all you can think about it getting back to the car and sticking your head in the air condition vents.

You’ll curse yourself later that night. Cursing the reasons why you wore those shorts and the tight tank top. Cursing yourself for forgetting the sunscreen. Cursing yourself for hiking in the Phoenix summer heat, without being prepared.

Clothing and sun protective is almost as important for a hiker than having water. The sun in Phoenix can burn sensitive skin within minutes. So, for this reason it’s important to know…how to dress for hiking in Phoenix….especially in the summer.


The first key to dressing appropriately is to wear something you find comfortable and breathable. There will not be any shade on the trail and the sun will be out.

Your body is going to sweat more than normal, due to the heat.

Clothes that are light weight and light colored will be your best bet. Remember, darker colored clothing will trap in the suns heat.

Some hikers purchase sun protective clothing that is lightweight and covers their arms and legs. Other hikers will go in a tank top and shorts while having sunscreen on. So, it’s up to your personal choice.


As always, you should be wearing some type of sock that absorbs your feet sweat. If your feet get too wet when hiking, it can cause blisters, which will really ruin your hiking experience. You can get wool socks or they also sell synthetic wool socks. Surprisingly, the technology behind these socks are amazing. You might picture wool socks as being bulky and thick, but they make them now thin and comfy. Darn Tough is the brand I prefer when hiking.


It’s also really important to protect your face, neck and ears while hiking in the sun. You will definitely want to put sun screen on and also wear a hat and sunglasses. Buy a separate bottle of sunscreen and keep it in your pack at all times.

Also, something that I love wearing is a multi-functioning head-wear scarf/towel thingy (yep…that’s a “technical” term). Its a piece of cloth that you can get wet to be used as towel, a scarf, headband or placed on your wrist. to keep you cool in the heat. (I’ve also used it in cold weather as a headband to keep my ears warm.)

For hiking in Phoenix (especially in summer) make sure to wear light colored and comfortable clothing.

The one I’m wearing in this picture is a SA Co brand. I’ve used it all year and I really love it. (Although, its pretty tight around my head.) I know REI sells different brands of these that may be better or you can even do an Amazon search and read the reviews.

And that’s about all you need to protect yourself from the weather, here in Phoenix.

As a wrap up, here is the info again in list form.

Appropriate  Apparel

  • Comfortable and loose clothing
  • Light colored material
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun Glasses
  • Scarf/Headband
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Dry Fit Socks

Comment below if you think something should be added to list, or you just have suggestion and/or story to tell.

Oh! And that imaginary scenario from before….yep! that was me! Since that day…I turn around on trails when I realize I don’t have sunscreen! Gotta make mistakes to learn from them, right?! LOL

Happy Trails!


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