City Guide: Our Favorite Hiking Spots in the Valley

Editorial StaffSeptember 29, 2021
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Blessed with dozens of scalable summits and tempting trails within a half-hour drive of Downtown, Phoenix is rightly regarded as America’s premier hiking metropolis. Spend a morning or afternoon getting to know these popular hikes.

City Hike No. 1
Camelback Mountain

The Valley’s most popular trail – Echo Canyon – is also its most technical, with two vertical railings and a boulder scramble on the final third. The surrounding red sandstone cliffs are home to a variety of small animals (rabbits, squirrels, rattlesnakes) and plants (saguaro, cholla, prickly pear). Bring plenty of water, as there’s no water source at the trailhead. Prepare for a jaw-dropping spectacle.

City Hike No. 2
Piestewa Peak

Hardy hikers earn their blisters on the Summit Trail, a heavily trafficked old horse trail with a dozen-plus switchbacks. The reward is a postcard-perfect view of Phoenix, and nicely worked-out quadricep muscles. For less physical stress and thinner crowds, embark on the Circumference Trail, accessible from the Hopi Trailhead (the first left after the Ranger Station).

Scottsdale Special
Pinnacle Peak

You might feel like you’re walking through a giant jigsaw puzzle of granite pieces on this hike until reaching a scenic lookout dubbed “Grandview,” where everything comes together to form a panorama that includes Four Peaks, the Granite Mountains and Sonoran desert scrub. Once you trek from the trailhead, you’ll encounter few crowds. No dogs or bicycles are allowed at Pinnacle Peak.

Watery Wonder
Camp Creek Falls – Blue Wash Trail

If the wet weather pattern plays out again this winter, the Camp Creek Waterfall – located in the extreme north edge of the Valley – will be running wild. Even in drier years, the ribbon of water feeds a fringe of cottonwoods and reeds before trickling down Blue Wash on its way to the Verde River. One of the Valley’s great water hikes.

  • Info: arizonahiking.blogspot.com/2014/02/blue-wash-camp-creek.html
  • Distance: 8 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 560 feet
  • Location: From Scottsdale, go 13 miles north on Pima Road to Cave Creek Road (FR24), turn right and continue 6.5 miles to a gravel lot on the left just past the “Blue Wash #1” sign. Trail begins across the road.
Photo by Brandon Sullivan

Wild Burro Trail

Like it or not, you’re likely to encounter rogue donkeys on the Wild Burro Trail, located about 20 miles northwest of the Valley in the burg of Morristown. The 2-mile path traverses prime grazing territory in and around Lake Pleasant Regional Park, where approximately 480 burros live. Burros are wild animals that are naturally distrustful of humans. When approached, they will usually run, but can bite and kick when they feel trapped or threatened. Therefore, it’s best to observe them from a respectful distance.

  • Info: maricopacountyparks.net
  • Distance: 4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 1,860 feet
  • LOCATION: 41835 N. Castle Hot Springs Rd., Morristown

Beyond the Valley
Watson Lake Loop

Up for an out-of-town hike? The Mile-High Trail System that weaves around Watson Lake near Prescott can be done as short out-and-back hikes or linked together for a nearly 5-mile loop. Map signs at every junction make it a cinch to find your way to the water and a stand-up paddleboard session. Yup – for the dogs, too.

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