Arizona is home to tens of thousands of acres of untouched desert lined with majestic saguaro and cholla cactuses, home to coyotes, bobcats, great horned owls and javalinas — all just minutes from downtown. Phoenix is one of National Geographic’s best hiking cities and has been recognized by AARP and TravelNerd as one of the Top Urban Designations for Nature Lovers. From Red Rock State Park in northern Arizona, to Catalina State Park in the south, find out some of the hottest trails in our state.
Red Rock State Park
Red Rock State Park may just offer Sedona’s best hiking trail experience! Numerous trails traverse the conservation park through high desert and riparian area type landscapes. Animal sightings here are common, the diversity of the bird species is admirable, and the general “vibe” is inspired by the world-renowned red rock escarpments of Sedona. Trails are available for people of all abilities within this absolutely gorgeous must-see destination.
1.53 miles — hikers only. No dogs, horses, or mountain bikes.
After exploring the visitor center, there are plenty of trail options. The Eagle’s Nest option leads hikers through the high red flats, through the riparian area of Oak Creek, and up a hill that shows a commanding view of the greater Sedona area. Seriously, the view from the top is one that should be experienced to truly appreciate. Although there is a slight incline for a section of the hike, this trail is still rated easy/moderate. The trail itself is well kept and wide, and there are birds, animals, and diverse vegetation along the way.
0.78 miles — hikers only. No dogs, horses, or mountain bikes.
Mix some history into your hike…This scenic trail leads to the (currently closed) 1946 adobe style home of Jack and Helen Frye which was once a main focal point of the Sedona area. The home famously blends with the red rock backdrop and sits on top of a hill that gives hikers amazingly beautiful views of the surrounding red rock and Sedona area. Crossing Oak Creek via Kingfisher Bridge leads visitors through an extremely scenic section of riparian zone and supplies an opportunity to see the resident river otters playing in the creek. Don’t forget your camera (phone) for this hike, there’s plenty to see from this scenic Arizona hiking trail!
0.64 miles — hikers only.
No dogs, horses, or mountain bikes.
A hike that’s perfect for the whole family! The Kisva Trail Loop directs hikers through the high desert flats of the park before delving into the shadows of the Oak Creek riparian zone. The possibility of seeing a wide variety of birds along the way is very good, especially in the large cottonwood trees near the creek. Hikers cross Oak Creek twice on this loop trail and skirt the base of nearby red rock covered hills. There’s plenty of photo ops along the way, don’t forget to tag our social media accounts when posting about your trip!
Central Arizona Trails
Picacho Peak State Park
The trails of Picacho Peak State Park invite hikers to explore this southern Arizona hiking wonderland! The Sonoran Desert is a great place to enjoy hiking trails with the best views, interesting birds and animals, and diverse plant life that simply can’t be experienced outside of the desert ecosystem. Hiking trails in the park are rated from easy to difficult, with a few in between. There’s a great chance that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for here amid the cactus, rock ridges, and unforgettable views!
Lost Dutchman State Park
Hiking trails through the park lead into a much wider trail network on adjacent National Forest land. The Sonoran Desert landscape holds a variety of birds and wildlife while offering amazingly beautiful panoramic views. The best part about this Arizona hiking destination is the proximity to the metro Phoenix area, and the variety of trail difficulties available. Easy trails close to Phoenix are hard to come by, and more advanced hiking experiences even more rare. You can have it all within this expansive desert park, plan a trip to see for yourself…
Siphon Draw Trail
1.06 miles one way (5.8 miles round trip to Flatiron) — hikers, leashed dogs. No horses or mountain bikes.
Those who have experienced this advanced trail near Phoenix often describe the views at the end to be well worth the effort to get there. Much of this trail leads hikers scrambling up rocks while truly testing their physical abilities. The Siphon Draw section of the trail is located within the park and then gives way to Flatiron at the wilderness boundary. Extensive hiking opportunities exist within the wilderness although the trails are not typically marked as clearly as they are in the park.
Family Hiking Trails at Catalina State Park
At Catalina State Park, you can hike, take a horseback ride, and bicycle on the trails, surrounded by the towering Santa Catalina Mountains. There are eight trails at the park, varying in length and difficulty, but all with amazing views. Leashed dogs are welcome on all trails. All eight trails are multi-use except Romero Ruins. Before your trip, learn about the various desert plants and wildlife that you will encounter in the park, then pick up a copy of our free trail guide at the Visitor Center. All that’s left to do is get out there and enjoy the adventure!
Romero Ruins Interpretive Trail
7.2 miles, one-way — no dogs in Desert Bighorn Sheep Management Area, beyond Montrose Pools — no bikes in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness — not recommended for horses beyond Montrose Pools.
This easy loop trail begins south of the main road across from the second pull-out. The trail crosses a seasonal wash (feet may get wet) before climbing about 80 steps to the hilltop. The Romero Ruins archaeological site includes the surface features of the remains from a Hohokam village dating back to about 500 A.D. Trailside signs address the archaeology of the site, the Hohokam culture, and the Romero homestead. Plan on 30 minutes of walking time. For the protection of cultural resources, no collecting is allowed.
Progressively difficult trail. Montrose Pools and Romero Pools are shallow catchments on canyon streams that flow seasonally. Start at the Trailhead parking lot and cross Sutherland Wash, which flows seasonally. The first mile is a relatively flat and easy walk to Montrose Pools (usually dry) and the park boundary. The next 1.7 miles is a steep and rocky climb to Romero Pools. Poor trail conditions might be encountered as this is an unmaintained wilderness trail. From the Trailhead to Romero Pools is 2.8 miles with an elevation gain of 900 feet. Plan on two hours of walking one way from the Trailhead to the pools.
To continue to Romero Pass, follow the trail to your right as it ascends out of the streambed. The trail then slowly climbs up-canyon 4.4 miles to Romero Pass at 6,000 feet elevation. From the Trailhead to Romero Pass is 7.2 miles with an elevation gain of 3,300 feet, about a five-hour hike one way. Romero Canyon Trail ends at Romero Pass, where it intersects Mt. Lemmon Trail (to Mt. Lemmon) and West Fork Sabino Trail (to Sabino Canyon).
1.0 mile, loop — no horses.
Another easy loop trail. The Nature Trail begins at the trailhead parking lot, climbs a hill, then meanders through low foothills with typical desert scrub vegetation. Trailside signs feature local plants and animals, in addition to climate and geology information. Plan on 45 minutes of walking time.
1.0 mile, loop — no horses.
This easy loop begins at the trailhead parking lot. The trail crosses a wash (with seasonal water flow) then loops up and down the foothills. Desert scrub, mesquite bosque, and riparian vegetation are seen with trailside signs highlighting the relationships between unique bird species and their preferred habitat. Plan on 45 minutes of walking time.
Each year, more than 200 people have to be rescued while hiking in parks and preserves around Arizona. Plan ahead with these tips before you hit the trails this spring:
- Know your limits, as well as those with you. Make an informed decision on which trail to recreate on, and your trek will be more enjoyable.
- During the warmer months, recreate during the early/later hours when temperatures are slightly cooler.
- Begin hydrating BEFORE you recreate, and rehydrate frequently throughout your exercise routine.
- Stay on designated trails.
- Carry enough water for your entire workout. And, remember to bring plenty of water for your children and canine friends.
- When your water is half gone, turn around and return to the trailhead.
- Carry a cell phone.
- Don’t hike alone.
- Use maps, know where you are going and what kind of terrain you are hiking in.