I have a local hiking goal of visiting all the Phoenix area desert parks; and eventually I would like to hike most of the trails here as well. If you are interested in hiking in the Metro-Phoenix area, these are the guides for you. These parks will be organized by manager, and aside from county/federal/state lands, these managers will give you an idea for the park location.
- 1 Phoenix-Metro Area
- 1.0.1 Maricopa County Parks and Recreation
- 1.0.2 City of Phoenix
- 1.0.3 City of Scottsdale
- 1.0.4 Cave Creek
- 1.0.5 Fountain Hills
- 1.0.6 City of Glendale
- 1.0.7 City of Peoria
- 1.0.8 City of Gilbert
- 1.0.9 City of Mesa
- 1.0.10 Queen Creek
- 1.0.11 Desert Foothills Land Trust
- 1.0.12 City of Tempe
- 1.0.13 City of Buckeye
- 1.0.14 US National Forest Service
- 1.0.15 Arizona State Parks
- 1.0.16 Apache Junction
- 2 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Phoenix
Maricopa County Parks and Recreation
Maricopa county parks can be found all around the metro-area, and these parks include some very unique locations (like Hassayampa and Spur Cross) and others have more recreational activities than many of the other municipal parks in this list. There is usually a fee for these parks, but also good facilities and staff/volunteers to answer your questions.
Estrella Mountain Regional Park: This park is in the foothills of the Estrella Mountains and it offers long and short trails across a relatively flat part of the desert. This park also has green space and places to set up for horseback riding.
Hassayampa River Preserve – Visit an oasis in the desert just outside of the town of Wickenburg.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park
McDowell Mountain Regional Park – Perfect for mountain bikers and first time hikers, this park is just north of Fountain Hills. For a detailed look at one a hiking loop, check out McDowell Mountain Regional Park: Scenic Trail.
San Tan Mountain Regional Park
Usery Mountain Regional Park
Vulture Mountains Recreation Area – Scale an impossible peak in the Sonoran Desert Wilderness outside of Phoenix and south of the village of Wickenburg.
White Tank Mountains Regional Park – There is so much to do and see in this park, that I have multiple posts in the works. The first is on short hikes in the White Tanks (Waterfall Trail, Black Rock Trail, Ironwood Trail). I also cover the trek up into the wilds of Ford Canyon where you will scramble and hike for 10+ miles. For an alternative, long trail in the White Tank Mountains, try Goat Camp Trail.
City of Phoenix
Camelback Mountain is one of the most famous hiking spots in the city, and it is the site of historic, grassroots conservation efforts. Two of the main trails here are very difficult and steep with big (sometimes dangerous) boulders lining the path. It is one of the most iconic mountains in the city.
Lookout Mountain – A tiny, mountain island in the city.
North Mountain and Shaw Butte – In the middle of Phoenix, this large part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve is home to two mountains that make for great training hikes. You can scale each one separately, or combine them in a 6 mile loop.
Papago Park is home to beautiful red buttes through which you can walk and explore; there are also fishing ponds, a historic tomb, the Phoenix Zoo, and Desert Botanical Garden.
Piestewa Peak and Dreamy Draw
Reach 11 Recreation Area
Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area
Shadow Mountain – Another tiny, mountain island in the city.
South Mountain and Preserve
City of Scottsdale
Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park
George “Doc” Cavalliere Park
McDowell Sonoran Preserve – For some information on specific hikes- see our guide to Tom’s Thumb.
Pinnacle Peak Park – A good place to explore a rocky crag or workout, or both.
Desert Awareness Park
Fountain Hills Desert Botanical Garden
Fountain Hills McDowell Mountains Preserve (Adero Canyon)
Fountain Hills Fountain
City of Glendale
Thunderbird Conservation Park
City of Peoria
City of Gilbert
Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch
City of Mesa
Desert Arroyo Park
Desert Trails Park
Queen Creek Wash Trail
Sonoqui Wash Trail
Desert Foothills Land Trust
Carefree Galloway Wash Preserve
The Caroline Bartol Preserve at Saguaro Hill
Jewel of the Creek Preserve
New River Nature Preserve
PA Seitts Preserve at Go John Canyon
City of Tempe
Hayden Butte Preserve – Hike up “A” Mountain and get great views of Tempe Town Lake.
Tempe Papago Park Preserve – Explore Lo Piano Riparian area, the beautiful Sonoran Desert, and learn more about the indigenous people who built some of the first structures in the Valley of the Sun.
City of Buckeye
Skyline Regional Park
US National Forest Service
Tonto National Forest
Arizona State Parks
Lost Dutchman State Park
Silly Mountain Park
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Phoenix
To get a better feel for the best hikes surrounding my home city, I’ve committed to hiking all 60 within 60 hikes for Phoenix. Technically, the first trail that I include in this list, I last hiked in 2013 (Fish Creek), and I am currently 41% through this goal.
City of Phoenix
Apache Vista and Ridgeback Overlook
Camelback Mountain: Cholla Trail
Camelback Mountain: Echo Canyon – One of the most famous trails in the city.
Dixie Mountain Loop
Hidden Valley Trail via Mormon Trail
Holbert Trail and Dobbins Lookout
Lookout Mountain – A little urban mountain with great views of the city.
North Mountain National Trail – An easy training hike complete with a paved road for scaling the mountain.
Piestewa Peak: Freedom Trail
Piestewa Peak: Summit Trail
Quartz Ridge Trail
Shaw Butte Trail – Hiking up to the radio towers of Shaw Butte is a great training hike, with options for longer loop hikes and out and backs.
South Mountain National Trail
Bell Pass and Windgate Pass Loop
Brown’s Mountain Loop
McDowell Mountain Regional Park: Scenic Trail – This little 4 mile trail is a great introduction to the Sonoran Desert.
Pass Mountain Trail – Circle the Usery Mountains on this beautiful 7+ mile trail.
Pinnacle Peak Trail – An interesting peak characterized by lots of boulders and strict trail rules.
Telegraph Pass Trail and Kiwanis Trail
Thompson Peak via Dixie Mine Trail
Thunderbird Park: Cholla Loop
Tom’s Thumb – Hike up to the geological formation that can be seen from most corners of the city in the McDowell Mountains.
Wind Cave Trail
Black Mesa Loop
Boulder Canyon Trail to LaBarge Box and Battleship Mountain
Boyce Thompson Arboretum: Main Trail – Boyce Thompson is a wonderful botanical garden nested in the foothills of Picketpost Mountain. It’s a magical mix of nature and culture.
Circlestone from Reavis Ranch
Fish Creek – Less a trail and more a bouldering experience in the wilderness.
Lost Goldmine Trail
Reavis Ranch via Rogers Trough Trailhead
Rogers Canyon Trail
Siphon Draw Trail – Challenge yourself on the supremely steep trek up to Flatiron in the Superstition Mountains.
Butcher Jones Trail – A beautiful, shoreline trail that will grant you exceptional views of Saguaro Lake.
Cave Creek Trail and Skunk Tank Trail
Elephant Mountain Trail
Four Peaks: Brown’s Peak – The highest of the Four Peaks, Brown’s Peak requires 4WD and some serious scrambling.
Go John Trail – This six mile loop features beautiful Sonoran Desert landscapes and a burn scar from the 2020 wildfire season.
Palo Verde Trail – A wild Sonoran Desert trail that follows the hilly, lakeside of Bartlett Lake.
Pine Creek Loop and Ballantine Trail
Tonto National Monument: Upper Cliff Dwelling
West and South
Ford Canyon Trail and Mesquite Canyon Trail – This loop is more than 10 miles and includes scrambling up a stoney canyon. Not for beginners, but very cool!
Goat Camp Trail and Willow Canyon Trail – This trail requires a shuttle, but takes you through the grassy mountains of the White Tanks.
Picacho Peak: Hunter Trail – When the people at the entrance tell you this trail is extreme, believe them. You will be climbing up chains to reach the summit of this historic mountain.
Quartz Peak Trail – This 6 mile RT trail takes intrepid hikers up to a unique peak just outside of Phoenix.
Rainbow Valley Trail and Butterfield Trail: This ~10 mile loop will take you through Estrella Mountain Regional Park.
Table Top Trail
Vulture Peak Trail – Perfect views of the Sonoran Desert and a dangerous scramble to the top (which I don’t suggest).