Beneath the burnt-orange Phoenix sun sits miles of trails that cross through some of the most gorgeous and unique landscapes in the southwest. In a dry and arid desert climate, Phoenix and its surrounding areas deliver adventures through age-crafted, prehistoric rock formations with a rich natural history.
Within the region is wonderful hiking trails for all skill levels and are home to roaring crystal-clear waterfalls. Here is your guide to the best hikes in and around Phoenix.
*Before you go: While some of the hikes can be shorter in length, be prepared for unpredictable changing conditions. Due to the summer heat and exposed nature of the desert, be sure to bring proper skin protection and apparel, as well as more water than you will think you will need.
*Most hikes take place in either state parks or protected areas. Please contact the local officials to inquire about permits or entry fees while planning your trip.
Hiking Trails in Phoenix for Beginners & Extremists
1. Treasure Loop Trail
From Apache Junction, travel northeast on Highway AZ-88 for 4.6 miles. From there, make a right at the entrance of Lost Dutchman State Park. Follow down N Apache Trail for 0.7 miles and follow signs to the Treasure Loop Trailhead.
The Treasure Loop Trail begins on the western end of the Superstition Mountains and is comfortable for hikers of all skill levels. The beauty of this trail is the majestic views made available by the relatively flat surrounding area, found as early as the first 0.5 miles. The trail is a steady incline for the first mile before transitioning into a loose gravel climb towards the summit of Green Boulder, resting at 2,580 feet – the highest point of the hike.
From the summit, you will have the choice to return and complete the hike, or you can choose to continue trekking for another 1.5 miles and discover Jacob’s Crosscut via the Prospector’s View Trail. Jacob’s Crosscut is an exceptional meadow to locate summer’s vibrant and blooming wildflowers.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Distance: 2.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 534 Feet
2. Double Butte Loop at Papago Park
Papago Park is centrally located between Phoenix and Scottsdale, resting just north of the Phoenix Zoo. From the Tempe Bridge (just south of the zoo), head north on N Mill Ave for 1.8 miles. Turn right on N Galvin Pkwy. After 0.3 miles, look to your left for the West Buttes Parking Area, this will be the parking for your hike.
Double Butte Loop is certainly unique considering that a rock formation of this magnitude is found in the middle of metropolitan Phoenix. The trail itself is poorly marked, but the wide trail and little elevation gain make this hike fun for both beginner hikers and the directionally challenged.
The entrance to the hike is unmarked, but you can discover the trailhead from the picnic areas. From there, it is not difficult to find your way as the trail loop will bring you around the buttes before returning to the parking area. The early portion can be busy with visitors admiring the red sandstone, but behind the buttes is generally peaceful and quiet, except for the noisy passing roadway just beyond the rocks.
Distance: 2.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 114 Feet
3. Lost Dog Wash Trail
From Scottsdale, head north on AZ-101 Loop N for about 8 miles until reaching E Shea Blvd, make a right. Continue down E Shea Blvd for another 5 miles and take a left on N 124th Street. Follow for another 0.3 miles until you reach the Lost Dog Wash Trail Parking Area.
The Lost Dog Wash Trail is 4.4 miles of compressed and concentrated Sonoran Desert. Along this dusty out-and-back hike, you will come across natural desert flora, including spiny cholla and towering saguaro cacti. This trail is extremely well-marked and easy to navigate. The Lost Dog Wash Trail has several tall mountain overlooks, so be sure to bring your camera!
For the first 1.5 miles, you will encounter multiple trail forks, stay to the left of these labeled junctions. At 1.5 miles, you can choose (highly recommend) to detour 0.5 miles to the Taliesin Overlook – a high view of Scottsdale, including Taliesin West, the former home of Frank Lloyd Wright. Continue for another 1.4 miles where you will reach the Lost Dog Overlook, the turn-around point for this hike.
Distance: 4.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 518
4. Granite Mountain Loop Trail
From Scottsdale, head north on AZ-101 Loop N for 28 miles. From there, take a right on E Dynamite Blvd. After 6 miles, turn left on N 136th Street and continue for 2.1 miles until reaching the Granite Mountain Trailhead.
Granite Mountain is one of the five tallest mountains in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The trail is close to luxurious north Scottdale, but shortly after passing the trailhead, you will be transported to a beautiful and serene desert escape. The thought of climbing a mountain may sound daunting, but the level terrain and the steady climbs make this hike comfortable for all skill levels.
The hike never summits the peak but encircles it. The trail is well-marked and easy to navigate. The hike offers unique and honestly bizarre rock formations. Find yourself walking through dusty trails, lined with oddly stacked boulders and varieties of desert cacti. Keep an eye out for the small detour to Balanced Rock, a gigantic boulder that rests precariously on the top of another rock formation.
Distance: 5.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 400 Feet
5. Hidden Valley Via Mormon Trail
The trailhead for the Mormon Trail is on the south side of Phoenix. From downtown, you can find the trailhead by hopping on S 16th Street and following it south for 7 miles. Once you reach E Baseline Road, make a left at the light and after 0.5 miles, make a right on S 24th Street. Continue for another 0.5 miles until the road ends – the parking lot for this hike.
Located within the beautiful South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the most popular hikes in all of Phoenix, Hidden Valley from Mormon Trail. This hike is known for its changing desert landscapes. At one moment, you may be completing a small rock scramble, the next you will be finding yourself traversing through a thin and narrow canyon with a shade-supplied roof made of large collapsed boulders.
Most of the hike is easy, with most of the elevation gain found in the first mile. The climb does end with a small rock scramble that may not be ideal for families with young children. Once finishing the climb, the hike opens into some of the most beautiful and iconic desert landscapes in all of Phoenix.
Distance: 3.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 534 Feet
6. Holbert Trail to Dobbins Lookout
The trailhead for the Mormon Trail is on the south side of Phoenix. From downtown, you can find the trailhead by hopping on S 7th Avenue and driving south for 4.9 miles. Take a left on W Baseline Road for 0.5 miles and turn right on S Central Ave. Continue down S Central Avenue for 2.0 miles until seeing signs for Phoenix S Mountain Park, take a left there and you will be at the trailhead.
Holbert Trail to Dobbins Lookout is a popular trail to one of the highest points in South Mountain Park. Unlike most hikes, the popular time to summit Dobbins Lookout is at sunset and into the night. The turnaround point for this hike overlooks the bright shining lights of downtown Phoenix. You can drive directly to the overlook, but what fun is that?
The out-and-back hike is a steady incline, with the grade increasing the closer you approach the summit. The hike is well maintained and clearly marked. The trail surface is not paved, but the loose gravel path is more than comfortable and safe for beginners and experts alike. Once you reach the summit, there are bathrooms and an old stone building that is an exceptional place to enjoy the sunset.
Distance: 4.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 997 Feet
7. Gateway Loop Trail
From Scottsdale, drive north on AZ-101 Loop N for 13.5 miles until you reach N Pima Road, take a right. Stay on N Pima Road for 0.7 miles and take a right on Legacy Blvd and follow for 1.4 miles. Make a right on N Thompson Peak Pkwy for another 0.5 miles and turn left on E McDowell Foothills Drive. Follow this road until you reach the Gateway Trailhead.
The Gateway Loop Trail is in the foothills of the beautiful and surprisingly lush McDowell Mountains. This trail climbs steadily on paved boardwalks, smooth dirt paths, and finally, loose gravel and small rocks as you approach the tallest point, the saddle of the hike. The trail is well-marked and while the trail may appear tough, it is a comfortable hike for beginners.
The trail is extremely popular so expect a few other hikers, but the path is wide, so I would not be concerned about traffic jams. Along the way, you will find multiple offshoots that connect numerous other amazing hikes under the beautiful green mountain range. The Gateway Loop leads you through incredible fields of saguaro cacti primarily found in this unique region of Arizona.
Distance: 4.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 721 Feet
8. Cholla Loop
From Glendale, follow AZ-101 Loop N/US60 for 13.4 miles and take a left on N 59th Avenue. Stay on 59th Avenue for 3.0 miles and park on the right at the Thunderbird Conservation Park Trail parking lot.
The Cholla Loop is a beautiful trail located in the heart of Thunderbird Conservation Park. The hike will take you through dense fields of green and pointy cholla cacti. The trail is especially beginner friendly. There is a mileage post every 1/8th of a mile to let you know exactly how much further you must go.
This hike is a slow and gradual climb through the foothills of the park. Most of the elevation gain is found at the halfway point of the hike, leading to a great 360-degree overlook of downtown Phoenix and its neighboring communities, as well as the surrounding landscape.
Distance: 3.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 567 Feet
Hiking Trails in Phoenix with Waterfall
9. Bob Bear Trail (formerly Fossil Springs)
From Mesa, take AZ-87 N northwest for 74.9 miles. Once reaching the town of Strawberry, make a right on Fossil Creek Road for another 21.5 miles. You will begin to see signs for the trailhead and make a right into the parking lot for Bob Bear Trail (Fossil Creek).
The out-and-back Bob Bear Trail features a most unique hiking experience and arguably the best payoff in all of Arizona’s trails. The path is a rocky hike that was once an old service road, making the trail a steady descent towards Bob Bear’s many waterfalls, springs, caves, swimming holes, and grottos.
There is no water access until reaching the bottom, so be sure to conserve water for the return trip – a tough ascent to the parking area. Once you find your way towards the bottom of the hill, you will discover the powerfully cascading waterfall that creates the crystal-clear fossil springs. Explore the area surrounding you, as the springs lead to hidden underwater caves that can only be accessed via the spring. If you are feeling bold, the rocks adjacent to the waterfall is the ideal place for a cliff jump!
Distance: 8.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,505 Feet
10. Apache Falls
From Apache Junction, head east on US-60 E for 53.4 miles until you reach the town of Globe. On the east side of town, you will find a junction, stay left on US-60 E. Stay on US-60 E for another 37.6 miles until finding parking at the trailhead along Salt River.
Apache Falls is an absolute hidden gem in Arizona. Where most of the state is dry and arid, Apache Falls may seem out of place in the most wonderful way. The difference between this waterfall and others is that Apache Falls are fed by a large voluminous river, whereas most are shallow, flowing creeks.
The walk to the falls is less than a mile and quite tame. The hiking trail is an old and rocky road with only one, easy-to-navigate switchback leading you to the water. Once reaching the falls, you can witness the power and energy produced from the waters crashing in different directions. After hanging around the falls, try hiking around the surrounding areas. Although not officially a designated trail, the areas around the river are beautiful and remote – more than worth the price of your curiosity.
Distance: 0.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 26 Feet
11. Tonto Natural Bridges Falls Trail
Leaving from Phoenix, head north on AZ-87 S for 89.9 miles until you reach the town of Payson. Here, the road will fork, stay left on AZ-87 S for another 12 miles. From here, look for signs for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and your entrance will be on your left. The parking for the trail and the natural bridge will be at the end of the road.
Tonto Natural Bridges Falls is tucked away in a hidden valley, assumed to be the largest natural travertine natural bridge in the entire world. The height of the bridge is 183 feet, while the tunnel formed by the bridge is 400 feet long. But the highlight of the area is the waterfall, and the cave oasis it creates.
The out-and-back trail itself is quite difficult but absolutely worth the effort. The climb towards the natural bridge is 0.7 miles of grueling switchbacks before reaching the cave. From the cave, you can climb to the top for an overlook view, but do not miss the opportunity to float behind the falls, in a clear water cave of peace and serenity.
Distance: 1.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 291 Feet
12. Cibecue Falls
From Apache Junction, follow US-60 E northeast for 91.2 miles. Once completing the switchbacks leading to Apache Falls, take a left on Primitive Road. Continue along for 4.4 miles before reaching the trailhead.
An absolute must-see when visiting Arizona’s backcountry. The 4.4-mile drive down Primitive Road is worth the price of admission. The hike to Cibicue Falls walks up a rain-crafted canyon created by the crashing waterfall at the end of the hike. An important thing to know about the Cibicue Falls hike is that you will be crossing through the stream multiple times – so bring footwear you will not mind getting wet.
As you approach the end of the out-and-back trail, you will find yourself walking in shallow waters through a narrow canyon. At the end of the canyon is a small beach with a pool created by the thundering waterfall. The uniqueness and grandeur of this environment will certainly be the highlight of your trip.
Distance: 3.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 623 Feet
13. Arizona Canal Trail
Located in Arcadia, The Arizona Canal Trail runs along the Salt River for 69 miles. The parking area for the waterfall portion of this hike is found on North 56th Street at the west end of the trail.
Unlike most hikes in this guide, the trail leading to this waterfall is a multi-purpose path in which the length and difficulty of the adventure are purely up to the hiker’s (or cyclist’s) preference. Located along the 69-mile Arizona Canal Trail, the waterfall is man-made but flows with the natural current of the Salt River.
The trail has leisure and adventure opportunities for all types of visitors. The path has dozens of branches that will lead you to other exciting trails, including Cave Creek and New River Trails. In addition, the trail opens to several different restaurants and bars, as well as convenient access to shopping opportunities.
Distance: 3.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 26 Feet
14. Reavis Falls
From Apache Junction, take US-60 E for 77.1 miles. Before you reach the town of Globe, make a left on AZ-88 W and drive for another 12 miles. At the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, make a left at the fork to stay on AZ-88 W for 5.2 miles before reaching the trailhead.
*Pro Tip – You will be tempted to take the direct route from Apache Junction through Tortilla Flats, however, the path leading to the trail has been shut down 8 miles before to reaching the trailhead, making this hike 29 miles rather than 12.9!
Reavis Falls is reserved for the bold and adventurous. Already one of the tallest waterfalls in all of Arizona, Reavis Falls is an excellent choice not only for the destination but for the journey through the deepest and most secluded parts of the Superstition Wilderness.
The hike can be identified in two different sections. The first 3.5 miles is a manageable and steady climb up through a dusty path snaking through the mountains. From here, the trail becomes much more daunting.
The dusty trail is replaced with an increasingly steep and rocky trail, leading to multiple rock scrambles over the next 3 miles before reaching the high-crashing waterfall. With the knee-buckling climb behind you, you can enjoy panoramic views from the summit while resting at the base of the clear and refreshing Reavis Falls.
Distance: 12.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3,382 Feet
15. White Tank Waterfall Trail
From downtown Phoenix, drive west on I-10 for 35.5 miles and take exit 110A to AZ-303 Loop N. Stay on the loop for 26.6 miles and make a left on W Olive Avenue. Drive for 8.1 miles before reaching the Waterfall Canyon Trailhead.
The White Tank Waterfall Trail is a short but sweet out-and-back trail that delivers stunning panoramic views, blooming wildflowers, and a magnificent waterfall. With the short hiking distance and smooth strolling surface, this trail is perfect for beginners and families to enjoy.
Most of the elevation gain begins in the first half-mile, as you will find yourself climbing a smooth rock staircase before the trail levels off. Before reaching a plateau, you will navigate through a narrow canyon before opening to a picturesque field of wildflowers. At the end of the field, you will find the rapid-cascading waterfall, a tall and narrow fall that crashes infinitely against the sunbaked rock.
Distance: 1.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 229 Feet