I usually travel to Arizona once a year to visit my father and step-mother. But I like to add anywhere from three to five days to the trip to hike and explore a different part of Arizona. I’ve covered most of the state now though there will always be places I want to visit.
These top 10 Arizona hikes showcase a huge swath of the state but they don’t cover everything. What’s missing are the hikes to Havasu Falls, Coyote Buttes and The Wave – all bucketlist worthy hikes that are still very much on my wish list. The hikes in this blog start in the north at the Grand Canyon and take you right down to the border with Mexico.
Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim hike
Hike: The Rim to Rim to Rim Trail is a 71 km/44 mile round trip hike with total elevation loss and gain each of 3000 metres (~10,000 feet). If you start at the North Rim take the North Kaibab Trail to the Colorado River. Join the Bright Angel Trail to ascend to the south rim. To return I recommend the South Kaibab Trail leaving from Yaki Point – after two night’s of rest on the south rim. Of course there are loads of less taxing hikes. See the guide for ideas. On both hiking days we started at 6 AM.
Highlights: Literally every step of any hike in the Grand Canyon is scenic. The colours are mind boggling especially at sunrise and sunset. The trees are beautiful; the Colorado River wild and the bird life excellent. This is one of the world’s great hikes but the season is short because of the heat. Plan on spring or early to mid-fall.
Time Needed: Anywhere from a few hours to several days if you do the Rim to Rim to Rim Trail.
Usery Mountain Regional Park
Hike: Try the 3.2 mile return hike (with a 850 foot elevation gain) to the Wind Cave located in beautiful Usury Mountain Regional Park just 25 minutes away from the Mesa Airport.
Highlights: Gorgeous vistas, bird life, good workout in a short time frame; It’s possible to continue past the Wind Cave to the summit via an un-maintained trail. Dog and family friendly.
Time Needed: 90 minutes to 3 hours depending on your fitness level and how many photos you take.
Hike: Start in Lost Dutchmen State Park and head for the Siphon Draw Trail. It’s only an hour’s drive from Phoenix.
Highlights: Scenic vistas, birds, vegetation, great workout. It’s possible to do a 3-4 day backpacking trip in these mountains.
Time Needed: 5 – 6 hours if you want to climb the Flatiron; a 3 hour out and back hike gives you great views and a taste of the area.
Petrified Forest National Park
Hike: Choose from a dozen hikes off the 28 mile road that winds through the park. Some require navigation but most are signed or obvious.
Highlights: Petrified logs, interesting geology, big skies, history, colourful badlands scenery, lots of photography opportunities
Time Needed: One half to a whole day
Sedona Courthouse Butte hike
Hike: The 6 mile Courthouse Butte loop with options to add mileage.
Highlights: Gorgeous red rock buttes, vistas, interesting rock formations, birding.
Time Needed: One day will barely scratch the surface of what Sedona offers the hiker. This is an easy two hour hike and a great introduction to the area, especially if you’re short on time.
Camelback Mountain hike
Hike: The Cholla Trail gains 1,200 feet over 1.6 miles. Another option is the steeper Echo Canyon trail that is 1.2 miles one way.
Highlights: Workout, great views, camaraderie on the trail, dogs allowed.
Time Needed: 1 -2 hours. Go early in the morning in the warm months or it will be blisteringly hot. Parking can be a problem near the trailhead.
Pinnacle Peak hike
Hike: It’s a 3.5 mile round-trip hike to do the trail in Pinnacle Peak Park with 1,300 feet of elevation gain. You need to be a rock climber to summit Pinnacle Peak.
Highlights: Beautiful rock formations, big vistas, saguaros, birding. Easy accessibility.
Time Needed: A few hours.
Cochise Indian Trail, Dragoon Mountains
Hike: The 6 mile round trip Cochise Indian Trail.
Highlights: Incredible rocks in all shapes, big vistas, some of the best birding in Arizona, rock-climbing.
Time Needed: 3 – 5 hours
Chiricahua National Monument Hike
Hike: The 9.5 mile Big Loop would be my first choice. With snow we settled for the Rhyolite Canyon and Sarah Denning Trail. That got us to Balanced Rock – and you don’t want to miss that.
Highlights: Rock pinnacles in a great variety of shapes and sizes, big vistas, mountains that rise to 9,763 feet.
Time Needed: One to two days depending on how ambitious you are. As a day hike allow 4-6 hours.
Ramsey Canyon Hike in Cochise County
Hike: The Hamburg Trail
Highlights: High canyon walls, big vistas, diverse plant and animal life with up to 12 types of hummingbirds, over 100 species of butterflies
Time Needed: One day to several if you’ve come for the birding.
For further information: An easy hike in Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Cochise County, AZ
Bonus hike: Coronado National Monument
Hike: There are 8 miles of trails in Coronado National Monument. In addition you can climb Coronado Peak.
Highlights: Stand inches from the Mexican border. Desert scenery. Big skies. Interesting vegetation and bird life. Almost no one around. Free.
Time Needed: A day.
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Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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