The 10 best hikes in Arizona, at least in my humble opinion are described below. They showcase a huge swath of the state but they don’t certainly don’t cover everything. What’s missing are two hikes – Coyote Buttes and The Wave – all bucket list worthy 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.
I’ve done all 10 best hikes in Arizona over the course of numerous trips to visit my father and step-mother. Every time I visit, I like to add anywhere from three to five days so I can explore a different part of the state. I’ve covered most of Arizona though there will always be places I want to visit.
Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim hike – #1 in my books for the best hike in Arizona
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.
There are plenty of reasons to do this strenuous hike. 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.
If you do the full Rim to Rim to Rim Trail allow a minimum of two days – more if your overnight at Phantom Ranch or on the rim – as a rest day.
Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa
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.
What you’ll get are gorgeous vistas, great bird life and a good workout in a short time frame. It’s possible to continue past the Wind Cave to the summit via an un-maintained trail. It is both dog and family- friendly. Allow 90 minutes to 3 hours depending on your fitness level and how many photos you take.
If you have seen photos of turquoise-blue water contrasted with the earthy tones of Grand Canyon scenery then it’s probably a photo of Havasu Falls you were staring at.
A hike to Havasu Falls is the best way to appreciate the beauty of not just these stunning falls, but the four other equally beautiful waterfalls in the Havasupai area.
But you will have to be organized. Either go with a tour company so you don’t have the hassle of getting a permit or organize your own trip. Loads of people go self-guided as route-finding is not an issue. But be flexible as the dates fill up almost the minute they are released.
For more information read Why you’ll want to do the Hike to Havasu Falls.
Superstition Mountains – one of the best hikes in Arizona
Start the hike in Lost Dutchmen State Park and head for the Siphon Draw Trail. It’s only an hour’s drive from Phoenix. The reward for the elevation gain is not only a great workout but fantastic vistas, excellent birding and interesting vegetation. It’s possible to do a 3-4 day backpacking trip in these mountains.
Allow 5 – 6 hours if you want to climb the Flatiron though a 3 hour out and back hike gives you great views and a taste of the area.
Petrified Forest National Park
Choose from a dozen hikes off the 28 mile road that winds through the park. Some require navigation but most are signed or obvious. You can knock a huge number off in day as the majority of the hikes are short.
Highlights in this part of the world include petrified logs, cool geology, big skies, history, colourful badlands scenery and loads of photography opportunities. Set aside a full day so you’re not rushed.
Sedona Courthouse Butte hike
The 6 mile Courthouse Butte loop is one of the best hikes in Sedona. Enjoy gorgeous red rock buttes along with some interesting rock formations. There are options to add mileage. This is an easy two hour hike and a great introduction to the area, especially if you’re short on time.
Camelback Mountain hike – one of the best Arizona hikes especially in the Phoenix area
The popular Cholla Trail gains 1,200 feet over 1.6 miles. There is another option to get to the summit of Camelback Mountain – the steeper 1.2 mile one way Echo Canyon trail.
Even though the Cholla Trail gets crowded it’s the must-do Phoenix – Scottsdale area hike. Enjoy great views of the city and some fun camaraderie on the trail. Dogs are no longer allowed.
You need 1 – 2 hours to do the return hike. 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 in Scottsdale
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.
You only need a few hours to knock off the hike but the rewards is beautiful rock formations in all sorts of wild shapes along with some grand vistas. The saguaros and the birding make it that much more interesting. Easy accessibility.
Cochise Indian Trail, Dragoon Mountains
The 6 mile round trip on the Cochise Indian Trail takes you past rocks that come in all shapes and sizes. At the high point enjoy big vistas of country that reminds me of the Flintstones cartoons.
Along the way, enjoy some of the best birding in Arizona. Allow three to five hours depending on how far you go.
Chiricahua National Monument Hike – an interesting, off the beaten path area home to one of the best hikes in Arizona
The 9.5 mile Big Loop hike is 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.
Bonus Hike #1 – Ramsey Canyon Hike in Cochise County
Get on the Hamburg Trail once you finish with the easy section of hiking trail in Ramsey Canyon. Pass massive sycamore trees as you hike keeping an eye out for hummingbirds, especially if you visit in summer. There is some height gain – roughly 500 feet – and the reward – grand vistas.
Visit this part of Arizona if you’re heavily into nature. You can expect diverse plant and animal life with up to 12 types of hummingbirds seen. Over 100 species of butterflies have been seen here too.
You can do a loop hike comfortably in about 5 hours.
For further information:An easy hike in Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Cochise County, AZ
Bonus hike #2: Coronado National Monument
There are 8 miles of trails in Coronado National Monument with one trail taking you down to the Mexican border. In addition you can climb Coronado Peak.
The hiking isn’t hard but it does get hot. Don’t expect to see many people here but do enjoy the big skies, desert scenery and interesting vegetation.
Go prepared so you can enjoy these hikes in Arizona
Before you go be sure to read Arizona Hiking Tips. Most of these hikes aren’t that hard but if you’re not prepared and you run out of water, the hike can go downhill in a hurry. Always carry the 10 hiking essentials, even on short hikes.
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