You've probably heard of Camelback Mountain, but there are plenty of other trails in Greater Phoenix that are perfect for any outdoor enthusiast. Here's a list of a few of our staff members' favorite hiking trails in the metro area.
Nature Trail at Piestawa Peak
Don't mistake this hike for a nature stroll. Even though it's located in the middle of the city, it can be a little rugged. This is a great hike for learning about the desert, thanks to the informational plaques placed along the trail.
The trailhead is located at the Apache picnic area at the end of the entrance road in Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. Paved parking, drinking water and restrooms are available. This hike is about 1.5 miles.
Fat Man's Pass
Located within the 17,000 acres of desert in South Mountain Park, Fat Man's Pass is a great hike for families. This trail gets its name from the 20-foot-long passage between smooth granite boulders that are only a foot apart in some places. (Claustrophobes, don't worry: You can go around the boulders if you want.)
This hike begins at the Buena Vista Lookout, which is approximately 6.5 miles from the park entrance. Follow road signs along Summit Road to the "Buena Vista/Hidden Valley Lookout". The parking area for this trailhead has limited spaces and is usually full during peak seasons. The trail, which is initially paved, provides direct access to the National Trail. At that junction, head east on the National Trail. You'll reach Fat Man's Pass in about 1.8 miles.
Sunrise Trail at McDowell Mountains
When you reach the high point of this hike, you'll likely forget that you're on the edge of the sixth-largest city in the U.S. The Sunrise Trail is located McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a 21,400-acre desert jewel in the northeast Valley. This isn't an easy hike, but it pays off in the end with sweeping views of the desert floor.
The Sunrise Access Area is located at 144th Street and Via Linda. There is an upper parking lot and a lower parking lot. The one-way trek to Sunrise Peak is a little less than 2 miles; from there you can turn around or hike another 3 miles or so to Lost Dog Overlook.
Coach Whip to Sunrise Pass
This dog-friendly hike is located within Thunderbird Conservation Park, a 1,185-acre park in the Hedgepeth Hills. From the top you'll look down on homes and golf courses with views of mountains to the north. This is also a great trail to run.
This trail originates at the 67th Avenue parking lot at Patrick Lane and intersects with the Sunrise Trail on the west side of the park. The distance varies from 2 to 5 miles depending on your return route; there are several options for looping back to the trailhead.
Hieroglyphics Trail in the Superstitions
This is easy hike to ancient petroglyphs that resemble Egyptian hieroglyphics. Start at the Hieroglyphic Canyon Trailhead in the southwest corner of the Superstition Wilderness Area. You'll soon reach a spring where clear water pools in the rocks. In the stone cliffs next to these pools are several petroglyphs carved by the Hohokam.
To reach the Hieroglyphic Canyon Trailhead, take U.S. 60 to Kings Ranch Road, between mile markers 202 and 203, and turn north. Proceed 2.8 miles, then turn east on Baseline Road. This round-trip hike is about 2 miles.
Phoenix’s perpetual sunshine might tempt you to spend all your free time sipping frozen beverages next to a swimming pool. Don’t give in. Exploring the Sonoran Desert’s horizons will broaden yours.
Nearly every outdoors-loving Phoenix local has, at some time or another, started his or her day with a hike to the top of Camelback Mountain. The city’s most famous landmark resembles a dromedary camel in repost, and the mountain challenges hikers with a rugged but rewarding trek to its 2,700-foot “hump”. Visitors who prefer not to scale Camelback can still gawk at it from a nearby restaurant patio.
Phoenix’s newest must-see attraction is the first museum in the world dedicated to the celebration of global instruments. This $250 million museum features a collection of more than 15,000 instruments – including the last guitar Elvis played in concert.
As its name suggests, this outdoor museum showcases desert plants – and not just those native to the Southwest. Among the succulents that adorn the garden’s 50-acre grounds are endangered desert species from around the world, including Dali-esque trees from North Africa and sprawling cactuses from Mesopotamia.
Greater Phoenix is home to more than 200 golf courses, many designed by legends of the game such as Robert Trent Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Check out stay-and-play packages at area resorts before you come, and consider playing one of Phoenix’s true desert layouts.
5. Heard Museum
The Heard is Arizona’s most famous museum. The traditional and contemporary art on display provides insight into the culture of Arizona’s 22 Native American tribes. Not to be missed is the haunting exhibit on Indian boarding schools. The Heard Museum Shop is one of the best places in Phoenix to buy authentic American Indian jewelry, pottery, paintings, sculpture and weavings.
Located near the famed Arizona Biltmore resort, this fashionable shopping desintation has a garden-park courtyard, upscale retailers and plenty of dining options. Be sure to check out the Fashion Park’s newest addition: UNION, a wing of locally owned boutiques.
A major player in the Southwest’s art landscape, Phoenix Art Museum showcases an impressive collection of European, Asian, Latin American, Western American and contemporary pieces. Be sure to check out the sculpture garden, Museum Store and the museum restaurant, Palette.
Occupying a city block in downtown Phoenix, Heritage Square is home to the Arizona Science Center. But go for the food. Pizzeria Bianco serves pizza that a New York Times food critic deemed the best in the country, and Nobuo at Teeter House is an Asian-style teahouse by day and a funky izakaya by night.
The Old West and New West converge in Old Town Scottsdale, where galleries dedicated to American Indian and cowboy arts share a pedestrian-friendly streetscape with shops that sell Southwestern jewelry and crafts. Nearby, you’ll find some of Greater Phoenix’s finest restaurants and trendiest nightlife.
10. Taliesin West
The sprawling wonder at the foot of the McDowell Mountains was the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect. Wright constructed Taliesin West from sand, gravel and stone he found on the mountain’s talus slope. It’s open to the public for tours.
Want a true Phoenix experience? Make sure to catch one of our spectacular sunsets, which paint the desert sky on a nightly basis. We know the best places to see a Phoenix sunset and are happy to let you in on the secret.
Head up to Dobbins Point on South Mountain (you can drive there) and take in sunset views of the downtown Phoenix skyline from the top of the largest municipal park in the U.S.
A great place to catch a sunset before a night out downtown, Lustre Bar has a hip and comfortable atmosphere, which is made even cooler by its poolside lounge seating.
When you make a reservation, ask for a table by the window to take full advantage of the 360-degree view at Arizona’s only revolving rooftop restaurant.
Arrive early to explore the beautiful Desert Botanical Garden, then top off your visit by watching the sun set against a backdrop of desert flora and red-rock peaks.
End your day with a margarita in hand on the large and comfortable patio at Four Seasons Resort. This elevated perch (which is 1,000 feet higher than downtown Phoenix) offers picture-perfect views of sunset-warmed Pinnacle Peak.
When people come to Phoenix, they are always amazed at how close our hiking is to the city, or rather - in the city - with Camelback Mountain squarely in the middle of central Phoenix, neighboring Piestawa Peak and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the McDowell Mountains to the northeast, and South Mountain (you guessed it - to the south).
Heading north straight through Phoenix, you will be graced immediately by the quaint town of Cave Creek, and to your right will be Black Mountain looking so innocent and serene.
But it's a difficult hike - there's no two ways about it. Beginners should aspire to this, the intermediate hiker will be out of breath, and the advanced hiker will be challenged. (I hike all the time and I was out of breath.) It's an immediate get-out-of-the-car-and-go hike (read: no warm-up little hills), so get your game face on. You'll head up a wide road, then it'll fork - go left for the actual trail, go right for a road fit for a Jeep. They meet back up about 2/3 of the way up, and I recommend the trail. It has some of the most beautiful cacti variations in the state. (Note: It's a narrow trail. Leave your pup at home.)
And Black Mountain has a dark sense of humor. You're hiking along, to what you think is the summit. Then you get there, and realize you've gotta another third of the mountain to go. Get a sense of the views, and your breath, and push on up. You will see the most amazing views of the Valley, including Elephant Mountain to the north, as far down as South Mountain. You can even spot University of Phoenix Stadium.
To get there - take the 51 North to 101 West. Exit at Cave Creek Road, and take that about 11 miles north (it'll curve east when you get into the town of Cave Creek). Take a right at School House Road, then left on Military Road and park off the street. Then it's time to get up that hill!
See the map.
I should really call this post, "Hiking, Biking, Walking, Horseback Riding Phoenix Mountain Preserve." On the "Dreamy Draw," there are acres and acres of desert au naturel, with trails winding through boulders, saguaros, all under the great open sky. There are numerous starting points, and starting on one trail opens up many more to you.
Some days I take my dogs on a trail walk (occasionally break into a run), some days I bike, but mostly, I hike. I see that peak and I head straight up, which is just north of Piestawa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak). It's literally a stone's throw away.
On the way up, though, the feeling of the open desert is all encompassing. With all the trails and space, it's never crowded, even in the middle of Phoenix. The palo verde trees, barrel cacti, cresotes, all look absolutely untouched beside the trails.
My favorite way to enter Phoenix Mountain Preserve is go to 40th Street and Shea Boulevard, head south on 40th Street until it ends, park and head on up. You'll cross Trail 100, which is what a lot of mountain bikers, trail runners, and horseback riders use. I go straight and head for the peak, which is pretty easy to see. (Okay, so the peak might not look huge there - but it's not small!)
At a moderate pace it will take about 30-40 min to get to the top of the mountain, so it's a quick way to get your heart rate up! It's so worth it - the views from the top are some of the best in the city!
And when you go, say hello to my friends, for whom I still trying to think of a name. They look like brothers. Any ideas?
If you'd like to see more photos, check out our hiking set on Flickr.
For more info on Phoenix Mountain Preserve, see http://phoenix.gov/parks/hikephx.html
Mark Tarbell. Who can help themselves from loving him? Not I. Maybe it's his energy, his crazy sense of humor, or the care and overall deliciousness he puts into every dish at his restaurant, Tarbell's. But it was his love of Phoenix, and his knowledge of all-things-hip to do here, that inspired this "Dream Day" video.
Mark gave us a list of all his favorite places, and we filmed the cream of the crop - places he returns to again and again. We think you'll find something to suit your fancy as well. Even if you're a local, I guarantee you haven't been everywhere Mark takes you!
Click Mark's pic at Camelback Mountain above, or go to www.visitphoenix.com/dreamday to see a few minutes of Mark. And just try not to fall in love with him. I dare you.