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Scottsdale & Phoenix Hiking Trails

Cruise through stunning cacti groves,

…canyons, and up mountain routes to breathtaking see-forever desert views along these popular Phoenix, Paradise Valley and Scottsdale hiking trails. Arizona desert hiking is rugged and beautiful, but best enjoyed in the fall and spring months. However, early morning and evening planning make hiking in the Scottsdale, Phoenix and Paradise Valley a year-round activity.

Camelback Mountain

This popular mountain summit is located near Paradise Valley, Arizona and just 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix. You have two options to ascend this beast: Echo Canyon or Cholla Trail. Both are challenging routes. Water (at least 1 liter), sunscreen and nourishment is recommended. There is very little shade. This area is best enjoyed October through May and an early departure is recommended to beat both the heat and the crowds.

Cholla Trail

Park on Invergordon Road, it’s free and you won’t have to worry about getting towed. Street signs will lead you to Cholla Trail. Cholla Trail is a bit longer than the Echo Canyon route, clocking in at about 4.8 miles roundtrip, but it’s a more gradual climb along the Camelback Mountain ridge. The blue and brown trail signs mark the way. If you don’t see one after a bit of walking you’ll want to turn around. Many hikers get lost on this trail, so a Garmin InReach, maps and other GPS devices are highly recommended. Keep an eye out for quail, hawks and lizard. The last bit of this trail includes a bit of scrambling along rocks, at which time the trail markers turn to blue and yellow paint blazes.

Echo Canyon

Parking is limited at the trailhead, but you can part at the JW Marriott for a couple of hours. Echo Canyon is especially popular during the winter months, so getting out early is especially important during that time of year. Some hikers start as early as 5 a.m. and are rewarded with sunrise views. Echo Canyon is on the shorter side at just 2.5 miles roundtrip. This route is more strenuous as it ascends 1,280 feet. The first part of the trail is steeped and well marked. About 3/8 of a mile in you’ll hit railroad ties and climb the most difficult section of trail. After that the trail levels out a bit and ends will a continued steep grade and large rocks until you reach the summit. Please note there are no dogs allowed on this trail

Pinnacle Peak

Rated moderate, this 3.8-mile out and back is a popular hiking route ascends just over 1,000 feet. However, the route does not in fact summit the actual peak. That said, there are plenty beautiful vantage points, including McDowell Mountain views, about 1/2 mile in, and views of Camelback Mountain, about 1 mile in.

An early morning excursion is recommended for Pinnacle Peak, both for the sunrise views and to avoid the desert heat. Be sure to bring plenty of water, and keep your eyes peeled for rattlesnakes, who tend to hang out in the area April to June.

South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park and Preserve is an outdoor lovers haven with more than 51 miles of hiking, biking and horsebacking, not to mention the South Mountain Environmental Education Center. Top area trails (and how to get there) include:


South Mountain Park Trail

Located at the South Mountain Park Main Entrance, this trail is rated difficult, but it’s relatively short at 2.9 miles roundtrip. The route starts at the Max Delta Trail and slowly and easily ascends the hills behind the Ranger Station. Then, you’ll descend a bit before meandering to meet back up the Bajada Trail.

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