During a recent work trip to Phoenix, Arizona, I was able to stay my brother who happens to share with me a love for the outdoors. While he’s certainly no off-the-grid type and prefers to live in a cushy suburb of Phoenix, he definitely enjoys a good physical challenge. He knows about my penchant sports and exploring the outdoors and trails. So, he suggested that we do four of the best day hikes found in the Phoenix area.
However, when I finally arrived at my brother’s house, I learned he was suffering from the loss of his little beloved dog, Boo. My brother seemed to have a small bout of depression, so, like any good sister would do, I told him to throw on his hiking shoes and make word of his promise to hike. Before you knew it, we were trail blazing with the endorphins kicking in. Conversation and hearty laughter started to flow and the feeling was good – and so were all the views of Phoenix and the Sonoran Desert.
This mountain lies in the north on the outskirts of the city and is so named for the distinguishable black phyllite and argillite geology. The trail is out and back, with 2.2 miles one way with about 1,500-ft of elevation gain. You’ll go up the ridge of the mountain at a moderate level of difficulty. You must park on gravel at the base of the mountain and do about a half mile up to where you will see a posted sign that marks the trail head.
While there are some steep and technical parts of the trail that you must scramble over, overall it is a moderate rating. We did this trail as the sun was setting in the evening. By then, the temperatures were low and there was a light breeze, but it offered a gorgeous vista of the city and surrounding desert and mountains and plenty of silhouettes of giant saguaro cacti. It is a popular and heavily trafficked trail, but if you go at the right time, you’ll pretty much have the mountain to yourself. It is a highly pleasant trail to day hike. Plan for 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on pace
Piestewa Peak is much closer to the city center and is the second highest point in the Phoenix area mountains at 2,610 feet. It pays to get up early to hike here since you will experience full sun and quite a bit of heat (if you go in the morning, there will be some shade on the backside of the mountain near the top). This is a very popular trail, and we encountered the most people here from the four listed. Park in the lot below, where there is also a very nice and recently constructed bathroom facility.
Cross the little foot bridge and start your hike at the marker. The trail is out and back, with 2.2 miles one-way, and a total elevation gain just over 1,000 ft. The trail is well-defined and easy to follow with a mostly gentle and consistent grade up the mountain. It is a nice hike and gives you good views of the city and of Camelback mountain off in the distance. Even though, it was a little too crowded for my taste, it was still a nice hike. Plan for 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on pace
Camelback is the crown jewel of Phoenix in my opinion. It is also the most difficult of the trails and offers the most challenge and requires the most physical fitness. One thing is for sure, that doing this trail often, will get you into shape fast. The trail is rated a double-black diamond and extremely difficult. It is 1.14 miles in length with 1,264-ft. of elevation gain.
This is another very frequented trail located in the Paradise Valley section of Phoenix. But if you time your arrival at the lull between the most popular hiking times, you will be pleasantly rewarded with a descent amount of solitude. Park in the lot and walk .25 miles (at most) to the trail head and begin your ascent. This trail has some surprisingly technical and steep sections (which is what probably keeps the crowds at bay). But don’t give up and you’ll be proud of yourself when you reach the top. The red rock formations and mountain is very beautiful. Plan for 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on pace
I absolutely loved the Pinnacle Peak trail because of its beautiful location in a pristine section of the Sonoran Desert. The surroundings also happen to be an affluent residential area, where you’ll see some spectacular adobe styled homes. Pinnacle Peak is a moderate trail that is 1.75 miles (one-way) with just under 1,000-feet of elevation gain. Park in the small lot and make your way across the small footbridge and past the ranger station (with bathroom and drinking fountain) to the trailhead marker.
This trail is extremely well-groomed and makes for an excellent short run when you avoid the crowds. You’ll get awesome views of the surround desert and you can read the interpretive displays along the way that educate you about local flora and fauna. It is also an area known for rock climbing, with many routes easily accessible just off the main path. Plan for 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on pace