When I discovered how many hiking trails there are in the Phoenix area I was stunned. I just assumed that because this is the desert, no one would want to hike in the area. Not true, not true at all!
60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Phoenix written by Charles Lui, gives you an idea just from the title, the hiking possibilities in and around Phoenix. 60 is a large number of trails. If you hiked one trail a week you would not be able to complete every trail in this book given an entire year. Imagine all of the unique hiking experiences you could enjoy each weekend by hiking a different trail every time.
One of my favorite day hikes in Phoenix is the Squaw Peak Summit Trail.It is located in the Squaw Peak Park which is part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. It is easily accessible by taking Lincoln Drive to Squaw Peak Drive. There is parking and restrooms at the base of the trail.The length of the hike is 1.2 miles one way; it is not a loop so you return the way you came. The difficulty level of this trail is moderate, with a strenuous section towards the end with multiple switchbacks. Rest areas are located along the trail for water breaks and picture taking. The rewards of reaching the top of the summit are amazing, beautiful vistas of Phoenix and the desert valley. I have hiked this trail with a school group and with my family; both times I enjoyed myself immensely.
Another day hike trail many Phoenix residents enjoy is The Camelback Trail. Camelback Trail is located off of McDonald Drive, go east about a tenth of a mile to the signed entryway to the Echo Canyon Recreation Area on the north side of the street. From there it’s about a quarter-mile to the parking area. Because of the popularity of this hike the parking lot can be full or even overflowing, it is best to go early to beat the crowds and the heat. Don’t let The Camelback Trail fool you, it is a difficult trail, mostly uphill and has you scrambling over rocks and boulders at certain points. The length of this hike is 2 miles roundtrip. The views of Phoenix are spectacular. Another amazing sight is the many people who jog up and back down, I could not believe my eyes when I saw this because I could not even make it to the top just walking. This is a hike that I will have to gain endurance to complete!
A pleasant easy trail in the same area as The Squaw Peak Summit Trail is the Mohave Trail. This trail will provide you with a quick and easy look at the Sonoran desert as well as nice views of Phoenix below. The length of this trail is 3 miles. Squaw Peak Park has picnic facilities and restrooms so that after hiking you can relax and refuel with a picnic lunch.
Tips for Hiking in the Desert:
- Always carry plenty of drinking water, even in the cooler months. The climate is always dry and many hikes are strenuous and you need to keep your body hydrated.
- Wear sturdy shoes to keep your feet protected from rocks and cactus.
- Lightweight clothing that breathes and protects your skin from sunburn is the best.
- Always check the weather conditions. Fall, winter and spring are the best seasons to hike in the desert. Summer months can become too hot to enjoy or even for safety purposes, unrealistic for hiking. Winter months need special attention as well because trails can be icy and slippery.
- Always apply sunscreen to exposed skin and a wide brimmed hat is helpful to keep the sun off of your face and neck.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Get in Shape. This can involve short, quick, and easy hikes to build up your endurance for more strenuous hikes later. Many people make the mistake of jumping in with both feet without preparing. You will have more fun if you take it slow and easy at first.
- Bring a camera for the photo opportunities you are sure to come across; wildlife, birds, flowers, cactus, jagged mountains and maybe even a glorious sunset!