Best Hiking Trails in Arizona

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Arizona is a hiker’s paradise; from desert landscapes to mountain vistas and everything in between, there’s a hike for all ages and abilities. Having lived in Arizona for my entire life, I’ve done dozens of hikes around the state, and have enjoyed the iconic views and trails that the Grand Canyon State has to offer.

When hiking in Arizona, it’s always important to take into account the weather, your fitness, and your overall preparedness for the trail ahead. Several of the more popular hikes involve significant elevation change, which can make even a short distance more challenging.

Whether you’re looking for a great workout, a day-long trek, or a beautiful stroll, Arizona’s trails have it all!

1. Humphrey’s Peak

The highest point in Arizona, getting to the top of Humphrey’s Peak requires healthy lungs and sturdy legs. This peak tops out at 12,635 feet, and the air definitely feels more thin up here.

Sunset On Mount Humphrey

The trail starts at Snowbowl Ski Resort, and climbs steadily with very little flat stretches, requiring frequent breaks to catch your breath. The trail is encompassed by tall Aspen trees, and in the fall these trees take on a golden hue.

When you reach the saddle, take a while to rest here. You are now out of the tree line and more exposed to the elements, so if the weather is turning, now would be a good time to go back; lightning strikes are frequent up here.

Beware of false summits, there’s at least two of them and it tricks your mind into thinking you’re at the top! Take your time for the last mile from the saddle to the top to avoid altitude sickness.

Once you reach the top, revel in the fact that you just hiked Arizona’s tallest peak and enjoy the unmatched views. The hike down will feel much easier after all your hard work. Enjoy lunch in Flagstaff afterwards, just a 25 minute drive down the mountain.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 10.7 miles
  • Duration: 4-7 hours
  • Kid Friendly: No
  • Dog Friendly: Yes on leash
  • Fees: None

2. Cathedral Rock

Sedona is known for its stunning red rocks and incredible hiking trails. Cathedral Rock is one of the highest points that you can hike in Sedona.

Cathedral Rock

This hike involves minor scrambling up one section of the trail that takes you up a rocky crevice. The rest of the trail is mostly on the flat red rock itself, so pay attention to cairns and other markers.

Once you reach the top, you’re rewarded with views across Sedona in every direction. There’s a scenic cliff that makes for an excellent photo op, and sometimes there’s even a line of people waiting to get the perfect shot.

Parking fills up quickly, so be sure to get an early start to beat the crowds. This is a moderate climb but short hike with an opportunity to walk directly on the famous red rocks, and the reward at the top is more than worth the crowds.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Kid Friendly: Yes
  • Dog Friendly: Yes on leash
  • Fees: None

3. Mount Baldy

Located in the White Mountains, Mount Baldy tops out at 11,421 feet, making it the second tallest peak in Arizona (and one of the most beautiful summit in the state). However, hikers of the general population are not allowed to the very top, as it lies on White Mountain Apache Tribal land. The trail will take you close to the top but not quite to the summit.

There are two trails, East Baldy and West Baldy. East trail is a 12 mile round trip, with 2,000 feet of climbing. West trail has a similar amount of climbing, at about 15 miles round trip. You can even connect the two trails near the top with a crosscut trail, however you’ll have to find a way to get back to your vehicle at the bottom, as the two trailheads are several miles apart.

This trail is one of my favorites, as the huge pine and Douglas fir trees remind me of something you’d see in the rainy Pacific Northwest instead of Arizona. The White Mountains get more snow than anywhere else in the state, so the vegetation is lush and the trees grow to great heights.

On East Baldy trail, about a mile from the trailhead there are incredibly huge rock formations that seem to shoot up out of the ground out of nowhere. These towering cliffs are scattered throughout the trees and are an interesting place to stop for lunch.

Always check the weather before you go, as there are exposed areas near the top that can be extremely dangerous during a lightning storm. If you hear thunder, turn around!

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 12-15 miles
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Kid Friendly: Yes, the rock formations are a great destination for families with kids
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on a leash
  • Fees: None

4. West Fork Oak Creek

One of the more popular hikes in Sedona, the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon is incredibly gorgeous in the spring and autumn months. Large cottonwoods and other trees and vegetation line the creek, and in the fall they are varying shades of red, yellow, and orange. Staggeringly tall red cliffs loom over you for the entire hike.

West Fork Oak Creek

Due to its popularity, the parking lot fills up fast, so try to get there as soon as they open the gate.

Take your time meandering down the trail, and enjoy all the shade that this hike has to offer, which is a rarity for Arizona hikes. There are several creek crossings but there are plenty of rocks and boulders to step on. The lack of climbing and elevation change makes this hike perfect for beginners.

The trail “ends” at a subway-looking section of the canyon, with the cliffs arching over the stream. You can continue past this point, however water shoes are recommended and you definitely want to avoid hiking further during monsoon season; sudden heavy rain can cause a flash flood.

Hikers flock to this trail year-round, and it only takes doing it once to understand why. It is truly one of the most gorgeous trails in all of Arizona.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: Varies, 6.5 miles round trip to the subway, 14 miles one way for the full canyon
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Kid Friendly: Yes
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, must be on leash
  • Fees: $11 per vehicle day pass

5. Camelback Mountain

Camelback is an immensely popular trail near Scottsdale and Phoenix. There are two main trails that start at either side of the peak. The more popular and arguably the more challenging trail is Echo Canyon.

Camelback Mountain

The Echo Canyon trail on Camelback Mountain involves some minor rock scrambling, steep inclines, and neat rocky formations that provide some shade on hot days. Due to its proximity to the city (it is essentially in the middle of the city), people tend to underestimate how difficult this hike can be.

Even though it is only 1.25 miles to the top, it climbs an impressive 1,400 feet in that short distance, making this trail difficult for beginners and seasoned hikers alike. Do not attempt this trail during hot weather, several people have to be rescued every year when they get dehydrated or injured.

The top of the mountain gives you excellent views of the surrounding city, including some impressive mansions that are situated at the base of Camelback Mountain. For a hike that is close to Phoenix and is a heart-pumping challenge, this trail is the perfect choice.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 2.5 miles round trip (Echo Canyon side)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Kid Friendly: No
  • Dog Friendly: No
  • Fees: No

6. Hieroglyphic Trail

This is one of the more popular hikes for kids and families, due to its short distance and relatively low elevation change. The trail is still uphill, but is not too steep for even smaller kids.

What makes this trail unique are the markings found on the rock faces around the water hole at the top. These are petroglyphs; although the trail is called Hieroglyphic Trail, it is somewhat of a misnomer as petroglyphs are ancient carvings into natural rock while hieroglyphs are ancient Egyptian picture language.

A close up on some ancient petroglyphs located on the Hieroglyphic Trail in Gold Canyon, Arizona
A close up on some ancient petroglyphs located on the Hieroglyphic Trail

The Hieroglyphic Trail is located near Gold Canyon, AZ in the Superstition Mountains. During wetter seasons, there is a small waterfall and a small running creek to reward you for the nearly 3-mile trek. There is no shade on this hike, so remember to avoid the hottest times of the day.

This hike allows you to learn about some of Arizona’s history and enjoy the beauty of the Superstition Mountains.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Duration: 1.5-3 hours
  • Kid Friendly: Yes
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Fees: None

7. Flat Iron Via Siphon Draw

The Flat Iron is an iconic cliff formation on the face of the Superstition Mountains. The views from the top are incredible, and on clear days you can see all the way across the Phoenix Valley. Getting there, however, takes some serious foot work.

Siphon Draw Trail to Flat Iron

The first half of the hike is very kid-friendly, and stopping at the Siphon Draw (a solid rock amphitheater that provides ample amount of shade) is an excellent place to stop for lunch before heading back down.

For those who are more experienced, embarking past the rock basin requires some bouldering and minor rock climbing. No extra gear is needed, except for some stamina and tenacity. The trail climbs steeply and steadily up a small canyon, and be sure to follow the white blazes on the rocks for the best route.

Near the top is a 15-20 foot rock face that seems impassable at first glance, but look to the left and you’ll see a near-perfect natural staircase. After you pass that obstacle, it’s only a short stroll to the top of Flat Iron.

Enjoy the views and rest up here, as the way down can be just as difficult. In the mornings, most of the route is shaded, so this hike is doable year-round but not recommended during the hottest months. This hike is worth the views for those who are brave enough to take it on!

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 5.5 miles
  • Duration: 3-6 hours
  • Kid Friendly: Only to the halfway point
  • Dog friendly: Only to the halfway point
  • Fees: $7 day pass

8. Rim to Rim – Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon has dozens of well-maintained trails, but for the more experienced hikers or those wanting to feel like they’ve conquered the canyon, a Rim to Rim hike is truly an unforgettable adventure.

Rim to Rim Hiking the Grand Canyon

There are two main routes that hikers choose for Rim to Rim – North Kaibab/Bright Angel, or North Kaibab/South Kaibab. Starting at the north rim is most popular, as the north rim is 1,000 feet higher elevation than the south, meaning less climbing towards the exhausting end of your hike.

The overall distance varies, from 20 miles for the South Kaibab version to 24 miles for Bright Angel. There are many water stops along the way, fed by natural springs, however they aren’t always running so check the water conditions before you go.

There are several points of interest along the way. Ribbon Falls is a beautiful cascade that runs year round, and only a short distance off the main trail. Phantom Ranch is an oasis of “civilization” at the halfway point, and be sure to pay the money for some ice cold lemonade- it hits the spot!

The bridge crossing the Colorado River is another favorite, as the scale and size of the river can’t possibly be comprehended from the viewpoints on either rim. The inner gorge is a magical and truly primitive place.

When completing this hike, give yourself a pat on the back for finishing such a hard climb out of the gorge. And remember, you may feel like you’ve conquered the canyon, but the Grand Canyon is untamed and wild, and we are all just visitors here.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 20-24 miles
  • Duration: 8-15 hours
  • Kid Friendly: No
  • Dog Friendly: No, dogs are not permitted on trails in National Parks
  • Fees: $35 per vehicle day pass

9. Watson Lake Trail

Watson Lake is a man-made reservoir near Prescott, AZ. What makes this lake unique is the rock and boulder formations found around the entire bank of the lake. It is almost other-worldly and very different from any other lake found in Arizona.

Sunset Above Watson Lake

The trail does a complete loop around the lake, with very little elevation change, making this a family-friendly hike. It is recommended to do the loop clockwise to get the harder parts out of the way first, there are some small climbs and some bouldering spots that might take some extra time with kids.

The last part of the trail is flat and shaded by beautiful large cottonwood trees. The majority of the trail is in full sun, however, so come prepared with plenty of water. The water in the lake is not safe for drinking.

There are white dots on the rocks that mark the trail through the boulders. Rattlesnakes can be plentiful along Watson Lake Trail, so be on the lookout and listen for their signature warning rattle.

This hike is great for families with adventurous children, and you can even do some paddle boarding or kayaking on the lake afterwards for a full day of activities. Stop in downtown Prescott for a delicious meal afterwards, and you have yourself the perfect day trip.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.5 miles
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Kid Friendly: Yes
  • Dog Friendly: Yes on leash
  • Fees: $3 per vehicle

10. Inner Basin Trail

Located on the north side of Humphrey’s Peak near Flagstaff, AZ, the Inner Basin trail is most popular during the autumn months due to the expansive stands of aspen trees. Their golden leaves shimmer in the wind and cover the trail like a yellow carpet, and their white trunks are a stark contrast against the fall colors.

Inner Basin Trail

This trail starts at Lockett Meadow, sitting at 8,700 feet, and climbs steadily through the aspens to 9,792 feet in the Inner Basin, below Humphrey’s Peak. The trail even continues on and connects with the Humphrey’s Peak trail at the saddle, making this another option for climbing the tallest point in Arizona.

The road to the trailhead can be a little rough for lower clearance cars, and can get narrow at times, especially during busy fall days when many cars are coming and going. To avoid the crowds, try this trail in the spring, when it can be equally as beautiful with the green trees and wildflowers.

If you’re looking for a quintessential mountain experience with a doable hike for all skill levels, Inner Basin trail is a perfect choice. Most older kids should be able to complete this hike, just be sure to take your time as the elevation can make breathing a little more difficult. To make this a weekend excursion, camp in one of the several campsites in Lockett Meadow.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Kid Friendly: Yes for older kids
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Fees: None

11. Peralta Trail

Located just past Gold Canyon in the southern edge of the Superstition Mountains, Peralta Trail rewards you with the most incredible view of Weaver’s Needle. This rock formation is a 1,000 foot tall spire of ancient volcanic remnants and is an iconic tower in the Arizona desert.

Peralta Canyon

The Peralta Trail climbs steadily over 2.3 miles up, and climbs a total of 1,300 feet. Shade is limited so like most desert hikes, start early and bring plenty of water. It’s one of the most popular hikes in the Superstitions, so parking fills up quickly.

The many rock formations on the way up make this a geographers dream, so make sure to stop and look behind you frequently as the trail takes you up higher towards the ridgeline. There are several switchbacks on this trail, so be sure to take your time to avoid overheating.

At the top of the saddle, you are rewarded with your first glance of Weaver’s Needle. Less-traveled trails to the right can take you even closer for a chance at some incredible photographs of this famous Arizona landmark.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Kid Friendly: Older kids with experience
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Fees: None

12. Picket Post Mountain

Located near Superior, Arizona, this mountain is visible from parts of Mesa and Gilbert.

Picket Post Mountain

The trail climbs up to the top of the square-ish mountain to give you spectacular views of the Sonoran Desert below. Parts of the trail are marked by arrows on the ground, so download a map and keep a lookout for markers to avoid getting lost.

There is also a loop for those who wish to stick to a more established trail with less elevation gain. The popular recommendation is to go counter-clockwise to finish in a more shaded and scenic part of the trail.

Off the eastern side of the loop, you’ll see a trail heading off into Arnett Canyon. This canyon is a hidden gem in the desert, with towering green cottonwoods, and wildflowers and carpets of green grass in the springtime. This would make a good out-and-back section to add some mileage and scenery to the loop.

The proximity of these trails to the Phoenix area makes this a great half-day trip. The loop, the peak, and the Arnett Canyon trail give plenty of options for whatever adventure you choose.

  • Difficulty: Hard for the peak, moderate for the loop
  • Distance: Peak- 4.2 miles, Loop- 8.2 miles
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Kid Friendly: Peak- No, Loop- Yes
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash. Dogs may have difficulty on peak trail
  • Fees: None

13. Picacho Peak

Blooming Poppies under Picacho Peak

This hike is not for beginners. The last stretch up to the summit involves dizzying heights, cables to grab onto for balance and climbing assistance, and rock scrambling. The hike to the saddle before this last stretch is doable for most, but not everybody makes it to the peak.

Starting from the parking lot, this trail climbs quickly, gaining over 2,000 feet in only 1.3 miles. This is a great trail to do in the spring, when wildflowers are plentiful and create a colorful landscape. Dogs are allowed up to the saddle, which is about the halfway point.

Past the saddle, you’ll want sturdy gloves to help grip the cables that assist you to the top. Once at the peak, take in the surrounding views, although the area is flat and somewhat unattractive. Picacho Peak itself juts out of the landscape suddenly, and is conveniently right of the I-10 heading towards Tucson.

Due to the peak’s exposure and your reliance on cables over the rocks, avoid this trail during rainy weather. The rocks and the cables can both get slick and dangerous when wet, and lightning strikes are a danger on the exposed trail.

If you’re looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush with your hike, Picacho Peak is the perfect fit for you. And if you like your footing a little more safe, the hike to the saddle gives you excellent views and the wildflowers are a beautiful sight to see.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 2.7 miles round trip
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Kid friendly: No
  • Dog Friendly: No
  • Fee: $7 per vehicle

14. Devil’s Bridge Trail

Devil's Bridge Trail in Sedona

This hike is definitely in the running for most popular hike in Sedona, partly due to its rising popularity on social media.

What someone’s Instagram doesn’t show you, however, is the line of people just out of frame waiting for their turn to take the iconic picture on top of the bridge.

Even with the crowds, Devil’s Bridge lives up to the hype. The natural bridge itself stands at 54 feet tall, a measly 5 feet across, and 45 feet long. If you are scared of heights, enjoy the bridge from the safer hillside across from it.

The hike to Devil’s Bridge can get very hot in the summer, as part of it is down a rough dirt road before you start the climb up to the bridge. The trail builders added stairs using natural stone from the area, but it’s only a short climb from there.

To cut out the dirt road section of the hike, you’ll definitely need a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle, then you can park at the bottom of the stairs section and it’s only a half mile from there to the bridge.

The backdrop behind the bridge is almost worth the wait in line for the picture, as you get excellent views of some of the red rock monoliths that make up Sedona. For a more scenic first half of the trail and to avoid breathing in dust from passing Jeeps, take the Chuck Wagon trail instead. It adds over 1.5 miles to the overall hike but is much less crowded, and it starts at the same trailhead as the start of the dirt road.

Overall, this hike is crowded, but as an iconic Sedona hike, it is still a must-do. Try going first thing in the morning on a weekday for a more peaceful experience.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 4.0-5.7 miles
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Kid Friendly: No
  • Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
  • Fees: None

15. Havasupai Trail

This trail is world renown for the ethereal waterfalls found at the end, however the trail itself is a classic Arizona experience as well. Located in a side canyon that leads into Grand Canyon National Park, the Havasupai Trail trailhead follows Hualapai Canyon then eventually meets up with Havasu Creek.

Havasupai Waterfalls

Hualapai Canyon is a narrow slot canyon, making it dangerous during monsoon season. In fact, I was present during the great flood of August 2008, and saw first hand how quickly a heavy rainstorm can turn into a waist-deep flash flood that can easily take a hiker off their feet. That flood was powerful enough to change the landscape downriver at the waterfalls forever, but luckily no one was killed.

In good weather, this hike is absolutely beautiful. It’s nearly impossible to get lost, as the trail follows the canyon and is well marked. There are mule trains that come through periodically, and the clattering of their hooves echoing off the high canyon walls warns you of their coming well in advance. Give them plenty of space, for they are always in a hurry.

There are no day hikes allowed on this trail, and you must camp at the designated campgrounds near the falls or stay at the lodge in the village. Permits can be acquired through the Supai Reservation website. Take note, as of March 2020 and currently, tourism is suspended in the canyon to protect the vulnerable village of Supai.

When tourism is again allowed into Havasupai, make this excursion the top of your bucket list. The numerous gorgeous waterfalls with the crystal blue waters, the towering red cliffs of the slot canyons, and the welcoming Indigenous People of Supai make this destination a once in a lifetime experience.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Distance: 14.5 mile out and back to Supai village; 22 miles round trip to Mooney Falls
  • Duration: Minimum 3-night stay required for a permit
  • Kid friendly: No
  • Dog Friendly: No
  • Permits Required: $100/night Mon-Thurs, $125/night Fri-Sun

The Expert Tips

Best Hiking Trails In Arizona
  • Always bring water, no matter the distance or time of year.
  • Check the weather, especially during monsoon season (July-September). Monsoon storms can come up suddenly and be extremely dangerous!
  • A pair of small pliers is perfect for removing cactus barbs.
  • Learn how to recognize different snake species, as Arizona has several venomous species.
  • Start as early as possible, especially in summer. If the temperature is going to be above 105°F, strongly reconsider your hike or stick to more shaded hikes.
  • Use hiking poles for longer and bigger elevation hikes, I found these especially handy for the Grand Canyon and Humphrey’s Peak.
  • Wear sunscreen, even in winter. The sun’s rays are powerful year round!
  • Please always be respectful of Indigenous land, and be mindful of the ancient lands that you walk on as well.
  • Always tell someone where you are headed and what time they can expect you to be done, in case you get lost or injured.
  • Always keep dogs on a leash, even if it isn’t required. Cactus barbs, rattlesnakes, and other wildlife can all injure or be injured by your dog.

Conclusion

Arizona is one of the more diverse states in the country. From alpine forests to desert lowlands, and everything in between, there are plenty of hikes of different lengths, skill levels, and terrains.

This state is a travel and adventure destination for millions of people from around the world every year, especially to northern Arizona to experience the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, and Sedona. This list was just the tip of the iceberg for what Arizona has to offer, and one could spend an entire lifetime hiking in this state and always find something new.

Remember to keep Arizona wild, leave no trace, and happy hiking!

Alicia Durette

Alicia Durette

Alicia is a trail runner, hiker, ultra-marathoner, and adventurer. She previously worked as a physical therapist assistant for 8 years, and now works as a travel writer while being a stay-at-home mom to her little girl. Alicia is a native Arizonan going back 4 generations and has also lived in Utah and Montana. She is happiest in the mountains with her family, running long miles on trails, and bagging peaks with her baby in tow. Alicia currently resides with her husband, baby, and chocolate lab Maggie in Mesa, Arizona.