Whoever says Phoenix is nothing but flatland has obviously never visited the City.
Among the highways and suburbs are dozens of trails with incredible views woven
amongst a handful of mountains and preserves.
The City of Phoenix is home to 40 trailheads and more than 200 miles of trails, free for
anyone to enjoy. Hiking is one of the biggest parts of Phoenix culture, and there’s plenty
of trails for all hikers.
The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department and the City wants everyone to enjoy
these trails safely throughout the year, especially the summer. During the Valley’s
summer months, Phoenix Park Rangers recommend hiking during the early morning or
evening hours when it’s cooler and there is more shade.
Culture of Hiking
According to a 2018 National Park Service, only 6% percent of parks visitors are African
American. The City of Phoenix’s trail system provides hiking options in close proximity
Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak are staple hikes, but did you know that South
Mountain Park is one of the largest urban parks in North American and in the world?
As noted by American Trails, up until recent history, African Americans did not have
equal access to National Parks, local parks and pools, campgrounds and other outdoor
public amenities in the same way white Americans did. Thus hiking, like other outdoor
activities, has historically be underrepresented by this demographic.
Today, there are many organizations dedicated to connecting African Americans with
the outdoors. The City of Phoenix is dedicated to providing equal access to City parks,
trails and amenities to people of all backgrounds. We encourage safe use of our trails
as means for free exercise and enjoyment.
Take a Hike, Do it Right
The Phoenix Parks and Recreation, and Fire departments have worked in partnership
since 2015 to share the “Take a Hike. Do it Right.” hiking safety message and continue
to lead with education about responsible hiking.
All trail users should follow these important and potentially life-saving hiking guidelines:
Dress Appropriately: Wear proper shoes, clothing, hat, and sunscreen.
Dusting off any old tennis shoes could prove dangerous on the trail and leave a
hiker susceptible to injury. Hikers need to wear sturdy shoes with good foot
support and protection from rocks. Shoes should provide traction on wet and dry
surface. Backpacking boots, hiking specific shoes and trail running shoes are suitable options. Light-colored, loose-fitting and breathable clothing is recommended. Heavy cotton fabrics should be avoided.
Bring Water: Hydrate before you go. Have plenty of water, more than you think
you need. Turn around and head back to the trailhead before you drink half of
Keep in Contact: Carry a mobile phone.
Team Up: Hike with others. If hiking solo, tell someone your start and end times,
Be Honest: Do you have a medical condition? Asthma, heart problems, diabetes,
knee or back problems? Don’t push yourself! (Even trained athletes have been
caught off guard by getting dehydrated on Arizona trails.)
Don’t Trailblaze: Enjoy the Sonoran Desert’s beautiful and undeveloped
landscape, but please stay on designated trails.
Take Responsibility: Don’t be “that person” – the one who wasn’t prepared,
shouldn’t have been there for health reasons, or ignored safety guidelines. Be the
responsible hiker, who takes a hike and does it right!
Phoenix trails range in difficulty, and there are plenty of hikes safe for hikers of all skill
levels. For beginners, proper footwear, clothing, and hydration is key to staying healthy
and safe on the trails.
Hike for Your Health
Hiking, when done safely, is a fantastic way to relieve stress, and spending time in
nature has shown to have many cognitive benefits in both adults and children. Taking to
the trails is also one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, exercise option.
For the safety of pets, dogs are prohibited on any City of Phoenix trail when the
temperature is 100 degrees or warmer. The Arizona Humane Society advises that
temperatures in the 90s are also unsafe for pets to be outdoors.
If you’re a hiker looking to ease into hiking, below are two trails for beginners and online
you can find 5 Family-Friendly Hikes for All Skill Levels.
Esplanade Trail at the Sonoran Preserve
Distance: 3.4 miles
Elevation Change: 127 feet
The first section of the Esplanade is flat and sparse. This trail is a gentle climb hosting some
occasional sandy areas and quick turns that keep you alert. After crossing an old jeep trail,
you’ll begin to parallel the Cave Creek Wash and the hike gets more interesting. On your left is a continuation of the desert you just hiked through, but on your right is a nice tangle of
ironwood, Palo Verde, various shrubs and often a nice grove of saguaros along the edge of the wash. The wash is very wide here. Be on lookout during monsoon season as some areas may be impassable.
Location: Apache Wash Trailhead, 1600 E. Sonoran Desert Dr.
Access: Start at Apache Wash Trailhead. Proceed to Badger Brawl Trail. Turn right onto
Apache Wash Loop. Continue north and turn right to proceed onto Esplanade Trail.
Parking & Entrance Hours: 5 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Trail Hours: 5 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Ranger Trail at South Mountain
Distance: 1.7 mi
Elevation Change: 800 ft.
The Ranger Trail provides a gradual climb through the foothills approaching the park’s
roadway. This trail also provides alternative routes through connections with the Derby
Loop, Bajada Trail, and Las Lomitas Loop, while traveling upward to the roadway. To
reach the National Trail along the ridgeline, continue across the road and climb the
steep switchbacks to reach the saddle in the mountain just east of “Goat Hill.”
Location: Five Tables Trailhead, 10214 S. Central Ave.
Access: Start at the Park Main Entrance. Continue on Stephen Mather Dr. through the
first four-way intersection. Take your next left and keep right to connect to Five Tables.
From Five Tables, proceed to Ranger Trail.
Entrance hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. or Sunset
Trail Hours: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Extreme Heat Trail Closures
This summer, three popular City of Phoenix hiking trails will close during extremely hot
days. On days when the National Weather Service issues an Excessive Heat Warning,
Camelback Mountain’s Echo and Cholla Trails and all trails associated with Piestewa
Peak Trailhead in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve will close from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
During Excessive Heat Warnings, trail access is limited, parking lot gates will be closed
and signage will be posted. Closure information will be posted on the Phoenix Parks
and Recreation Department’s website and social media accounts, and to local resorts
and hotels. Additionally, Phoenix Park Rangers will be visible at those locations to
remind and educate trail users about the restrictions.
To help with that recommendation, extended summer hours are in effect annually from
June through September at North Mountain Park and Piestewa Peak Trailhead in the
Phoenix Mountains Preserve, and Pima Canyon Trailhead in South Mountain
Park/Preserve. To provide an extra two hours of availability and promote hiking after 7
p.m., parking lot entrances are open until 9 p.m. at those locations. Year-round at those
three trailheads, parking lots open at 5 a.m., and trails are open until 11 p.m.