Guidebook

Classic Hikes in the Salt River Valley near Phoenix

With an endless network of trails within the valley, this is a guide to some of the best hikes in and around town.

Description

Home to over 4.5 million people, the Phoenix metropolitan area boasts an incredible amount of trail that is often underestimated. Countless preserves and parks blanket the valley including the massive 16,000-acre South Mountain Park, the largest municipal park in the United States. This guidebook showcases some of our favorite hikes around the valley and is sure to have something for everyone.

One of the most popular trailheads on South Mountain lies less than 15 minutes from the airport and Tempe. The Marcos de Niza Trail showcases incredible views to the south and overlooks Ahwatukee from high atop a narrow ridge. By way of National Trail, you can pay a visit to Fat Man’s Pass, “a tight squeeze between rocks, found in a jumble of large boulders with plenty of other nooks and crannies to explore”, according to adventurer Jesse Weber. Should you be short on time, or intimidated by either of those hikes, the Pima East and West Loops never venture too far from the trailhead.

Phoenix Mountains Preserve, nicknamed “PMP” by locals, is located just north of town. Prior to its status as a protected preserve, the area was home to several mines whose remnants can still be found. Rumors of mine entrances have circled through the community, but few people claim to know where they are at. In addition to the Pearl Charles and Freedom Trails, the summit trail to Piestewa Peak provides an intense climb to some of the best views in town. It’s perfect for the entire family and offers commanding views from its perch. Not far away, Camelback Mountain is possibly the most recognized hike in town. Though popular, it’s anything but easy.

West in the valley and within an hour of downtown, you can find White Tank Regional Park. The Mesquite/Willow Canyon loop is an incredible hike showcasing unique and rugged canyons tucked deep in the mountains. Of all the hikes on the list, this is a local favorite due to its remoteness. For an easier hike, explore the Black Rock Loop and Waterfall Trail – a historic hike perfect for the entire family.

Approaching the 1 hour mark from downtown, a few more classic hikes present themselves. Northwest of town, the Pipeline Canyon Trail to Yavapai Point is an excellent day trip adventurer Jesse Weber describes as “a classically vibrant Sonoran Desert landscape, but with a major splash of additional color in the blue reservoir”. As with most trails in the region, your hike will be accompanied by a wide array of cacti, including massive, weathered saguaro and teddy bear cholla.

Just east of town, the Superstitions offer even more options for hikers. Siphon Draw to The Flatiron is a steep approach to one of the best views in the range. It’s exposure and lack of water make it one of the most demanding adventures in the range and its best visited in the winter months. A couple ridges over, you can hike the Peralta Canyon Trail to a vista of Weavers Needle. Noted as the most recognizable summits in peaks in the range, this hike offers incredible scenery and a surprisingly lush ecosystem.

Fat Man's Pass via National Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Fat Man's Pass via National Trail

1 - 2 hrs
5.5 km
138 m
138 m
Hike through mountaintop saguaro forest to a natural playground of boulders.
Moderate
Private
Marcos de Niza Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Marcos de Niza Trail

0 - 1 hrs
2.9 km
112 m
112 m
A demanding, short hike with incredible views of Ahwatukee.
Difficult
Private
Pima East & West Loops
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Pima East & West Loops

0 - 1 hrs
4.3 km
82 m
82 m
A short hike originating from the Pima Canyon Trailhead.
Moderate
Private
Piestewa Peak
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Piestewa Peak

1 - 2 hrs
3.7 km
350 m
350 m
A classic hike with 360-degree views atop Piestewa Peak.
Difficult
Private
Freedom Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Freedom Trail

1 - 2 hrs
6.1 km
353 m
353 m
A short hike around the base of Piestewa Peak.
Moderate
Private
Pearl Charles Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Pearl Charles Trail

2 - 3 hrs
8.7 km
329 m
329 m
An intermediate hike beginning at Dreamy Draw Recreation Area.
Moderate
Private
Mesquite/Willow Canyon Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mesquite/Willow Canyon Loop

3 - 4 hrs
13.4 km
490 m
490 m
A remote and beautiful hike through the rugged White Tank Mountains.
Difficult
Private
Black Rock Loop & Waterfall Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Black Rock Loop & Waterfall Trail

0 - 1 hrs
3.7 km
58 m
57 m
A family-friendly hike in White Tank Regional Park with ancient petroglyphs and a rock waterfall.
Moderate
Private
Camelback Mountain via Echo Canyon Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Camelback Mountain via Echo Canyon Trail

1 - 2 hrs
3.5 km
415 m
415 m
The more adventurous of two trails leading to the best view over Phoenix and Scottsdale
Difficult
Private
Pipeline Canyon Trail to Yavapai Point
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Pipeline Canyon Trail to Yavapai Point

1 - 2 hrs
7.7 km
211 m
211 m
Desert hike with a swimming spot and big vistas in the hills around Lake Pleasant.
Moderate
Private
Siphon Draw Trail to The Flatiron
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Siphon Draw Trail to The Flatiron

3 - 4 hrs
8.6 km
796 m
796 m
Climb to one of the best views in the Superstitions, up a steep canyon with rock scrambling required.
Severe
Private
Peralta Canyon Trail to Weavers Needle
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Peralta Canyon Trail to Weavers Needle

1 - 2 hrs
7.3 km
412 m
412 m
Hike to a view of Weavers Needle, the most recognizable peak in the Superstition Mountains.
Difficult
Private