There are so many incredible hikes in Arizona that it was difficult to narrow the list down. Since moving here from Idaho over 10 years ago, I have hiked all over the State. I decided to choose 7 different areas and then what I think is one of the best hikes within that location.
Each hiking trail has a distinct beauty; the flora, fauna, trees and tundra are different depending on the elevation and location. These trails have varying levels of difficulty, elevation, and distance as well.
Arizona is such a beautiful state and what better way to explore than by hiking.
1.Sedona- Boynton Canyon Trail #47
Boynton Canyon is one of the most beautiful hikes in Sedona and is also a very popular trail because of the incredible views of the Red Rocks. The trail is located off a paved road which makes it accessible. For this reason, it can also be very busy-especially on the weekends. If you go on a holiday, I would get up very early to beat some of the crowds. I’ve been hiking in Sedona on a holiday and the traffic was backed up almost half a mile just to get the trail.
Entry Fee: A red rock pass is required for any trail you hike in the Coconino National Forest. You can purchase a pass for $5 a day, or $15 for the week.
Hiking Distance: 6 ¼ miles
Fun Fact: Indians made this area their home thousands of years ago. There are still burial sites and ancient Indian ruins hidden within walls of the canyon. Boynton Canyon is also known for the powers of the vortex. A vortex is a “spiritual energy field that comes up from the inner earth”.
The Experience: This trail is very well marked and easy to follow. You will hike among Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, cypress, and oak trees. There is also an abundant amount of wildlife in the area including javelina, white-tail deer, coyote, ringtail cats, and the Arizona gray squirrel.
2. Flagstaff- Humphrey’s Peak
This is a more difficult hike so make sure you are in top physical condition if you decide to hike Humphrey’s Peak! It is long and steep and will take you over 4.7 miles of rough and rocky terrain. You will have over 3,000 feet of elevation gain to get to the top where you can expect it to be cold and windy.
The thin air can also make it difficult to breathe, so it is recommended you stay in Flagstaff the day before your hike. Due to altitude sickness, 1 in every 4 hikers turn back before reaching the peak.
Entry Fee: No cost for parking or trail entrance
Hiking Distance: 9.4 miles round trip. The trail head starts at an elevation of 9,300 and the peak sits at 12,633.
Fun Fact: Humphrey’s Peak is Arizona’s highest peak; you will have a magnificent view once you get to the top. Also, a few people have died on this trail from being struck by lightning during a thunder storm.
The Experience: You will see thick forest of Douglas and White Fir, Aspen, Englemann Spruce and Ponderosa Pine. Once you go past 11,400 feet (above the tree line), you will begin to see more Bristlecone Pines and tundra that is common all over Arizona.
What you should take: This is a more difficult trail and you’ll be out approximately 6-8 hours so you should be well prepared. Wear actual hiking boots, bring along at least 4 liters of water, first aid kit, trekking poles, rain poncho, jacket, sun gear and lunch/snacks.
3.Show Low- White Mountains Trail System/ Indian Springs
Many of the best hiking lists in Arizona include trails around Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. This is surprising to me considering just how beautiful the hiking trails are in the White Mountains.
A devoted group of volunteers (known as TRACKS) developed more than 200 miles of trails in this remote wilderness location.
Entry Fee: Free
Hiking Distance/Rating: Easy-Moderate, 7.5 miles round trip, Elevation Gain: 600 Total Elevation Gain
Fun Fact: On the main trail is Spillman Springs which is characterized by dugout logs. Troughs that have been there since the 1950’s are believed to have been constructed by the Civilian Conversation Corps during the Depression.
The Experience: The best times to go on this hike are in the months of June, July, and August and the worst times are in December January, February. This trail starts in the meadow, but within a short amount of time you are walking into a forest of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees. You may also see elk and deer along the edge of the meadows. This is also a popular trail for mountain bikers since it is wide in sections and has gravel which provides great traction. Taking a left off the trail will bring you to a watch tower which is staffed on a regular basis during fire season. Enjoy the view from the top even without even climbing up the tower.
The junctions are all signed and the trail is easy to follow. This is the perfect hike for you if you are looking for a longer hike without significant elevation change or route finding.
4.Phoenix- Piestewa Peak/Summit Trail
It was difficult to choose the top hiking trail in Phoenix since there are so many good ones. I decided to just go with the one that has been rated as the 3rd most hiked trail in the United States. In my opinion, this is the second most difficult hike in the Phoenix area second to Flat Iron in Apache Junction.
This Peak is located in the Phoenix Mountain preserves making it easy for tourists and natives to get a great work out in a short amount of time.
Entry Fee: Free
Hiking Difficulty/Logistics:1.2 miles, Elevation: 2,608 ft, Considered a strenuous and difficult trail
Fun Facts: It is said that the trail leading to the Summit was built around 1930 by a wrangler that worked at the Biltmore Hotel. There are between 4,000 to 10,000 hikers per week on this trail, making it one of the most trekked in the nation. This hike is also so popular that the parking lot gets full on weekends fast. Typically, if you pull to one side and wait 15-20 minutes, you’ll get a spot after early morning hikers return.
The Experience: You will see cacti of course and wild flowers at certain times of the year. There is also a lone Palo Verde tree on the trail that shades a bench and is known as “the tree”.
5. Payson- Horton Creek
Horton Creek is a spring fed oasis located in the Tonto National Forest outside of Payson, AZ. If you love hiking along water streams, then this is the hike for you. Horton Creek is accessible year-round and is known as the Rim Country’s best kept secret.
Entry Fee: Free
Hiking Difficulty/Logistics: Considered moderate, 3.5 miles from the trail head to the Springs. If you have bad knees, you could have difficulty on one part of the trail that goes up a steep hill.
Fun Facts: Around the 1930’s, there was a summer camp held here for underprivileged children. It is said that orphaned kids stayed there after the normal camping sessions were over.
The Experience: The glistening stream meandering through forests of Ponderosa Pine, Douglas firs, Sycamores, and Oaks. You may even see bear, wild turkeys or even a mountain lion.
What you should take: As always, make sure you are well prepared. Wear hiking boots, bring at least 3 liters of water, rain poncho, jacket, sun gear, first aid kit, trekking poles, and lunch/snacks. Occasional rain storms in this area can bring on sudden and heavy flooding so always obey flash flooding signs, etc.
6. Globe- Cibecue Creek
Globe, AZ? Yes, this little town is on the map right next to Miami, Arizona and has a population right around 7,500 people. This trail is another one that not nearly as many visitors or tourists know about.
Admission: This is on Apache Indian Reservation and a $15 permit is required.
Hiking Difficulty/Logistics:Moderate hike, 6 miles round trip, Elevation- 200 total gain.
Fun Facts: Cibecue is Apache roughly translated as "surrounded by red cliffs" . On this hike, you will have fun swimming, scrambling up rocks and repelling.
Be ready to drive down a bumpy dirt road before reaching the trail head. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet because you will be crossing the Creek many times along the way. On this hike, you will have fun swimming, and scrambling up rocks. At the end you are rewarded with beautiful waterfalls, and swimming holes. So be sure to bring your suit!
7. Grand Canyon – Bright Angel Trail
I saved the big daddy for last. Hikers from all over the world visit the Grand Canyon. It is estimated that approximately 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year.
The busiest times for the Grand Canyon are during June thru August. Great times to go and when it isn’t quite as busy is April/May or September/Early October.
Entry Fee: Grand Canyon National Park Vehicle Permit- $30.00
Admits one single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers. Organized groups are not eligible for the vehicle permit.
It is 9.5 miles- one way to Phantom Ranch. Remember- you are hiking into the Canyon so the trail is steep and strenuous and then you will be hiking back up the same way you came down. You could hike to Plateau Point for a total trip (one way) of 6.3 miles. The rim sits at 6860 feet and the Bright Angel Campground is at 2,480 feet.
Fun Facts: This trail is considered the safest trail in Grand Canyon National Park. There is a ranger station at the halfway point which is called Indian Garden. Early pioneers settled below the rim at Indian Garden in 1891.
The Experience: Take the hike seriously, pack enough water, and try to pack light. It’s also important that you are in good physical condition for this hike. I know of a group that hiked this trail and it took them 15 hours due to this one lady who was extremely out of shape. Make sure you are in great hiking condition before you go!
For more information on hiking the Grand Canyon, visit AOA- An Adventure company that specializes in leading hikes in the Grand Canyon.