Outdoor and Active

Take a Hike, Tempe!

Papago Park

  • Papago Park offers several easy hikes to choose from and it’s easy to get to from any part of the Valley. The trailhead just west of the parking lot at College and Curry is an easy hike that provides views of downtown Tempe and Tempe Town Lake from the summits. This trail is also home to Loma del Rio, a Hohokam ruin. To get to the ruin, continue along the path towards the freeway, and then veer right. Once you pass the summit of the next hill, you’ll see the ruin next to a ramada.
  • There’s another popular trailhead on the west side of Papago Park. You can access it by turning west into the parking lot just across Galvin Parkway from the entrance to The Phoenix Zoo, located just north of Van Buren. Great for mountain bikers and hikers, this trail leads north towards the picturesque red butte.
  • And, perhaps the most well-traveled path in Papago Park leads to Hole in the Rock, a very appropriately named butte. You can get to this trail by entering The Phoenix Zoo parking lot. Turn left once you enter the zoo and continue until you see an additional parking lot near the butte, next to the lagoon. The trail to Hole in the Rock is a quick hike, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. This is a really popular spot, especially around the time that the sun is setting, but the view from the top is just lovely.
  • Papago Park is great for hiking, biking, bringing your dog and even horseback. View an overview of the park with some more information on all the trails.

South Mountain Park

  • The trails on the east side of South Mountain Park and Preserve, the country’s largest municipal park can be accessed from 48th Street, just north of Guadalupe Rd. You can also enter the Arizona Grand Resort off of Baseline and the I-10, and go south past the resort and golf course, turn right on Guadalupe and right on 48th Street. There are multiple trail options here, from flat paths to challenging climbs that are popular for hikers and bikers. One of my favorites is the National Trail to the Mormon Loop. It’s about 6 miles round trip. The main trail head at this location, Pima Canyon, reopened in January 2018 after renovation work was completed. Now, you’ll find more parking spaces and expanded restrooms and water bottle filling stations.
  • The trails vary from quick trips to longer hikes. Some trails are relatively flat and others are more steep. Check the City of Phoenix website for more detailed information about South Mountain trails.

Piestewa Peak

  • Another great spot for a hike is Piestewa Peak. Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area and Dreamy Draw Recreation Area surround the base of Piestewa Peak. There are numerous trailheads in this area, but the main one for the peak itself is located off of Lincoln Drive, just west of 24th Street. Turn east onto Squaw Peak Drive and look for the parking lot adjacent to the trail. It’s not an easy hike, but it is a rewarding climb. I’m also a fan of the trailhead off of 32nd Street, on the north side of Lincoln. This trail continues for quite a ways but of course you can choose the best stopping point for you. Be on the lookout for the sparkling white boulders along the path.
  • As one of more difficult hikes, Piestewa Peak is fairly steep and a great workout with views of Phoenix. View this map to see what others said about the trail and to learn more about Piestewa Peak.

“A” Mountain

  • Perhaps one of the most accessible hikes is “A” Mountain (aka Hayden Butte), located in Downtown Tempe. There are trailheads located behind Tempe Mission Palms Hotel off of Third and Fourth Street and Mill Avenue, behind the Hayden Flour Mill at Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway and behind the Tempe Transportation Center on Veterans Way and College Avenue. Like most trails in the area, this is a preserve, so just look for the trailhead signs and stay on the marked paths. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for petroglyphs that were left by from Tempe’s first settlers, the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People. The last part of the hike is steep, but the view from the top is a great reward for work well done. And, when you’re finished, the restaurants and taverns along Mill Avenue are ultra-convenient.
  • Although not the best trail for biking, this is definitely the one to hike for amazing views of Tempe and the surrounding desert. Bring your dog on a leash and enjoy the short and sweet hike that provides a great workout.

Camelback Mountain

  • This iconic landmark in Phoenix is said to look like a camel’s back (hence the name). There are two trailheads for Camelback Mountain, each with its own challenges. This is not an easy climb, so come prepared – flip flops will not serve you well. The Echo Canyon trailhead is located off of McDonald Drive, just east of Tatum Boulevard. There are a few very steep climbs on this trail. It’s definitely not for a beginning hiker. Going north on 44th Street past Camelback Road, the road will curve. Stay to the right and at the light at McDonald, continue east (right) and turn right on Echo Canyon Drive. There’s a parking lot at the end of the road. During peak hours, like weekend mornings, parking is at a premium so bring your patience along with your hiking boots! Hikers are no longer allowed to queue in a line and wait for a spot.
  • The Cholla trailhead is located off of Invergordon Road, just north of Chaparral Road. Parking is located along Invergordon south of Cholla Lane (in between Chaparral and Jackrabbit Road.) The trailhead can be accessed by walking west on Cholla Lane. This trail has a few more switchbacks than the Echo Canyon trail, but there are fewer spots where you’ll have to use your arms to pull yourself up the hill. Both the Cholla trail and Echo Canyon trail end at the same place – a summit with a gorgeous 360 view of the metro area.
  • Trails are open sunrise to sunset for hikers to enjoy beautiful views of the city. Dogs are no longer permitted on either trail, but you are sure to see your fair share desert critters. For more information on the trails at Camelback Mountain, head over to their website.

Are there other trails that you like that I didn’t mention? Please comment below. I’d love to hear about your favorites!

Toni Smith
Written Toni Smith

An Arizona native, Toni Smith loves to dine out, conquer hiking trails, go to concerts and survive hot yoga classes. She has also never met a dog she didn’t love instantly. She lives in Tempe with her husband and daughter.