Get outside and take a hike in Tempe, Arizona.
Wondering where to start? There are a plethora of hiking trails in the Tempe/Phoenix area. Here’s a quick guide to some of our favorite hiking trails.
Quick tips: Hiking in Tempe is a great way to get your steps in, but please do so safely! If you plan to hike a trail, please check the weather prior and plan accordingly. Bring plenty of water and don’t bring your dog with you if it’s over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. For more hiking tips, visit Arizona State Parks and Trails’ hiking safety page.
Papago Park offers several easy hikes, 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 it next to a ramada.
There’s another popular trailhead on the west side of Papago Park. You can access the Double Butte Loop, a great trail for mountain bikers and hikers, leading north towards the picturesque red buttes. 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.
The most well-traveled path in Papago Park is Hole-in-the-Rock trail, which leads to a very appropriately named feature. 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. Hole-in-the-Rock Trail is a quick hike, 5 to 10 minutes. This spot is bustling when the sun is setting, but the view from the top is just lovely.
Papago Park is great for hiking, biking and bringing your dog. View an overview of the park with more information on all the trails.
South Mountain Park
At 16,000-acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the country’s largest municipal parks. The trails on the park’s east side of can be accessed from 48th Street, just north of Guadalupe Road. You can also enter the Arizona Grand Resort off of Baseline and the I-10, 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 Marcos De Niza Trail. Just a few miles southwest of Tempe, this 1.7-mile loop trail is rated as moderate. It offers a fantastic view of the Phoenix desert landscape, including the wildflowers each spring. This trail is a great workout and perfect for a quick getaway from the city.
For those seeking the vantage point, but prefer to skip the hike, Dobbins Lookout is situated at the park’s highest publicly point (2,330) and is accessible by vehicle. Use the park’s the main entrance gate for easiest access (approx. 15-minute drive) and plan ahead because parking at the top is limited.
South Mountain trails vary from quick trips to longer hikes. Some trails are relatively flat, and others are steeper. Check the City of Phoenix website for more detailed information about South Mountain trails.
Perhaps one of the most conveniently located hikes is “A” Mountain (aka Hayden Butte), located in Downtown Tempe. Trailheads are located behind Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, off 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 look for the trailhead signs and stay on the marked paths. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the petroglyphs left by some of Tempe’s first inhabitants. The last part of the hike is steep, but the view from the top is an excellent reward for your effort. And, when you’re finished, the restaurants and taverns along Mill Avenue are ultra-convenient.
Although not a trail for biking, this is 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.
Another excellent spot for a hike is Piestewa Peak. It is a great leg workout for sure, but the views of the Valley from the top are amazing. Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area and Dreamy Draw Recreation Area surround the base of this mountain, so there are numerous trailheads in this area, including easier options. Visit their website for updates on their Trailhead Improvement Project to see the best entrance to your trail of choice. This trail continues for quite a way, 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 the more challenging hikes, Piestewa Peak is relatively 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.
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 challenges. This is not an easy climb, so come prepared with the right shoes and pack light. The Echo Canyon trailhead is located off McDonald Drive, just east of Tatum Boulevard. There are a few very steep climbs on this trail. It’s 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 can no longer queue in line and wait for a spot. The trail is open from sunrise to sunset for hikers to enjoy beautiful views of the city. Dogs are not permitted on either trail, but you will surely see your fair share of desert critters.
The Cholla Trailhead has been upgraded with a new trailhead and amenities, including a drinking fountain, restrooms and bike racks.
The Tempe Tourism Office encourages visitors to out Sonoran Desert landscapes to embrace the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace, which are the minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors.
These principles can be applied anywhere — from remote wilderness areas to local parks — and are especially important for the preservation of spaces that visitors frequent in and around Tempe. Each principle covers a specific topic and provides detailed information for minimizing impacts:
- Plan ahead & prepare
- Travel & camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts (where applicable)
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of others.