Hiking in the Valley of the Sun
Phoenix is home to some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country. Broken up by distant mountain ranges and some stunning, one-off peaks, this otherwise flat region is so unique it’s almost otherworldly.
If you have a few days off in Phoenix and want to get some exercise, you won’t be disappointed spending them exploring the outdoors…and that doesn’t mean the Phoenix outdoor mall.
Black Mountain Trail
This 2.3-mile trail is rated as hard by AllTrails, but don’t let this deter you. Remember, nothing worth doing is easy! And this trail is definitely worth doing! The trailhead is located near Cave Creek, just a few miles north of Phoenix, and is hiked as an out-and-back. Starting at the base of Black Mountain, the trail climbs gradually to the summit, leading hikers to a phenomenal 360-degree view of the valley and mountains beyond.
But you don’t have to wait long for a payoff as views to the east and west surround you for the full ascent. In the more immediate vicinity, you can examine giant black boulders, cholla cactus, Yucca plants, Saguaro cactus, and a variety of other “crispy” plants. If you’re lucky, you’ll see lizards, and if you’re even luckier, you won’t see any of the 13 varieties of rattlesnakes native to Arizona.
As with all hiking adventures, be smart and bring some water – preferably a hydration backpack so you don’t have to carry a bottle. The trail, though well-traveled, can be steep with loose rocks in some areas, so wear running or hiking shoes with “knobby” tread to be safe.
Hole-in-the-Rock Trail at Papago Park
For an adventure in the city that feels like you’re far, far away, head over to Papago Park just off of Galvin Parkway. This beloved landmark houses a collection of strange red sandstone formations with, well, holes in them. These natural buttes can be explored by way of a short hiking trail that starts in West Park.
But the good stuff is on the east side, just across the street. A short trek will lead you to the famous hole-in-the-rock where you can climb around in a cave and peep through its openings. Papago Park’s trails are all very gentle, offering easy hikes for those looking for something relaxing rather than strenuous. You’ll soon understand how the holes were made in the sandstone, as an almost-constant wind blows through as you peer at the city in the distance.
Judith Tunnel Trails in the South Mountain Preserve
The Judith Tunnel Accessible Trails are fully paved and accessible for those with wheelchairs as well as strollers. From the Central Avenue entrance, this 1.3-mile section of trail winds through the desert wilderness and allows for frequent stops to read informational plaques and take in the stunning views. The nearby Holbert trail is unpaved and connects with an extensive network of desert trails that allow hikers to traverse nearly every portion of the preserve, from Dobbins Lookout to Maricopa Peak.
The best time to explore the area is when the temperature cools down and the colors start to saturate on the horizon. Sunset and sunrise offer some unforgettable moments (and photo ops!) for those willing to plan ahead and arrive at just the right time.
You’re going to be hungry after all that outdoors-ing. Here are some local recommendations for places to refill your belly after a hard day on the trails. And for some indoor recreation, check out these great live music venues in Phoenix.
Here are driving directions between Papago and the Anteater home office.