Best Hikes in Phoenix for Beginners

by Jenna Lee
View of Camelback Mountain in Arizona Photo Credit: Visit Phoenix

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Even Beginners can Enjoy Some of the Best Hikes in Phoenix

Phoenix offers a unique desert landscape. The combination of mountains, canals, and world-class city parks makes this city one of the top hiking destinations in the United States. While Phoenix often gets overlooked as a destination meant for more experienced outdoor travelers, and is certainly a mecca for those who love the great outdoors, the multitude of trails provide opportunities for every age, ability, and skill level. So, If Phoenix is on your bucket list but you’re intimidated by the popular (and challenging) hikes in the area such as Echo Canyon Trail at Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, stick around and read this article. There’s a hike for everyone in Phoenix and these are just a few of the best hikes in Phoenix for beginners.

This sponsored post was written in partnership with Visit Phoenix to help readers like you learn more about what the area has to offer.

Hike the Arizona Canal Trails through Phoenix

The Arizona Canal Trails stretch 39 miles from Mesa’s Granite Reef Dam east of Scottsdale all the way west to Peoria. The canal trails are fairly level making it one of the best hikes in Phoenix for beginners. It is also ideal for hikers who want to enjoy an off-road experience without the incline. There are a number of stops along the trail at which to enter and exit. You can view the map here. Of course, you can always plan a round trip hike too. Simply turn around at any point along the trail. 

A great place to begin on the Arizona Canal Trail is at Arizona Falls. Located between 56th Street and 58th Street at G.R. Herberger Park, the 20-foot natural drop in the canal’s water flow has drawn visitors for decades. Back in the 1800s, Phoenicians spent time by the Falls picnicking and partying by the water. Today, Arizona Falls is one of the city’s multi-use projects. The combination of art, history, and technology create an environment for learning and socializing while producing clean energy using water from the canal.

Explore Stunning Arcadia to Historic Biltmore

From Arizona Falls, hike west through the Arcadia Neighborhood toward Arcadia Park. This portion of the trail will lead you through a citrus grove lined with rows of with well-appointed, pre-1950’s estate homes. Since these home are nestled in the shadows of the Camelback Mountain, you’ll have plenty of views both up close and at a distance. 

Once you reach 50th street, veer ever so slightly off the path and refuel with a local brew at O.H.S.O. Brewery and Distillery. Continue on to 40th Street and you’ll find a delicious brunch or lunch at Chelsea’s Kitchen. If you’re up for a longer excursion, further you hike west to the Arizona Biltmore A Waldorf Astoria Resort in Phoenix. The distance between Arizona Falls and the Arizona Biltmore is approximately 4.8 miles; however, you can enter and exit at many points. Otherwise, complete a roundtrip at whatever distance you are comfortable.

View of Camelback Mountain at sunset in Phoenix, Arizona
Camelback Mountain. Photo Credit: Visit Phoenix

Double Butte Loop at Papago Park

Just minutes from Downtown Phoenix, the Double Butte Loop trail is an easy trail in West Papago Park. Beginning and ending near the West Park parking lot, it circles the parks popular sandstone buttes. This trail is just shy of 2.5 miles and offers an excellent overview of the area. The minimal elevation gain makes Double Butte Loop an easy trail for novice hikers as well as families to navigate.

Where can I see the Phoenix skyline?

Before leaving Papago Park, complete the short hike up to one of the most popular lookouts in Phoenix. The Hole-in-the-Rock Trail is an easy hike suitable for the whole family. Read more about it below.

Before you leave Papago Park, extend your time outdoors with a quick hike up Hole-in-the-Rock Trail. Through erosion, the openings formed in the sandstone have become the park’s most popular lookout point. The one-of-a-kind views at the end of the trail make this short hike well worth the bit of extra effort. Hole in the Rock, only .2 miles in distance, is also light on elevation and enjoyable for all ages.

Papago Park, named a Phoenix Point of Pride, is best-known for its unique sandstone formations called buttes. They are said to be formed anywhere from 6 to 15 million years ago. These red buttes are distinctive and a fascinating look at geology. It is also home to two of the regions most visited attractions. The world-class Phoenix Zoo as well as the stunning Desert Botanical Gardens are both located within Papago Park.

Hole in the Rock at Papago Park is one of the best hikes in phoenix for beginners
Hole in the Rock, Papago Park. Photo Credit: Visit Phoenix, Jill Richards
View from Hole in the Rock, Phoenix Arizona.
View from Hole in the Rock. Photo Credit: @hikingstylist, Visit Phoenix

Judith Tunnel Accessible Trail 

Short and sweet, the Judith Tunnel Accessible Trail at South Mountain Park and Preserve may be the easiest of these hikes. Aside from being one of the best hikes in Phoenix for beginners, it is also the most accessible as it accommodates wheelchairs and strollers. The full trail consists of two loops – the Interpretive Loop and the Challenge Loop – combining to make a one-mile roundtrip journey. The first loop, Interpretive Loop, features signage throughout the trail describing the various flora and fauna while the Challenge Loop features grades up to 8.5%.

While you’re visiting South Mountain Park, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the regions vegetation, wildlife, history, and the importance of conservation. The South Mountain Environmental Education Center is located on the north side of the park. Here, you can explore interactive exhibits and gain a better understanding of the Sonoran Desert.

Hike or Drive to Dobbins Lookout for Stunning City Views

For panoramic views and epic sunsets, follow Summit Road up to Dobbins Lookout. This 5.5-mile scenic drive will lead you to the highest accessible point (2330 feet) at South Mountain Park. Of course, if you would prefer to maintain the outdoor experience, you can reach the summit on foot. Hike the Holbert Trail through the saguaros and canyons and, finally, up to Dobbins Lookout for a stunning view of Phoenix. The Holbert Trail is about 4 miles round trip and of moderate difficulty mainly due to the incline as you complete the ascent. For beginners who can manage the distance, this too is one of the best hikes in Phoenix.

View of Downtown Phoenix from South Mountain Park and Preserve.
Downtown Phoenix from South Mountain Park. Photo Credit: Visit Phoenix

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