Hikers could hike a new trail every day of the month, with more than 60 available in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Some trails are rated “extremely difficult” by the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, like the climb of the 2,608-foot Piestewa Peak in the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area, or the Echo Canyon or Cholla trails, each of which summits the 2,704-foot Camelback Mountain.
Other trails are rated “moderate,” with an elevation change over areas of uneven surfaces, obstacles of 8” or less, and rocks and ruts. Most trails, aside from the well-known summit trails, are dog-friendly and easy to maneuver, like the popular 8A Quartz Ridge Trail at 32nd Street and Lincoln Drive, or the longer, moderately difficult Freedom Trail 302 around Piestewa Peak. No matter what kind of trail hikers are looking for, the Phoenix Mountains Preserve offers a wide variety.
In early October, the City of Phoenix celebrated the grand opening of new and upgraded amenities as part of the ongoing Piestewa Peak Trailhead Improvement Project. Reconfigured and expanded parking areas, a new 104-foot-long vehicle/pedestrian bridge, restrooms, ramadas, a ranger station and a 60-foot-tall entry monument were added to the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. The Mohave Trailhead’s ramada is currently under construction, but all trails are still open to the public.
The Mohave Connector Trail links to Mohave Trail 200, a 1.7-mile lightly trafficked out and back trail, as well as 8A. Those who are familiar with the area know how to create a loop, connecting Trail 200 to 202; 8A to 8B, the Ruth Hamilton Trail; and to 304, a nature hike that leads to the furthest end of the Phoenix Mountains parking lot at 2701 E. Squaw Peak Dr.
The Hiking Project app, created by REI, catalogs trails shared by other hikers and lists a 3.8-mile loop around Phoenix Mountain Preserve, which includes a 917-foot ascent and descent. This app and others such as All Trails or Map My Hike can help hikers decide where to go, provide directions on how to get there and offer recommendations by other hikers. For more: alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona or mapmyhike.com.
Two easy-rated trails to try are the popular Hole-in-the-Rock Trail and the Papago Park Nature Trail, both located at Papago Park in between the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden. The nature hike is a half-mile with only a 20-foot elevation change. Hole-in-the-Rock is 0.2 miles with an elevation gain of 200 feet.
The nature trail guides hikers along a bordered pathway in the heart of Papago Park. Signs identify some of the native plants in the Sonoran Desert. The Hole-in-the-Rock Trail features a natural dirt and step path to a large, wind-eroded hole in a butte, which has a view of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
8A Quartz Ridge Trail is a moderately difficult, out-and-back 1.7-mile trail that includes a few switchbacks and a 500-foot climb. It’s a dog-friendly trail, but only has parking spots for two dozen cars.
Another option is to park on 36th St., north of Lincoln Dr., and hike to 8A from 8B, the Ruth Hamilton Trail, 0.9 miles with an elevation change of 430 feet. For a challenge, hikers can try the Mohave trails 200 and 202. A little further away, but worth exploring, is Trail 308, the Lookout Mountain Circumference Trail. This 2.6-mile loop, rated “moderate/difficult,” has an elevation change of 1700-feet. Dreamy Draw Recreation Area at 2421 E. Northern Ave. is another popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers and people with dogs.
When hiking to the summits of Camelback or Piestewa, be aware that both are rated “extremely difficult.” On a clear, sunny day, the 360-views from either summit are worth the climb, but hikers should make sure to wear sunscreen and bring sufficient water. Gloves are a good idea too, especially for the boulder climbing on the Echo Canyon side of Camelback.
Read the “Take a Hike. Do it Right” safety guidelines on the Phoenix Parks and Recreation website for more information.
All trails remain open during the five-year infrastructure improvement plan for the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, which started in summer 2017. For more: