Best hiking trails for kids in Arizona

ather watches over his young child exploring the rock walls
A father watches over his young child exploring the rock walls of Hieroglyphic Trail covered in petroglyph rock art.

If you’re looking for ways to introduce your kids to hiking, it’s important to start them on trails that appeal to them. Get them out on trails that are not too long, nor too short. Kids like hikes that aren’t boring, but not too challenging either. They like to see cool stuff and go off trail to explore. Thankfully, numerous trails around Arizona meet these kid-friendly requirements.

I’m a member of several hiking groups online and one of the most common questions I see is where to take kids hiking. I’ve scoured the discussions and found many of best hiking trails for kids in Arizona, as recommended by hikers with youngsters. There are so many, I had to categorize them by region.

Pro tip: Many of the same trails that are good for kids are also good for seniors.

How to plan your Arizona hike with kids

  • Narrow down what part of the state you want to hike in
  • Scan the list below and make note of two or three of the trail names for that area
  • Search trail descriptions, mileage and photos on alltrails.com or hikearizona.com
  • Research whether passes, permits or parking fees apply
  • Plan your hike to avoid the hottest time of day
  • Pack plenty of water and snacks for all members of your party
  • Make it more fun by creating a scavenger hunt challenge

If a trail name below is clickable, it links you to a write-up with photos that I’ve posted on this site.

Phoenix area

Dreamy Draw Recreation Area

South Mountain Park

tight space between two boulders
Fat Man’s Pass is a kid friendly feature in the area of South Mountain Park known as Hidden Valley. Kids like to show their parents how easy it is to squeeze through this tight space between two boulders.

Papago Park

Kids love exploring the “caves” on Double Butte Loop.

Spur Cross Conservation Area

  • Dragonfly Trail
  • Jewel of the Creek
  • Metate Trail

Others

  • Waterfall trail at White Tank Mountains Regional Park
  • Landslide in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

East (of Phoenix) Valley

Usery Mountain Regional Park

  • El Peak (its the hill north of Usery mtn park, east side of the road)
  • Vista Trail
  • Wind Cave Trail

Wind cave is nice. There is a “cave” (more of a cove) at the top with squirrels and chipmunks living there.

  • Butcher Jones Trail, Saguaro Lake
  • Cat’s Peak, Mesa
  • Dynamite Trail, San Tan Mountain Regional Park
  • Garden Valley Loop, Tortilla Flat
  • Hieroglyphic Trail, Gold Canyon
  • Lone Mountain
  • Silly mountain, Apache Junction
  • Spook Hill

Butcher Jones Trail is easy & you just turn around when you get tired.


Flagstaff area

If you want to stay closer to Flagstaff with kids, Picture Canyon is nice. The trail is well defined, there’s a waterfall and petroglyphs to see.

  • Arizona Trail (west from Old Walnut Canyon Rd)
  • Aspen Loop (by Snowbowl Ski Area)
  • Brookbank (Mt. Elden trails area)
  • Elden Lookout Trail
  • Fatman’s Loop Trail
  • Griffith Spring
  • Lava Tube (you need headlamps and warm clothes)
  • Lockett Meadow
  • Old Caves Crater (lower part of O’Leary by Bonito Flow)
  • Picture Canyon
  • Priest Draw
  • Red Mountain
  • Sandys Canyon
  • Sunset Crater Volcano
  • Sycamore Rim
  • Veit Springs
  • Walnut Canyon Ruins

Mogollon Rim Country

Pinetop area

  • Old Hatchery Trail
  • Ice Cave Trail (Pinetop)
  • Thompson Trail #629 (45 min from Pinetop)

Old Hatchery Trail is very kid friendly. The trail head is in the parking lot for the Arizona Fish and Game Department. I also consider Springs Trail to be kid friendly.

Payson area

 

Sedona area

West Fork Oak Creek Trail winds in and out of the shady forest and across this gentle flowing creek.
Kids love West Fork Oak Creek Trail in Sedona. It winds in and out of the shady forest and across this gentle flowing creek.

Another nice flat & easy one for kids is Fay Canyon. About a mile in is a cool boulder that most kids like to climb.


Southern Mountains

San Pedro Riparian Preserve near Sierra Vista flat and easy for kids with beautiful scenery.

  • Garden Canyon
  • Huachuca Canyon
  • Parker Canyon Lake Loop
  • Miller Peak
  • San Pedro Riparian Preserve (Sierra Vista)

 

Tucson area

Your kids will love the water at Seven Falls. No scrambling, just switchbacks.  Make sure you stop and enjoy all of the water opportunities. It’s definitely kid friendly as long as they have the endurance forfour miles each way.

  • Douglas Springs
  • Garwood Dam
  • Hugh Norris Trail
  • King Canyon
  • Seven Falls

Elsewhere

There’s some elevation involved at Tonto Ruins, but the trail is all national park complete with some benches which we didn’t need, but they got use.

Large boulders emerge from Watson Lake near Prescott, AZ
Granite Dells of Watson Lake near Prescott, AZ features unlimited boulders to crawl upon and numerous trails that lead down to the water.

What trails are missing? Tell me in the comment box.

This is not intended to be a complete list. Help me grow it.

 

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9 Comments

  1. I used to work at Highland Free School, in Tucson, and we often took the kids out hiking, had 4 year olds rock scrambling up mountains. My son used to hike all over Tucson with me, Pima Canyon and others, hiking 8 miles at a time. He scrambled around Red Mountain with me, too.

    1. I love it when I see kiddos out on the trail, especially when the nearest trailhead is several miles away. It’s so much better for them than video games.

  2. You mention some great ones around Flagstaff. You might include Brookbank in that list. It’s in the Mt Elden trails area.
    I grew up in Bisbee and totally approve of your Southern Arizona list!

  3. Unfortunately so many kids now don’t play with toys, legos, cards, games, …nothing but screens. I used to rent the downstairs from a couple and they’d put their son in a stroller even when he was 4 to go a few blocks?!

  4. I really like the hike up Red Butte near Tusayan. It was easy enough when I was young. The loop past Paradise Forks is pretty easy too. It’s great when the falls are flowing.

      1. It is near Williams, somewhat. I think it is called the Sycamore Rim Trail. It is longer than what most kids would do but it is level and kids that are used to hiking should have no trouble.

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