These totally awesome hiking trails in Arizona don’t require a pass or permit

When it comes to spectacular hikes in Arizona, people often think of the world-famous destinations of Havasupai, Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon. One problem with those destinations is they require permits or passes that can be expensive and hard to get.

Three friends celebrate girl power after the strenuous hike up to the Wave Cave

Many of Arizona’s top hiking destinations require you to get a permit many months ahead of time

To hike in the Grand Canyon, a National Parks Pass is required. If you want to do a multi-day hike you’ll need luck on your side. The National Parks Service implemented a lottery system for permits which requires that you apply for a reservation 13 months in advance. If you “win” it will cost you big bucks for the experience.

It’s even harder to get a permit for Havasupai – the hiking experience famous for towering turquoise waterfalls on tribal lands in the western stretches of the Grand Canyon. That will set you back about $300 if you’re lucky enough to score a reservation on the one day they go up for sale – February 1 of each year.

Antelope Canyon, the mystical system of slot canyons shown below, requires advance reservations on a tour led by a Navajo guide. And it’s not cheap.

Man hiking "upstream" in a red sandstone slot canyon.
If you were to hike about 4 miles “upstream” from where the water meets sand, you would arrive at Lower Antelope Canyon location where only paying guests of a guided tour can go.
Want the inside scoop on more amazing places like this? Grab a copy of Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide.


Thankfully, there are plenty of fantastic hikes around Arizona that are totally free and totally awesome.

Thankfully, there are plenty of fantastic hikes around Arizona that are totally free and totally awesome. They require no pass or permit all. I reached out to some people in a hiking group I belong to and they helped me put together the list below.

These totally awesome hiking trails in Arizona don’t require a pass or permit

Wave Cave silhouette
After the climb up the steep trail to Wave Cave, the cool shade inside the cave offers a reprieve from the hot Arizona sun.

Phoenix & Central Arizona

Water trickles over rocks with petroglyphs on Hieroglyphic Trail
Water trickles over rocks with petroglyphs on Hieroglyphic Trail in Gold Canyon

North Central and Rim Country

waterfall pours over a rock ledge about ten feet high
This waterfall is one of many found along the Fossil Creek hike that makes it so awesome. No permit is required the months of October through April.
paved, tree-lined trail with blue sky in background
Rim Vista Overlook Trail on the Mogollon Rim promises amazing views for hikers of all abilities.

Northern Arizona

Southern Arizona

Elsewhere in Arizona

I’ve personally completed many of the hikes listed above and can attest most of them deliver world-class experiences. Pick a few and go check em out.

Want more hiking ideas?

Check out the AZ Wonders Hiking Guide

Hikes in places like the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon draw people from around the world to Arizona. They’re unforgettable experiences but they can be expensive and very challenging to get permits for. Try out a few of the hikes listed above and you’ll quickly see that you don’t need a permit to experience a world-class hike in Arizona.

3 Comments

  1. I clicked on the Red Mountain trail. That’s a different Red Mountain than the one I’ve hiked on and camped on many times. The one I’ve done is on the way to the Grand Canyon NW of Flagstaff and it is an old volcano.

    Great list.

  2. Wouldn’t be the first occasion of different trails with same name. I should do a blog post on that topic. 🤣

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