Discover Arizona’s best
Tips for hiking in Arizona
Don’t overthink it: Hiking is basically walking on an unpaved surface. It requires no special skills or equipment to get started. The important thing is to go places within your comfort zone and capabilities. That said, considering Arizona’s unique desert terrain and climate, here are a few guidelines all hikers should follow:
Choose smart footwear
Hiking shoes or boots are nice to have, but not necessary for all hikes. Sandals or flip flops are not advisable. Wear shoes with sturdy soles that cover your toes and heels completely. You’ll appreciate the protection from the rocky terrain and “pokey” plants that make up the Arizona landscape.
Plan for hydration
Carry plenty of water on your hike. A good rule of thumb is 16 ounces of water per three miles. Multiply that by 1.5 to 2 for summer hikes or if you’ll be hiking terrain with steep inclines.
Tip: In summer months, freeze a bottle of water, or two, ahead of time to carry with you.
Holding an ice cold bottle to your head or back of your neck provides instant relief from the heat. As the ice thaws, you’ll have cold, fresh water to quench your thirst.
Know your limitations and stay within them
Avoid hiking during extreme heat or cold. All too often, ambitious hikers in Arizona need to get hauled off the trail by rescue crews due to heat exhaustion, especially in the summer months. It can also get unexpectedly cold in the after the sun goes down at higher elevations, and at lower elevations during winter months.
Unless you’re doing a loop, hiking to your turnaround point is only half of the journey. You still have to hike back to your starting point.
What you go up, you must come down. Sometimes scrambling up a steep rock face seems like a good idea – until you get up there. Getting down is often more challenging than going up.
In the Grand Canyon, the rule is the opposite. As the sign below cautiouns, “Going down is optional, up is mandatory.”
Rules to remember when hiking Grand Canyon
Leave no trace
Help keep Arizona beautiful – and keep more wild places open to the public. Remember these simple rules when exploring the outdoors:
- Take only pictures, leave only footprints
- Pack in, pack out
- Don’t bust the crust
Recommended hikes by region
- Northern (Grand Canyon)
- North Central (Rim country)
- Phoenix & Central
- West Coast
- Tucson & Southern
Cities in this region: Flagstaff, Tusayan, Williams, Winslow, Page Kayenta, Monument Valley, Show Low
Grand Canyon is the highlight of this region, but also impressive are Horseshoe Bend near Page and the many trails of Monument Valley.
- This challenging Grand Canyon hike offers an unforgettable experience with no permit required
- Practical tips for hiking Grand Canyon down South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch and up Bright Angel Trail
- Hiking Grand Canyon rim to rim: Good, bad and ugly
- Read this before you go see Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ
- 3 reasons to put Hanging Garden Trail near Page on your Arizona bucket list
- The Wave is a rare treat for anyone lucky enough to score a permit
- 8 tips for hiking to see the amazing Keet Seel Canyon ruins of Arizona’s Navajo Nation
Cities in this region: Sedona, Prescott, Jerome, Camp Verde, Payson, Globe
Arizona’s North Central region is known for the red rocks of Sedona, the spring-fed Verde River and the Ponderosa Pine gladed Mogollon Rim.
- Hike Airport Mesa Loop for 360-degree views of Sedona’s spectacular red rock formations
- Conquer the short, steep Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona for spectacular views of red rock landscape
- It’s hard to beat Sedona’s Fay Canyon Trail for variety and views
- Hike the back way to Soldiers Pass in Sedona on Cibola Pass Trail from Jordan Trailhead
- Fall color explodes on Oak Creek West Fork Trail in Sedona
- When temperatures rise, locals hike to The Crack swimming hole on Wet Beaver Creek near Sedona
Phoenix & Central
Cities in this region: Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, Glendale
Whether you live in the “Valley of the Sun” or are just visiting Arizona’s most populated area, you don’t have to leave the city to find spectacular hiking trails of all challenge levels. Plenty of world-class hikes can be found less than 30 miles from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix.
- Ultimate interactive guide to Phoenix Desert Preserves and Mountain Parks
- This mellow hike to Lost Ranch ruins in Phoenix South Mountain Park is just right
- Best short hike in Phoenix: Mormon Trail to Hidden Valley and Fat Man’s Pass in South Mountain Park
- Phoenix Summit Challenge can take you to new heights
- Challenging Wave Cave Trail is an Arizona favorite for pictures
- Balanced Rock in North Scottsdale boggles the mind
- Hieroglyphic Trail an easy path to petroglyphs and waterfalls in the Superstition Mountains
- Legend says shadow of Weavers Needle points way to gold in Superstition Mountains
Cities in this region: Kingman, Bullhead City, Parker, Lake Havasu City and Oatman.
Arizona’s “West Coast,” as it’s referred to in some travel brochures, is the swath of land that runs along the Colorado River, which forms the state’s western border. Although area is better known for boating and paddling, there are some very worthwhile trails to hike, too.
- Arizona (Ringbolt) Hot Springs
- Crack Trail in Lake Havasu City’s SARA Park takes you through a slot canyon, to the lakeshore
- Kaiser Hot Spring is good medicine
Tucson & Southern
Cities in this region: Tucson, Tombstone, Bisbee, Sierra Vista, Safford and Tubac.
To the surprise of many Arizona visitors, much of the southern region of the state is a higher elevation than the Phoenix area. It’s also pretty mountainous. Cities and towns in Southern Arizona include Tucson, Tombstone, Bisbee, Sierra Vista, Safford and Tubac.
- Blackett’s Ridge
- Bridal Wreath Falls
- Heart of Rocks Loop at Chiricahua National Monument
- Lower Tanque Verde Falls
- Mount Wrightson
- Sabino Canyon Dam
Gear you might need to hike in Arizona
When just starting out, a pair of sturdy athletic shoes are adequate for most people. Once you decide to take on bigger challenges (i.e. longer hikes or steeper terrain), you might want to start investing in gear to help you accomplish your goals.
Sunglasses and a hat that shades and neck should be part of every ensemble when you hike in Arizona.
Outfit yourself from the ground up
- Hiking shoes and socks
- Under clothing
Get out there
Home to Grand Canyon, Sedona and so many more geological marvels, it’s now wonder Arizona is one of the top hiking destinations in the world. Thankfully, no special skills or equipment are required to participate. All need is the desire, some sturdy shoes and drinking water to get out there and explore. The resources on this page can help you plan your next hike.
About the author
In 2014, Paul Fiarkoski went on a hiking trip to world-famous Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon. After three days of hiking and wading in the turquoise pools beneath 100-foot waterfalls, his perspective of Arizona changed forever. He created an Arizona bucket list and began checking places off.
Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide & Journal includes his list of top 50 natural wonders.