Arizona Hiking Guide

Discover Arizona’s best
hiking experiences

Tips for hiking in Arizona

  • Plan your route ahead of time
  • Stay within your comfort zone
  • Wear shoes with sturdy soles
  • Bring plenty of water with you
  • Avoid hiking during extreme heat or cold
  • Leave no trace

Don’t overthink it: Hiking is basically walking on an unpaved surface. It requires no special skills or equipment to get started. To avoid getting lost or stranded, plan your route ahead of time and 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

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. Hiking shoes or boots are nice to have, but not necessary for all hikes. Sandals or flip flops are not advisable.

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.

If you’re hiking more than a 2 or 3 miles, it’s smart to pack a few snacks, too. Opt for foods high in sodium to retain water and carbs for quick boosts of energy.

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.

Recommended reading: Nobody intends to get lost when hiking but here’s how to prepare in case it happens to you

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

color shaded map of Arizona with five regions
  • Northern (Grand Canyon)
  • North Central (Rim country)
  • Phoenix & Central
  • West Coast
  • Tucson & Southern

Northern

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.

North Central

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.

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.

West Coast

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.

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.


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
  • Pants/shorts
  • Shirts
  • Packs
  • Accessories

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.

Want the inside scoop on more amazing places like this? Grab a copy of Arizona Bucket List Adventure Guide.

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.

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