Find Your Best Hike

By local contributor
JoAnne Zeterberg

Whether you’re looking for easy trails brimming with photo ops or challenging tracks that will give you a great workout, you’ll find your perfect hike in Scottsdale. Below are a handful of local favorites to get you started.

Best Scenic Views

Easy: The Lost Dog Wash Trail in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve provides expansive East Valley views from the Lost Dog Overlook, which was an ancient Native American tool-making site. In spring, this trail is often awash with wildflowers.

Difficult: The Preserve also is home to Tom’s Thumb Trail, a challenging scenic track that climbs more than 1,300 feet in 2.5 miles through a wonderland of huge boulders. The trail offers excellent views of Tom’s Thumb, the most recognizable feature in the Preserve and a popular spot for rock climbers.

Great for Working Up a Sweat

In central Scottsdale, Camelback Mountain’s Cholla and Echo Canyon summit trails reward hearty, experienced hikers with intense workouts and panoramic city views.

The Sunrise Trail East in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a four-mile out-and-back hike that boasts a 1,150-foot elevation gain – great for burning off those extra calories. The views of the Valley from the peak are magnificent.

Ideal for Families

The Bajada Trail at the Gateway to Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is an easy 1/2-mile interpretive loop that’s family-friendly and ADA accessible. Add a short walk on the Saguaro Loop Trail to give kids a little more time out in the desert.

Best for Wildflowers & Birding

The Preserve’s Quartz Trail follows a large desert wash slowly uphill through a beautiful development for two miles and into the Preserve. This shady, slightly wetter wash often produces a great variety of wildflowers. The wash’s abundant vegetation also attracts a wide variety of desert birds.

Most Dog-Friendly

All of the trails in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve are open to hikers and their four-legged friends. Keep in mind that dogs, like people, have varying degrees of physical fitness so choose a trail that matches both your and your dog’s abilities and carry enough water for both of you.

Great Hiking/Climbing Combos

Pinnacle Peak Park offers breathtaking north Scottsdale views from its summit trail as well as a variety of traditional crack and bolted climbing routes on the namesake 200-foot granite peak and other formations like Cactus Flower and Y-Crack Boulder.

In Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Tom’s Thumb is a 150-foot granite pinnacle offering excellent cracks of all grades. The hike to Tom’s Thumb is strenuous and steep, but the breathtaking scenic views are worth the effort.

Good for Strolling

If you’d like to experience Sonoran Desert flora and fauna in a more urban setting, check out the Desert Botanical Garden’s five thematic paths, which illustrate topics like desert wildflowers, conservation, desert living, and plants and people of the Sonoran Desert. You’ll experience the beauty of desert flora and fauna within arm’s reach of urban amenities like the Garden Shop and Gertrude’s restaurant.

For more information on hiking in and around Scottsdale, including trail guides and maps, download your free copy of the Desert Discovery Guide.