We have always loved the outdoors, but we’ve mostly snowboarded through different states. This pandemic has taught us the beauty of the desert. It took a lockdown for us to pick up hiking in Arizona as a hobby!
We picked up hiking shoes from REI, and it’s a world of difference! Ray got the Altra Lone Peak, and I got Keen Terradora II hiking shoes. Both have great grip and does well in trails that have a bit of water to hop through! If you’re planning on hiking, make sure to grab a pair of hiking shoes! They are safer and will help your stamina when doing a long hike!
Writing this made me realize we did more trails this year than I thought! Whether close to the city or travel a few hours, we will let you know some tidbits on a few hikes you can take in Arizona!
As always, pack it in pack it out, and keep it cleaner than you found it! Always bring your own personal trash bag with you to keep mother nature as beautiful as she is!
Now on to the trails!
Peralta Trail to Freemont Saddle
Gold Canyon, Arizona | 5.8 miles
We hiked this right before the lockdown in March. It was warm, crowded, but a great adventure! We got lost on the way back, and had a great time finding our way around! Make sure to come here early to beat the crowds! It has big beautiful views. The flowers were blooming around this time of year. There were a few water features in the beginning of the trail that I wasn’t expecting, so it brightened me up! The weather got a bit warm in the afternoon, but nothing we couldn’t handle. One thing we forgot was sunblock! We were sunburned after this hike as newbie hikers! You live and you learn! Our running shoes sufficed, but the need for hiking shoes were apparent.
Tempe, AZ | 2.2 miles
After a few months of lockdown, we decided it was time to get out before we go mental. It was July, and unfortunately in Arizona, it gets too hot to hike by 8am. I have a difficult time waking up early in the morning, so I wake up early enough to do a hike nearby. We grabbed our new hiking shoes for their maiden voyage and headed to Papago Park. Even though it’s a hike in the city, I’ve never seen this trail as too crowded. It is a wide trail with multiple pathways. It’s mostly flat in the beginning, but if you wanna get a view at the top, there are some gravel you have to carefully climb up through, and the hiking shoes did their job!
Wildhorse Pass Interpretive Trail
Chandler, AZ | 2.9 miles
This one is another hike we took within the city. We saw maybe 3 other couples along the trail, and that was it! Probably the trail least traveled by that we have seen this year. There are a few spots that were under a canopy of trees which is always welcomed in the Arizona heat! There is a man-made water feature at the end that you can view. Mostly flat and definitely very easy!
Mormon Trail Hidden Valley
Phoenix, AZ |3.4 miles
Our new hiking shoes felt broken into enough to hit up a longer, tougher trail. The Mormon Valley trail was perfect! It is an uphill rocky climb in the beginning, and it flattens out at the loop. We did this one in September, and it was starting to cool off, so there were quite a few people here around this time. It still got a bit hot around 9:30-10am. There is a cool rock formation at the loop called the “Fat Man’s Pass”. It’s a treat for a hike so close to the city!
Granite Mountain Trail
Prescott, AZ | 7.9 miles
It was finally time to leave the city and do a “serious” hike! This was probably the most challenging hike we did this year! The beginning of the hike is under a canopy of trees, and we even saw a deer! The rest of the trail is open, so in the Arizona heat, make sure you wear a hat and some sunblock! We passed by a few groups, but I wouldn’t say this is a crowded trail at the end of September at all. We got there around 8am and finished the trail around 3pm. We did stop to take photos and eat snacks quite a few times!
We learned a lot about the desert through our friendly guide, Sarafina! She grew up in Prescott, and finally took us around her hometown. We ate our first prickly pear! It sure was prickly! This was also when I found out that some trees smell like vanilla! Thanks, Sarafina, for making me appreciate the desert more after 20 years of living here!
Water Wheel Falls
Payson, AZ | 1.5 miles
The hike with the most water features of the year! We got to the trail at 7:30am, and the crowd formed as the hours went by. There were rivers and waterfalls throughout this hike! A lot of gravel and rocky formations to walk through. There was a very challenging path to cross a river on some slippery rocks halfway through the trail, so keep that in mind! Our shoes did well, but I can see how easily someone can get hurt here. After crossing the river is a big open space where you can take a nap, eat lunch, jump into Arizona’s freezing cold water. The water is cold all year, but even more freezing in October! You walk a few more, and you’ll see the waterfall and swimming area that everyone comes here for. We can see ourselves coming back here in the 100 degree heat to walk a little ways, and then jump into the freezing cold water in the summer!
West Fork Trail
Sedona, AZ | 7.5 miles
West Fork is arguably the most popular hike in Arizona. It is beautiful and easy, so it attracts a lot of people. We went mid-October for the autumn leaves. It was still a little green, but the deeper you go, the more color you will see! We parked between 7:30-8am, and the parking area was already full. We did find a nearby parking on the road, and by the time we walked to the parking area, spots had opened up.
I do believe coming here this early is well worth it because the sun hits the foliage perfectly. It became harsh around 10am. There were a lot of people, but it was pretty spread out, so it didn’t feel crowded. There are a lot of water pathways to go through, but nothing dangerous. We even had a doggo companion with us, and she made it through!
I wanted to take a photo everywhere, so if you’re anything like me, make this a whole day excursion! Bring your food, have a picnic!
Because of the holidays and birthdays, West Fork became our last hike of the year. We did come up with a list of hikes to do next year! Maybe even a crazy challenging one for us to train for! We are delighted to have picked up hiking. It is another way to see the world and unplug in the beauty of nature!
As always, keep it more beautiful than you found it!
How are you coping during this quarantine? Have you picked up a new hobby? Share yours below!