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Favorite Phoenix Metro Area Hikes

By Brian J. Lane

Back in the early nineties, before moving up to northern Arizona, I spent a couple of years in the Valley of the Sun. I quickly learned that the greater Phoenix area has many excellent choices in hiking trails. In case you’re new to the area and you’ve been considering getting out and taking in a good hike, I thought I’d share three of my favorites.

Hidden Valley Tunnel

Shaw Butte
The trailhead for Shaw Butte is located at the end of Central Avenue, on the south side of Thunderbird Road.

Since I lived in the Glendale area this trail was a little closer to my end of town, and save for the usual parking problems, it was relatively uncrowded. With about a 500 feet climb right off the bat, this trail can get your heart pumping, and you can hike it as a nice four mile loop too. Highlights of this trail include nice views of downtown Phoenix, some wonderful desert terrain, and visiting the concrete foundation of the old “Cloud Nine” restaurant.

Piestewa Peak via Freedom Trail
This trailhead is located next to the Apache picnic area, at the far end of the parking lot in the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation area (Glendale Avenue and Piestewa Peak Drive).

Taking the Freedom Trail (formerly knows as the Circumference Trail) gets you away from the masses climbing to the Piestewa Peak summit, for at least a little while. The trail wraps around the north and west side of Piestewa Peak and meets up with the Summit Trail—exiting the trailhead via the Summit Trail. Total mileage is about 4.5 miles if you include climbing to the summit. Highlights include desert terrain, lots of people to socialize with, and a healthy climb of nearly 1,500 feet.

National Trail (including Hidden Valley) via Pima Canyon
The Pima Canyon Parking Area is located at 9904 S. 48th Street and Guadalupe Road; the trailhead is at the west end of the lot.
This trail is over fourteen miles in total length, although it is not advised to try to complete this trail, back and forth, as a day hike, (bicyclists use this trail too, so extra caution should be taken when hiking this trail). What most day hikers would normally do is set a turn around time, travel up the trail until you hit that time, then simply turn around and head back the same way you came. Or you can use the Hidden Valley side trail as a small loop, since it rejoins the National Trail. Highlights include desert terrain, a remote wilderness feel, and squeezing through Fat Man’s Pass. This trail is also the least crowded of the three trails (which still means it is very busy on weekends).

There you have it…just a few of my favorite hikes in the Phoenix metro area that can help keep you healthy, and get you out and enjoying our beautiful Arizona environment. And remember what Edward Abbey said: “There is this to be said for walking: It’s the one mode of human locomotion by which a man proceeds on his own two feet, upright, erect, as a man should be, not squatting on his rear haunches like a frog.”

Hike Smart & Have Fun!

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