10 Best Desert Wildflower Hikes in Metro Phoenix

As British poet Leigh Hunt once said, “Colors are the smiles of nature.” Though we could say that the hues produced in autumn delightfully ease us into the winter months, the painted landscapes that come with spring often bring a boost to our sense of adventure. Lucky for us, Phoenix is surrounded by beautiful landscapes waiting to be explored. Here are 10 great Valley hikes where you'll find wildflowers in bloom.

A closer look at the unique construct of the purple-blue phacelia.
A closer look at the unique construct of the purple-blue phacelia.

Telegraph Pass Trail to Kiwanis Trail
Distance: 4.5 miles
Level of difficulty: easy
Average time: 1 to 2 hours

Not only is South Mountain the largest regional park in the country, it's also a great way to escape the hustle of the city within minutes. Its Telegraph Trail is not one to miss — especially when it comes to wildflowers. This hike begins on the southern side of the mountain, and, in fact, it's the only trailhead on that side. This is an out-and-back hike, and it connects to Kiwanis Trail. Adding Kiwanis to your trip will take an extra 40 minutes to an hour, but it's worth the easy trek if you have the time. These two trails will easily welcome you into an array of such colorful wildflowers as the cool, blue phacelia, coulter’s lupine, and the eye-catching intensity of the Mexican gold poppies. Besides wildflowers, this trail also offers a brief glimpse into history as you pass by a series of Hohokam petroglyphs.

The alluring globe mallow adds a playful sense adventure along your journey.
The alluring globe mallow adds a playful sense adventure along your journey.

Siphon Draw Trail
Distance: 6 miles
Level of difficulty: intermediate to difficult
Average time: 3 hours

This hike is packed with amazing views and a beautiful parade of wildflowers during the spring. Get a glimpse into history as you scale past the remnants of an old bunker from a mine that once operated in the area. Depending on winter rainfall, you might catch the sounds and sights of a seasonal waterfall. This is a popular trail, as the Superstitions are riddled with beautiful scenery as well as historical landmarks and plenty of folklore. But it is not for the timid, as there is quite a climb near the end of this out-and-back trail. Although, if you’re up to it, expect to be dazzled with a beautiful display of brittlebush flowers, poppies, lupine, and globe mallows. Overachievers, take note: The top of the Flatiron is less than a half-mile from the end of this trail, where you'll find a stretch of strawberry hedgehogs. This occurs most frequently in April and May.

This songbird, known as the Northern Cardinal, is just one of the many beauties among Cave Creek.
This songbird, known as the Northern Cardinal, is just one of the many beauties among Cave Creek.

Spur Cross and Maricopa Trail #252 Loop
Distance: 6.5 miles
Level of difficulty: intermediate
Average time: 3 hours

This loop is located just north of the city of Cave Creek. Besides being a beautiful wildflower hike, this trail opens up to a host of washes, springs, and canyons. This makes for a beautiful lineup of riparian vegetation alongside the blooming spring flora, which often includes bright yellows of the California Poppies, the pinks, oranges, and yellows that come from the Arizona Barrel Cactus in bloom, and the greens and yellows seen in the flowering Jumping Cholla. There will be some creek crossings as the route follows Cave Creek and with a pathway leading over a wooden bridge. For wildlife enthusiasts out there, don’t be surprised to hear the whistling chorus or spot the unmistakable fiery red of the Northern Cardinal. 

With the ability to grow 6 to 12 feet high, the Common Buttonbush can be a unique find on the Butcher Jones Trail.
With the ability to grow 6 to 12 feet high, the Common Buttonbush can be a unique find on the Butcher Jones Trail.

Butcher Jones Trail
Distance: 6 miles
Level of difficulty: Easy
Average time: 3 hours

This trek will scramble the senses a little bit; making the desert seem like a far away place with its cool temperatures, vegetation, and wildflowers. The trail winds around two of the northern arms of Saguaro Lake with views of Four Peaks, part of the Mazatzal mountains, and the Flatirons of the Superstition Wilderness Area. This easy hike is great for a family stroll, with opportunities to stop off and enjoy views of the lake alongside the remarkable flowering plants and trees. An interesting find here is the Common Buttonbush, familiar to desert washes and lakes. This bush is fragrant and can grow up to 12 feet tall, with a unique ball-shaped flower, usually white and yellow. Butcher Jones is an easy way to spend the day experiencing the diversity of Arizona’s desert landscapes.

Find the brilliant orange bloom of the Desert Mariposa Lily on the Windgate Bell Loop Trail.
Find the brilliant orange bloom of the Desert Mariposa Lily on the Windgate Bell Loop Trail.

Windgate Pass/ Bell  Pass Loop  
Distance: 9.7 miles round-trip
Level of difficulty: intermediate to difficult
Average time: 5.5 hours

Located in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, this combination of two pass trails makes for a very remote, open, and wildflower-filled trek. There is a significant elevation change throughout this hike, about 2,100 feet, which makes for an impressive diversity in vegetation. The trails offer outstanding views of Four Peaks, Tom’s Thumb, and the Superstition Mountains. In springtime, expect to see large open fields of bright yellow California poppies. Other notable flora include the orange tinge of the Calich Globemallow, the white flowers of the Desert Rosemallow, beautiful purple hues from the Mojave Lupine, and alluring yellow flowers associated with the Bird’s Foot Trefoil. A favorite on this trail is the Desert Mariposa Lily, with its brilliant orange flowers, a sight not to miss. Be sure to bring a camera.

Read on for more of the Valley's best wildflower hikes.



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