Cave Creek Regional Park is a great place for a half-day hike.
Cave Creek Regional Park is a great place for a half-day hike.
Zaida Dedolph

5 Great Beginner Hikes in Metro Phoenix

According to a new survey by Mashable and Match.com, "hike" is the most commonly used word in online dating profiles in the state of Arizona. We believe it — and with so many gorgeous desert trail options in or near Phoenix, we can't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to go take a hike. If you're new to the Valley, or if you're just getting started at the hiking game, here's a list of relatively easy local trails to get you started.

Piestewa Peak: Nature Trail
The Piestewa Peak summit trail can be a little daunting — especially to new hikers. It's often crowded with zealous, experienced climbers and impatient trail runners. But the view from the top isn't the only thing that Piestewa has to offer. Many of the back trails are less congested, more casual, and equally as beautiful as the peak. We like the Nature Trail; it's a nice, easy one-and-a-half-mile loop that is teeming with local flora and fauna. There aren't too many steep inclines either, so the Nature Trail is a nice option for folks who might be looking to take it easy, or those with injuries.

Cave Creek Regional Park: Go John Trail
If you're not familiar with Cave Creek Regional Park, you should be. The area, located off of 32nd Street and the Carefree Highway, is beautifully maintained and offers great scenic views of the Valley. The Go John Trail is a long-ish loop — about five miles — that can be combined with the Overton Trail for a nice six-mile hike. The inclines on this trail are gradual — long, slow upward hauls are followed by flat stretches. The trail runs along a ridge on the side of the mountain, and offers a beautiful outlook from every angle.

Cactus blossoms at Piestewa Peak.
Cactus blossoms at Piestewa Peak.
Zaida Dedolph

South Mountain: Pima Wash Trail
South Mountain has a lot going on. The preserve offers options for hikers of all levels, and lots of trees and big boulders make for a nice, shady experience. For beginners, we recommend the Pima Wash Trail. This quiet route is an beautiful three-and-a-half-mile romp through the desert. The underfoot soil is sandy, but large boulders lining the trail feature ancient petroglyphs and are home to all kinds of local wildlife.

Superstition Mountains: Peralta Trail
At 12.4 miles, the Peralta Trail is the longest trail on this list but also arguably the most beautiful. If you're in to Lost Dutchman Lore, this is the hike for you. The trail starts off at a gradual incline, then gets progressively steeper approaching the Fremont Saddle, a crest overlooking Boulder Canyon (creative name, guys) and Weaver's Needle (of Lost Dutchman Fame). Past this point, Peralta trail follows along Boulder Canyon, joining the Dutchman Trail at the bottom. The Dutchman Trail can be followed out of the canyon to form a steeper, more difficult loop, or you can go back out just the way you came.

McDowell Mountain Park: North Trail
If you want a great glimpse into how ecologically unique our native , look no further than the North Trail at McDowell Mountain Park. This particular trail is pretty easy, and comes in just under three miles. The real thrill comes from seeing the thriving plant and animal life around the trail - go soon to catch the saguaros blooming, birds migrating, and butterflies butterflying.

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