7 Best Trails For Night Hiking in Metro Phoenix

It’s an extraordinary feeling, being out of the city and surrounded by wilderness as the sun begins to set. The desert comes alive in a whole new way. The beautiful colors of the sun begin to fade while the moon rises to help light the way. The birds suddenly quiet as the crickets make their presence known. The breezes hold a sense of mystery while shadows position themselves in the landscape. Night hiking is a great way to see the desert in a whole new light – or, well, darkness – and to help in forging your next evening trek, here are seven great trails for night hiking in the Phoenix metro area.

Note: The desert is quite different at night and certain precautions should be taken; for a few safety measures, see our tips for night hiking.

Apache Vista Loop Trail
Phoenix Sonoran Preserve
Park Hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Distance: 2.9 miles round trip
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Average Time: 1 to 1.5 hours

This is a great hike for catching one of Arizona’s breathtaking sunsets. At just under three miles, the Apache Vista Loop Trail offers an easy nature walk through the park. With slow ascending stretches for the first mile, you'll get far-reaching views of the desert. From there, the final half-mile jaunt to the peak opens up to amazing 360-degree views of this northern region of the Valley. Be sure to bring a camera, as these sunset views tend to be nothing less than outstanding.

Piestewa Peak
Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreational Area
Park Hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (trails open until 11 p.m.)
Distance: 2.4 miles round trip
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Average Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Piestewa is the second-highest peak in Phoenix with an elevation of 2,608 feet – a mere 100 feet shy of Camelback Mountain. This hike will have you working for the views – but they are well worth it. With a total elevation gain of just under 1,200 feet, this trek is a stair-stepping, switchback effort to the top. Once you get there, the views of the Valley are awe-inspiring. Add a sunset or the night lights of the city, and you’ve got a whole new experience. 

Alta Trail
South Mountain Regional Park
Park Hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (trails open until 11 p.m.)
Distance: 9 miles round trip
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Average Time: 5 hours

If you are looking to spend a little time under the night/evening sky, this may be the trail for you. At 9 miles out and back, this trail elevates you about 1,100 feet within the first mile to mile and a half. The views on the way up are incredible (and might have you thinking less about heart rate). The trail roams the north ridgeline, showing off dusky views of the west side of the Valley and the Estrella Mountains. It’s pretty nice to find this much solitude this close to the city.

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Sara Palmer is a local improviser, writer, teacher, and storyteller. You can commonly find her exploring the surrounding wilderness areas of Phoenix.
Contact: Sara Palmer