For those looking to escape the Valley's heat, we introduce some hikes just a bit north and therefore a bit cooler in these summer months. Here are three (of countless more) options for beautiful and accessible trails for the hikers among us who aren't loving the weather right now.
Sandy's Canyon Trail A brief path that leads to a cross-state trail just outside Flagstaff, Sandy's Canyon packs plenty of photo opportunities in its two-mile roundtrip. From the trailhead, the hike begins with spectacular views of the San Francisco Peaks and then descends into both Sandy's Canyon and Walnut Canyon, passing through ponderosas and aspens along the descent. The treat at the end of the trail is not that it levels out, but that at this point, huge petrified sand dunes provide a magnificent sight reminiscent of the Grand Canyon's cliffs. The end of the trail is marked by its intersection with the Arizona Trail, which can be followed for more adventures.
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West fork oak creek This popular, easy, and well-marked trail north of Sedona is a perfect escape from the heat for a hiker at any level of experience. At six miles roundtrip, West Fork Oak Creek trail follows the creek bed through canyon walls and lush tree life that offers plenty of shade in the summer time. The red hues of the canyon are incentive enough to explore this trail, but the creek at your feet is a glorious addition, especially for Valley-dwellers who are only used to highly chlorinated pools or creeks started by flash floods. Plus, for the more experienced hikers, there is a longer 11-mile option at the end of the initial three marked miles that reveals beautiful waterfalls and more pools for swimming.
Vishnu Trail And for those of you heat-hiders just looking for a stellar view, Vishnu Trail has a beautiful one. Though very brief and not difficult, this 1.1-mile path gives an amazing view of the Grand Canyon without the bother of all the tourists. Plus, the drive to get there is a scenic journey itself. The trailhead is right next to the Grandview Fire Tower, a worthwhile climb for its namesake view, and continues through a lush forest typical of the northern parts of our state, filled with ponderosas and oaks. It doesn't take long for the views to appear, as the southern view of the canyon and Vishnu Temple quickly become apparent. And to add to the scenery, the end of the trail is a vista with a nice wooden bench to take in the views in privacy.
So beat the heat and try out these easy hikes just a short drive north of here. Also, do take a gander at the our top picks for water hikes and the guide to climbing Humphrey's Peak for some other options. And don't forget that waking up early can reveal a cool morning hike right here in town (it was 75 degrees at 5 a.m. yesterday morning, we swear), but do be careful and prepared in these hot summer months. And, no matter how cool it is, don't forget your water.