The new year is upon us, which means that metro Phoenix hiking trails are packed not only with seasoned trekkers, but resolutioners aiming to hike more in 2021.
With proper shoes, a good amount of water, and comfortable clothes, these five hikes (listed from easiest to most challenging) are feasible for any beginner looking to explore the desert trails in metro Phoenix.
A 1.6-mile flat trail through the north campground of McDowell Mountain Regional Park, this path is crisscrossed with many others that start around here. Despite the slight confusion at various forks in the road, it is a straightforward trail through washes and luscious desert. The path is particularly special in the spring, when the land is covered by huge patches of colorful wildflowers. Take in the views on this desert walk, as the McDowell Mountain range will provide a lovely backdrop to this meandering desert trail.
A multipurpose path that is just over a mile, the Big Butte Loop Trail is easily accessed via nearby popular destinations like the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden. Circumnavigating one of the larger sandstone buttes in the park, this trail begins at the Eliot Ramada and continues through the dry, red desert of Papago, passing the amphitheater on McDowell and gently curving back to the beginning. A level hike, the path is a geologist's dream, surrounded by interesting rock formations, though also providing us normal people with lovely views of the Valley and a nice desert escape in the middle of town.
The proximity to hiking trails is one of the best things about living in the Valley, and Lookout Mountain is just one example. The trail is located in a heavily residential area of north Phoenix, and it's a popular spot with hikers in that part of town. If you're new to hiking, you may want to stick to the Circumference Trail, which, as the name suggests, is a loop trail that goes around the mountain. The path is 2.2 miles without a lot of elevation gain, but if you want to challenge yourself, you can attempt to summit the mountain (it's an extra .9 miles up and down and involves some scrambling near the top). While on the Circumference Trail, don't forget to be on the lookout for some of the petroglyphs that dot the landscape.
This out-and-back trail is one of the longer ones on the list (2.2 miles each way), but the terrain has very little up-and-down, making it a good choice for novice hikers. Conveniently located near Shea Boulevard and 124th Street, Lost Dog is a popular trail, and on weekend mornings you'll encounter people of all ages (some with dogs), mountain bikers, and even the occasional horseback rider. The trail ends at an overlook; squint and you can see Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. There are several trails that fork off from Lost Dog; when you get a little more sure of yourself, try Sunrise or one of the other paths in the area.
This article originally appeared in 2013 and has been updated.