It could be tempting to dismiss the idea of hiking through Arizona’s arid landscape and sticking to a road trip. But what you’ll soon discover from behind the wheel is a state that is so much more than tumbleweeds and hot, burning afternoons.
Arizona is a state packed with incredibly diverse nature, and its hiking trails are the best way to explore. It’s not just the Grand Canyon either, hiking in Arizona will let you bear witness to a natural world of slot canyons, historic ruins, snow-capped peaks, and ancient deserts.
Let’s dive in and uncover the 17 best hikes in Arizona.
Places to Hike in Arizona
When it comes to picking out the top places to hike in Arizona it really comes down to how difficult of a hike are you looking for. Arizona has a lot of easy and moderate hikes, but it also has its share of epic ones as well. Its diversity is its treasure. As always, when hiking in the American Southwest, make sure to pack a lot of water, a hat, and sunscreen as it can get really hot extremely fast. Our recommendation is to get started early in the morning and you will enjoy all of these hikes a lot more.
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Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon
Located within one of the most popular national parks in America, the Bright Angel Trail descends into the Grand Canyon meandering its way towards the mighty Colorado River.
Beginning from the South Rim in Grand Canyon Village, the trail flanks the canyon wall and the drop-offs create awe-inspiring views not just towards the river but far into the distance.
Over the course of 9 miles (each way), you will discover just why this trail is as challenging as it is rewarding. The complete journey is difficult and completing the entire 18-mile journey in one day is not advised. The Bright Angel Trail comes with 4200 feet of elevation gain if you choose to make your way back from the Colorado River. There are water stops along the trail which can also be used as turnaround points.
Discover more on why the Grand Canyon is one of the best national parks in the USA here.
The Rim Trail, Grand Canyon
The Rim Trail offers a point of difference from the Bright Angel Trail without difficulty. Enjoy less elevation gain and casual hiking along with beautiful views of the inner canyon.
For wheelchair adventurers wanting to go hiking in Arizona, the trail comes with accessible sections and is mostly paved. The Rim Trail begins from the South Kaibab Trailhead and makes its way to Hermits Rest where you will find a shuttle for the return journey. There are 14 stops spread evenly along the trail if you wish to return early.
The Rim Trail is an excellent sample of the Grand Canyon’s epic scenery and a great way to explore all your options before you decide on a more strenuous trek.
For a more advanced trek why not check out the South Kaibab Trail? Explore our list of the best things to do in the Grand Canyon.
Camelback Mt, Chiricahua National Monument
When making your way to Phoenix on an adventure through Arizona, a hike to Camelback Mountain via the Echo Canyon Trail has to be atop your list. But beware, you will get your sweat on.
The relatively short hike (2.5 miles) ascends rapidly to the lookout point located on the summit. The adventure reaches its zenith during the final third of the hike that features boulder sections, complete with handrails in the steepest parts.
The result from Camelback Mountain is a dramatic viewpoint of the amber desert and Scottsdale. Make sure to bring plenty of water to replenish those electrolytes.
Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park
When it comes to mind-blowing scenery and non-stop photo opportunities, Antelope Canyon takes its rightful place on the list of best hikes in Arizona.
Few locations in the States are as stunning as this slot canyon, which despite being only a mile long, ample time is needed to enjoy it properly. Make your way through the impeccable sandstone structures that feature exquisite patterns and contrasting light beams. Antelope Canyon truly is an otherworldly experience.
Keep in mind that guided tours of the canyon are required. The iconic light beams that shoot through the gaps aren’t always available. To give yourself the best opportunity, visit between the end of March and early October.
Cathedral Rock, Sedona
Sedona is a mecca for day hiking in Arizona and it is also one of the best spots on our Arizona road trip itinerary. Make the most of your time here by jumping right into the best local hike, Cathedral Rock.
The rock itself sticks out from the valley and inspires grandiose dreams. The hike switches between easy and difficult as some sections require rock scrambling. The end of the trail isn’t a summit but rather a saddle between two impressive peaks.
From the saddle not only are you blessed with gorgeous views of Bell Rock and the vibrant Mogollon Rim but you are also located at the spot of one of Sedona’s iconic power vortexes. Head to Oak Creek Canyon for another epic trek.
Devil’s Bridge, Sedona
Stunning vistas and mesmerizing geography is par for course in Arizona, but like Antelope Canyon and The Wave (listed below), there are a few unique hikes that stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Devil’s Bridge is a sandstone arch that is incomparable to any other in the state of Arizona. The hike itself is relatively easy but arrive early as the trailhead parking fills quickly.
Once you have made it to Devil’s Bridge, you’ll be happy to know that you can walk across and soak in the dramatic landscape that stretches on for miles.
Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls, Tucson
When it comes to hiking in Arizona, it isn’t all red rocks and romantic arid views. Beyond the beautiful desert landscape is a bevy of waterfall hikes, including the Bear Canyon Trail in Tucson.
As its name suggests, this hike will grant you views of seven waterfalls and diverse sights over the course of a moderately difficult trek. Be aware that there is little shade along the 8-mile hike, so be sure to pack plenty of water.
The Bear Canyon Trail will lead you to a fork, hang left to descend down to Seven Falls. On arrival, you are transported to another world, where pristine aqua hits the rock as much as the pounding sun. Swim, bathe and jump; good luck getting rid of that smile.
The Wave, Coyote Buttes
After you have made your way through Antelope Canyon, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d seen the most supernatural landscape in the Grand Canyon State. However, The Wave is both a mind-boggling experience and one of the best hikes in Arizona.
The whirling amber sandstone ripples up and down the rolling hills, providing the sensation that you are walking on a wave paused in time.
It’s not hard to see why this is such a drawcard. So much in fact that there is a lottery system for permits. In the height of summer, you will need a slice of luck to hike to The Wave. However, going in the winter months will give you a greater chance.
Tom’s Thumb Trail, Phoenix
If you ask the locals in Phoenix for some options for hiking in Arizona you can expect Tom’s Thumb to come up often. Tom’s Thumb sticks out of the landscape like, well, a sore thumb.
From the beginning, the hike to the summit looks intimidating and the surroundings are rugged and rocky. However, the switchbacks will get your legs moving and the views will let your mind wander.
At the top of the trail, the reward will be immediate, with great views of Tom’s Thumb and the valley far below. For an extra challenge take the East End Loop to double more than double the distance and total elevation gain.
The Broken Arrow Trail, Sedona
The Broken Arrow Trail remains some of the best beginner hiking in Arizona, but it won’t bore trekkers that have been around the block.
Beginning in brush and junipers, slowly make your way to the red rock tablelands, switching between the open scenery and tree flanked trails. Along the way, you will pass the Devil’s Dining Room where a large sinkhole once formed due to the disintegration of underground caverns.
Towards the turnaround point of this out-and-back trail, you will reach a ledge. Look out to the stunning Munds Mountain Wilderness, and enjoy the perfect lunch spot.
Wildcat Trail, Monument Valley
The Monument Valley evokes scenes of the Old West and is one of the most incredible drives one can do. That’s why it features on our Arizona road trip itinerary
The Wildcat Trail casually meanders through the Navajo Tribal Park and is the only self-guided hike on offer, so you can expect to be just one of a few hikers that day. Take a journey into the past and witness striking scenery in the present as you trek by world-famous rock buttes.
Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
This trek may be too short to be listed as one the best hikes in Arizona, yet the sheer pull of its summit view makes Horseshoe Bend a rite of passage for many.
The iconic snap looking down on the breathtaking bend and the roaring Colorado River has made this one of the best-known treks in the US. Horseshoe Bend is beyond popular yet it is well worth the journey, you can even link up the hike here with your journey to Antelope Canyon.
The newly renovated trail has also made this landmark wheelchair accessible with a specific viewing point overlooking the rim.
Kachina Trail, Flagstaff
Did you know that hiking in Arizona isn’t all red rocks? Yes, there are places that even evoke images of the lower Sierras.
Beginning at the Snowball home to great skiing in the winter months-hike through epic aspen groves as you flank the San Francisco Peaks. Through the rolling hills, this moderate hike traverses canyons, gorgeous meadows, and a dramatic high lava cliff.
The high elevation of the hiking trails makes this a prime location for some not-so-hot hiking and provides endless long-distance views.
Humphrey’s Peak, Kachina Peaks Wilderness
Now that you’ve gotten a taste of pristine alpine hiking in the surrounding mountains, it is time to complete one of the best hikes in Arizona. One that will take you to the highest point in the state.
For such a monstrous mountain with a summit standing 12,633ft (3850m) above sea level, it features a relatively short ascent of around 5 miles.
The hike is best done in summer and fall after the snow and ice have dissipated. But for the adventurous soul, a winter trek is possible. From the summit, you will enjoy 360-degree views of Arizona. The peak comes with a lockbox where you can add your name to the list of people who have high-pointed the state.
Lava Flow Trail, Sunset Crater
When it comes to bang for your buck, the Lava Flow Trail is one of the best hikes in Arizona. Over a short one-mile journey, explore the youngest volcanic area in the state.
Arizona’s landscape shifts and changes starkly as the hike begins. Exchange red rocks and pine trees for old lava fields of barren cinder cones and a collapsed lava tube. Beyond you will also see the towering San Francisco Peaks.
If Sunset Crater has inspired you to visit more old volcanoes, you’ll be happy to know the drive from Flagstaff to Williams has over 600.
Havasu Falls Trail, Havasupai Indian Reservation
The Havasu Falls combine everything great about hiking in Arizona. Colors of green and red mix beside the cascading water creating an experience you won’t soon forget.
The hike descends into the Grand Canyon and is completed entirely on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. This trek is one to plan months in advance, as permits to the falls are hard to get a hand on.
Getting to the falls is an adventure in itself, one you can read more about here. It is recommended that you stay overnight at the Lodge or campground. But for all the effort of getting there, the turquoise water of the Havasu Falls will soothe your weary body, providing yet another dream-like experience.
Now all that’s left is the trek back up the canyon.
Arizona National Scenic Trail
Forget day and overnight treks, enjoy the full measure of the best hiking trails in Arizona by completing the most comprehensive trek in the state.
Experience it all, from deserts and towering mountains to amber canyons and diverse communities. This is a challenge like no other in Arizona and traverses 800 miles of picture-perfect landscape.
The trek takes between 6-8 weeks to complete, so why not trade in your road trip plans and see it all on foot?
Frequently Asked Questions
What is it like to hike in Arizona?
As you move around Arizona no day will be like the last. But with mostly desert landscapes, staying hydrated and protecting yourself from the sun is a must. The best time to hike here is in the spring and fall to stay out of the summer heat.
What is the best hike in Arizona?
Like picking your favorite child, it’s beyond hard to choose the best hike in Arizona. But for the sake of debate, we will go with Antelope Canyon. Let us know what you think below.
The best hikes in Arizona throw up diverse landscapes, from towering mountaintops to amber-lit slot canyons.
It is clear that Arizona is a hiker’s dream. Everywhere you turn is an inviting trail sure to remain in your memory. Whether you are exploring the state over a weekend or a month you will have your hands full. There is no better way to see the best of Arizona than to strap on your hiking shoes and get outdoors.