The desert area surrounding Phoenix and Scottsdale are ripe with hiking opportunities, from half day hikes just minutes from the City of Scottsdale to full day hikes in the Superstition Wilderness just east of Phoenix. The Sonoran Desert is home to unique vegetation, canyons, creeks and mountains – flora, fauna, ancient Native American ruins and scenery like none other in the US. Our knowledgeable and professional guides will lead you on your way through the desert and show you why, aside from the fantastic weather Fall through Spring, Phoenix weather forecasts are called “hiking forecasts.” All the locals know where to hike, and we are ready to take you on a Phoenix day hike only the in-crowd knows!
Scottsdale Sonoran Preserve Hikes
A Scottsdale half or full day hike is only a 20 minute drive from the JRI Gear Store in North Scottsdale. Choose from easy trails such as the Gateway trail head to Tom’s Thumb and Sunrise Peak for some of the best views of the Valley of the Sun! Here are some of the popular hikes Just Roughin’ It offers in the preserve but these are not the only possibilities.
Half Day Hikes:
A very popular hike in the preserve is the Gateway Loop. This hike ascends only part way up the west side of McDowell Peak so hikers can enjoy views of the city in a moderately difficult hike. The trail winds past many species of desert plants and wildflowers in the spring. Distance: 4.6 miles. Elevation Gain: 680 feet
Located in the north section of the McDowell Mountains, Tom’s Thumb is a 140-foot tall granite monolith that is a prominent feature in the mountains and the hike to the base has some of the most amazing views of the surrounding area. Distance: 4.6 miles. Elevation Gain: 1,112 Feet
The Sunrise Peak trail on the eastern end of the preserve is another great half day hike for those who are looking for outstanding views of the city and surrounding desert. There are multiple view points on the way to a 360 degree view on the peak. Distance: (From Sunrise Trailhead) 4 miles. Elevation Gain: 1,146 Feet
Full Day Hikes:
The Gateway Loop can be extended into an all day hike called the Bell Pass/ Wingate Pass Loop. This hike reaches two of the main passes in the McDowells for views that stretch for 50 miles. As you hike further into the mountains, the number of hikers you encounter decrease. Distance: 8.8 miles. Elevation Gain: 1,920 Feet
For those looking for a challenge the Tom’s Thumb/ Wingate Pass Loop is the right choice. This hike incorporates some of the steepest trails in the Sonoran Preserve so be prepared for a work out. The payoff for the extra effort are the views and seeing fewer people on the trail. Distance: 9.9 miles. Elevation Gain: 2,820 Feet
Superstition Wilderness Hikes
For a full day hike that really gets you out to the vast and more secluded Sonoran Desert regions in the Phoenix area, take a hike in the Superstition Wilderness. Many of these trails are at least an hour drive from Scottsdale, but well worth the ride – desert flora and fauna, views for miles and evidence of the civilizations that inhabited the area several hundreds of years back. All of the options listed below are full day hikes.
A popular option not far from the city is the Peralta Trail. This hike passes unique rock formations called hoodoos as it reaches Fremont Saddle with it’s big views of the 1,200 foot tall Weavers needle and the mountains beyond. From the saddle, the group has a couple of options for exploring and the return hike. Distance: 4.5 to 7 miles. Elevation Gain: 1,360 feet
The Black Mesa Loop offers different view of Weaver’s Needle as well as a visit to a 700 year old Native American ruin. This hike also reaches Parker Pass for expansive views of the region. Distance: 9 miles. Elevation Gain: 650 feet
Scenic Canyon Lake is the starting point for the Boulder Canyon trail. This hike gains 600 feet in elevation as the trail reaches two viewpoints where there are beautiful vistas of Canyon Lake as well as the imposing Battleship Mountain with Weaver’s Needle in the distance. There are several options for this hike that vary in difficulty. Distance: 6 to 10 miles. Elevation Gain: 600 to 1,200 feet.