Attention Arizona hikers!! If you’re looking for a great way to get outdoors this winter with friends or the family, here are some insider tips to which Arizona state parks offer Arizona's best hiking trails. Explore the diverse options throughout this amazingly beautiful state! Check out this list of the best hiking opportunities statewide, and you will see the variety of amazing Arizona hikes that range from easy to difficult and encompass a wide array of topographical situations.
Look no further than Sedona's Red Rock country for one of the best hikes in Arizona! Eagle’s Nest Trail at Red Rock State Park supplies panoramic views of the colorful rocks and craggy formations that have made this world-wide destination a travel icon! After hiking through the lush vegetation surrounding Oak Creek, follow the trail up to views previously only imagined. Eagle's Nest trail is only one of several options available at Red Rock State Park. The park offers hikes for every skill level, whether you’re going for a relaxed stroll or looking to break a sweat! Daily Guided Nature Walks and guided bird walks are also available and offer unique perspectives of a gorgeous area! While in the park, keep an eye out for the local javelina and mule deer. These park residents are typically quite photogenic as they go about their daily routines. Numerous bird species also call Red Rock State Park home. Pick up a current bird ID list at the visitor center; you'll be amazed by the number of species that use the park! Please don't forget to take tons of scenic photos while at this epic destination, as the park lends itself very well to creative shots!
Just up the road at Slide Rock State Park, trails lead into Oak Creek Canyon and along the creek itself. Best known for its iconic natural water slide, this lush, scenic Sedona, Arizona hiking destination is bound to leave a lasting impression while creating lifetime memories. Birds and wildlife are common along Oak Creek and hikers report the fishing upstream of the park is relatively good for trout! The forested mountain views are accentuated by the gentle rumble of Oak Creek and add to the overall experience of this beautifully unique destination. Look up in awe of the jagged formations created by a combination of time and weather as you amble through this small yet extremely beautiful park in the pines.
Southeast of Sedona, in the Verde River Valley of Cottonwood, Ariz., Dead Horse Ranch State Park offers a fully functional multi-use trail system for visitors to enjoy. Distinct scenic options are available for users who desire new and exciting experiences while exploring these premier Arizona hiking trails. Choose to enjoy either the higher desert scenery of the Lime Kiln trail, which follows a historic route between Sedona and Cottonwood, or the more densely vegetated Verde River Greenway trail. The trails within the Verde River Valley, and along the Verde River itself, give hikers the chance of experiencing many of the birds and wildlife that call Dead Horse Ranch home. Deer, javelina, raccoons, and otters hang out in the thick riverside vegitation year-round, and can be seen doing their thing by lucky hikers daily. You definitely want to remember your camera while hiking along the Verde! Check out a number of other options before planning your trip.
Just outside of Payson, Ariz., Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is a sight to behold in the midst of lush foilage. This park contains a serene babbling creek at the bottom of a relatively steep canyon, and boasts rocky landscapes that simply leave your mind to wander. Clamber over the rocks and under the waterfall or walk along the many trails surrounding the incredible travertine bridge formation. This is a great place for Arizona hikers to experience the natural beauty while welcoming the opportunity to be awestruck by their surroundings. The trails within this park range from easy to moderate, yet always offer up killer views of Arizona's Mogollon Rim Country. Make sure you check with the park before visiting in the winter, as the trails often ice up, and icicles form on the underside of the natural formations. While beautiful, it is very dangerous, and some paths are often off-limits during the colder months.
East of Payson in Arizona's White Mountains, Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area is a great place to hike near water and among an ecosystem thriving with birds and wildlife. Year-round hiking opportunities are available for Arizona hikers looking for something outside of the norm. Hikers will typically encounter chilly weather during winter hikes, and the possibility of a white wonderland is always there. Challenge yourself with a snowy adventure this year! Summer hikes are met with wildflowers, elk, birds, waterfowl, and a generally sunny, beautiful experience. A hike around the lake throwing lures to hungry trout is an absolutely amazing way to spend a summer or fall day. Take in the surroundings, watch the wildlife, and have a chance of catching a beautiful rainbow!
Also near Show Low is Lyman Lake State Park, where you can hike along the lake and into the gorgeous national forest trails of eastern Arizona. The Petroglyph Trail takes you from the campgrounds and along the rocks of Lyman Lake, where you can see ancient petroglyphs carved on the surface. For a more intense hiking experience, take the Buffalo Trail, a steep two-mile adventure which can be accessed at the park entrance as well as from the campgrounds. This park rests in the northern foothills of Arizona's White Mountains and boasts large populations of birds and waterfowl. There are also resident deer, elk, skunks, and raccoons that entertain hikers while on the trails.
Catalina State Park just outside of Tucson is a well-known, incredibly beautiful and diverse natural area that creates a feeling of remoteness, despite the close proximity to Tucson's metropolitan center. Hike any of Catalina’s various trails for differing levels of difficulty, from short hikes to an all-day adventure, on foot, on a bike, or by horseback! If you are part of an Arizona hiking group, we would love to host your hikes, meetings, and get togethers! Please contact the park for more info. You never know what you’ll run into at Catalina, from gorgeous yellow summer poppies, to desert tortoises, to various desert creepy crawlers! Catalina’s landscapes are always showing off and waiting to be explored!
Kartchner Caverns offers a singularly unique experience for hikers in Arizona! Visitors to the park can tour the caves and hike down into the incredible underground rooms decorated with stalagmites and stalactites, a truly unforgettable experience different from any other! Hikers can also take a more traditional walk outdoors through the foothills of the area, where you can see the valleys and mountains surrounding the park, as well as various plants native to the area, like honeysuckle, prickly pear, catclaw acacia, and more! A new trail offers hikers a slightly longer experience in the Whetstone Mountains.
Lost Dutchman State Park always offers an incredible adventure, like the Full Moon Hike every month to see the starry night sky over the Superstition Mountains! Walk an easy loop around the mountains or wind through Siphon Draw to see all Lost Dutchman has to offer! Because of the close proximity to the Phoenix Metropolitan area, various Arizona hiking groups use the trails at Lost Dutchman for weekly hikes and meetings. Please contact the park if your hiking group would like a great spot to meet up. There’s a path for every view, timeframe, and difficulty level, so pick a trail and take a hike!
Picacho Peak and the classic beauty of true Sonoran Desert landscapes is available for your enjoyment about an hour outside the Phoenix Metropolitan area! Dive in to the Hunter Trail for a strenuous two mile hike up the rocks, twisting up the iconic mountain, or take a stroll up Calloway Trail for a less strenuous hike to a scenic overlook as you appreciate the scenery of the Sonoran Desert! Similar to other Arizona hiking trails, the trails at this Sonoran Desert destination give away scenic views at the expense of a little sweat equity!
Oracle State Park offers over 15 miles of trails among 5000 square miles of wildlife refuge! Hike a 4-mile portion of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, follow the nature loop, or make your own route among the intertwining paths! Hike, bike, and bring a dog to enjoy all the gorgeous natural scenery of Oracle!
Many of the parks offer easy trails for families that kids can enjoy! Southern Picacho Peak State Park offers two such trails - the Nature trail, a 0.5-mile hike, or the Children's Cave trail, just 0.2 miles and near the park's playground. For more experienced kids, try the moderate Calloway trail, where you'll end at a gorgeous overlook. Catalina State Park has three easy hiking trails under a mile long! The Romero Ruins, Birding, and Nature trails will lead you and your children through interpretive archaeological sites, wildlife viewing, and more.
Two trails at Lost Dutchman State Park, just outside of Phoenix, will be great for kids! Jacob's Crosscut trail connects the two more difficult trails in the park, so it's a great starting point for small feet! For an even more scenic view, follow the Discovery trail, which is easy and winds past the wildlife pond, bird feeder, and a bench with a great view of the mountains. More moderate trails include the Prospector's View and Treasure Loop trails, which are lightly longer and give hikers a great view of the Superstition Mountains!
In the North, try Red Rock State Park's trail system, where there are plenty of adventures easy for kids! From birding to wildlife viewing, children will enjoy the Smoke trail, an easy hike along the riparian area of Oak Creek. Many of the trails at Red Rock intertwine, allowing for a choose your own adventure for the family! For children with a little more hiking experience, take the plunge and follow the Eagle's Nest Trail, which leads to a breathtaking viewpoint, where Sedona streteches out below in all directions.
In Cottonwood, Dead Horse Ranch State Park offers multiple easy hiking loops which follow the lagoon and Verde River, and lead you through the forest, giving you great opportunities for wildlife viewing and enjoying nature! Take any of the outlined paths to wind your way through the riparian areas of the Verde River, an adventure you won't soon forget!
Remember, when you’re enjoying Arizona's hiking trails, to bring plenty of water and snacks, and be aware of the temperature! Arizona has incredible surroundings waiting to be explored, and you can get out there to find an adventure anytime between sunrise and sunset, within reason! Arizona hiking destinations offer views of the desert and experiences you won’t find anywhere else, long into the fall and winter seasons! All you need to do is pick a trail and lace up your shoes!