Hiking in Arizona can look many different ways—it can look like tall saguaros and patches of prickly pear cacti, or it can look like hiking along flowing streams through aspen groves. Arizona is diverse in landscape and elevation, making it a reliable place to visit year-round if you’re looking for warm, sunny weather.
In the fall and winter months, stay in southern Arizona to experience a temperate desert winter. In the summer months, head north into the mountains to escape the blistering heat of the lower elevations. In the spring, go just about anywhere for good temperatures and blooming wildflowers. We’ve highlighted six Arizona state parks throughout the state and some of our favorite hikes or attractions within them.
This story created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.
Just on the outskirts of Phoenix lies Lost Dutchman State Park, named after the legendary lost gold mine and one of the many who went looking for it. Get well acquainted with the desert and its plants on the Native Plant Trail, passing by a variety of cholla, prickly pear, ocotillo, saguaros, and more.
If you’re looking for something longer, try the Siphon Draw Trail, a 4-mile round-trip hike that winds up into a scenic canyon. Once arriving in the canyon, hikers have the option of continuing on without a designated trail to the top of the Flatiron, making their hike a steep, but beautiful, 5.8-mile round trip.
Spring rains bring an abundance of wildflowers to Alamo Lake State Park, tucked away from it all in the Bill Williams River Valley. Whether you’re looking down at the wildflowers, up to the sky for birds like bald and golden eagles, or across the lake as you fish for bass, this park will reconnect you with nature. Located about two hours from Phoenix, this Arizona State Park feels like a true escape.
You can bring your own gear and camp or rent a cabin. Either way, be sure to spend some time outside after the sunsets to do some stargazing—the nearest city lights are 40 miles away, making for a pristine night skies experience. This pairs perfectly with the day-time views of mountains surrounding this large, beautiful lake.
Picacho Peak State Park contains one of Arizona’s most iconic hikes. Albeit not as large, Picacho Peak is sort of like the desert version of the Swiss Alps’ Matterhorn—it is a solo peak that comes to a narrow point at the top. Hiking to the top is strenuous, but worth it if you’re able. There are two trails that will take you to the top, Sunset Vista Trail and Hunter Trail, the latter being shorter but steeper. If you’re just looking to walk around the base of the peak and admire desert flora and fauna (so many wildflowers here in the spring), then try the Nature Trail or Calloway Trail.
A bit further out of town in the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains is a 4,000-acre wildlife refuge known as Oracle State Park. There are more than 15 miles of hiking trails in the park, including a 4-mile section of the Arizona Trail that passes through. Visitors can make a 6-mile loop from the Kannally Ranch House to the Arizona Trail and back via the Nature Trail loop and the Manzanita Trail. For the best wildlife and wildflower viewing, hike the 1.2-mile Nature Trail loop.
Once a family ranch named after a dead horse the children found by the road, Dead Horse Ranch State Park is located just 30 minutes from Sedona, and an hour from Flagstaff. The trails in their 20+ mile system are in the park and in the Coconino National Forest.
If you’re an avid bird watcher, you’ll want to take the Verde River Greenway trail that weaves along the river through some of the best nesting habitat in the area. If you have two cars, you could do a 15-mile “through-hike” from Dead Horse Ranch to Red Rock State Park in Sedona via the Lime Kiln Trail. Now that’s a hike!
Want to walk around and look at something other than nature? Pop over to Jerome State Historic Park, where you can tour the Douglas Mansion that was built in 1916. The gorgeous home was built by James S. Douglas on a hill just above his Little Daisy Mine. The mansion is now a museum that folks can enjoy, including their outdoor picnic area offering views of the Verde Valley. Jerome is only 9 miles from Dead Horse Ranch State Park, so it’s a no-brainer to see them both!