Best Hiking in Your Backyard.Posted 12/07/2018
‘Tis the season for hiking – at least here in Arizona, where there’s no shortage of sunshine and beautiful weather. While the rest of the country is shoveling snow or talking about the wind chill, you can bet most Arizonans are rolling up their sleeves and hitting the trails.
Whether you’re a timid traveler or a weekend warrior, there’s a hike with your name on it. Don’t believe us? Here’s a closer look at the trails in your neighborhood.
The Superstition Wilderness: Located to the east of Phoenix, the Superstition Mountains are famous for a lot of reasons, including the tale of the Lost Gold Dutchman’s Mine, where rich gold is thought to be hidden somewhere inside the iconic mountain range. But, as far as we’re concerned, the real gold of this wilderness is the hiking. With more than 180 miles of trails, topping 6,200 feet in some places, the rugged trail system takes you through canyons, around and over pristine pools of water and atop the mountains for amazing panoramic views. From beginner hikes to extreme excursions, there’s a hike for every skill level.
San Tan Mountain Regional Park: This mighty park to the southeast spans 10,000 acres of Sonoran Desert beauty and is an ideal destination for families looking to spend a few hours away from the rush of daily life. From horseback riding and mountain biking to hiking, picnicking, stargazing and observing wildlife, San Tan Mountain Regional Park offers more than eight miles of trails that top more than 2,500 feet and range from easy to strenuous. If you decide to head out, don’t forget your furry friends. The trails here are dog-friendly as long as they’re on a leash.
South Mountain Park: With more than 16,000 acres of protected wildlife, South Mountain Park is one of the largest municipally managed parks in the nation and features three mountain ranges – the Ma Ha Tauk, Gila and Guadalupe. Visitors can take advantage of more than 51 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. While its highest peak is just over 2,300 feet, this park features a wide range of trails that will keep you entertained for hours with more than 10 unique trails ranging from easy to difficult.
Estrella Mountain Regional Park: This family-friendly park boasts nearly 20,000 acres of pristine desert, mountains and a wetland/ riparian area. With more than 33 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, Estrella Mountain Regional Park is the perfect antidote to the daily doldrums. After a day on the trails, feel free to kick back and relax in the park’s 65-acre grassy picnic area or enjoy a variety of activities, including baseball, golf and fishing.
White Tank Mountain Regional Park: Nearly 30,000 acres of desert mountain landscape makes this park on the western fringe of Phoenix the largest regional park in Maricopa County. One could argue the White Tank Mountains are also the most dynamic of all the mountains in the area as the range is deeply serrated with ridges and canyons that rise sharply from base to peak at more than 4,000 feet. This rugged natural wonder offers nearly 26 miles of hiking trails that wind through the terrain ranging from a simple walk to moderately challenging.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park: Located on the edge of Peoria’s fast-growing northern region, Lake Pleasant Regional Park covers 23,000 acres of mountainous desert and features more than four miles of pedestrian-only trails. The trails are all moderate in difficulty and range from a half-mile to as long as two miles. One of the lake’s flagship trails, The Roadrunner Trail, is a scenic 1.5-mile journey that overlooks Lake Pleasant and links to the park’s popular picnic areas and Discovery Center, a 2,000-square-foot observation and visitor center with interpretive exhibits.
Tortolita Mountain Park: This park is a hiker’s paradise. It boasts a diverse selection of Sonoran Desert vegetation that grows alongside magnificent desert vistas, rustic ruins and ancient pictographs. With elevations ranging from 2,800 to 4,300 square feet, the Tortolita Mountains offer trails for every skill and energy level. One of the beautiful features of this particular area is the amount of wildlife that abounds, including wild horses, deer, javelina, desert tortoises, roadrunners, Gila woodpeckers and many more.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area: More than 1 million people visit this place every year, each wanting to get a firsthand look at the soaring mountains and unique plants and animals that surround Sabino Canyon. Hiking in the canyon is nothing short of magical as several trails take you through a diverse landscape that features seasonal pools and waterfalls, among many other natural wonders. Sabino Canyon is one of the most popular and spectacular canyons in the Santa Catalina wilderness and it’s easy to see why.
Catalina State Park: Hike, bike or horseback through eight trails, of varying length and difficulty, where you are surrounded by the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains, including the famous 9,000-foot Mount Lemmon. With 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons and streams, Catalina State Park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and home to nearly 5,000 saguaro cacti and more than 150 species of birds. The best part? This unique park is just minutes from the Tucson metropolitan area.
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