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The Best Scottsdale Hiking Trails to Reconnect With Nature

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Best Scottsdale Hiking Trails, by Travel Blogger What The Fab

Just when you thought I was done with Scottsdale, I’m back at it again with a guide to the best Scottsdale hiking trails! If you’re planning a trip to Arizona, then you have to spend some time in the outdoors—there’s no better time to reconnect with nature.

If you love hiking, you’re going to love my Best Hikes in Sedona guide here. Love exploring the stunning and endless views of the red rocks!

You can also check out my other Scottsdale guides where I cover all things from what to do, where to eat, and where to stay:

What to do in Scottsdale During Your Post-Panny Trip
Luxury Hotels in Scottsdale: 14 of the Best Places to Stay
12 Fun Outdoor Scottsdale Activities
Palm Springs vs Scottsdale
The Best of the Best: Oldtown Scottsdale Hotels
Things to do in Scottsdale: Travel Guide

As always, make sure you pack loads of sunscreen (protecting your skin is a MUST), lots of water to stay hydrated, and some snacks just in case you get hungry or need a little energy boost. There’s nothing worse than feeling peckish while you’re out on the trails!

Before I get into the guide, I want to share some of my hiking essentials to help you feel as prepared as possible before hitting the desert terrain.

UV Protection Tops and Bottoms

I can’t emphasize enough how these tops and bottoms have saved me from getting sunburnt. You can find them at affordable prices and they’ll last you forever—you really only need to purchase them once.

Hiking Boots or Shoes

Finding the right pair of hiking shoes is crucial to have a comfortable time while walking along the rock. You’ll also save yourself from slipping since they’ll have a strong grip to keep you stable.

I personally prefer hiking boots because of the ankle support (I’ve sprained mine one too many times while playing basketball in high school and now I have weak ankles) and most of them are water-resistant.


Hats are a must-have while you’re hiking, especially in the desert where there isn’t much shade. It’s the easiest way to protect your face from the sun.


It doesn’t matter what kind of backpack you bring as long as you’re comfortable carrying it for the entire duration of the hike. I love going for the small Camelbak-style packs since they have their own built-in water pack to make drinking water easier, and there’s still plenty of space to carry all of your essentials.

Now that you’re all ready to go and take on some of the best hiking trails Scottsdale, let’s get into my list!

Best Scottsdale Hiking Trails

Best Scottsdale Hiking Trails, by Travel Blogger What The Fab

Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve

There are a lot of different trails in the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve to explore. You can easily spend multiple days here trying out the different routes.

Easy to Moderate

Granite Mountain Loop — 5.1 miles, ~ 2.5 hours roundtrip

The Granite Mountain Loop is one of the easiest and more popular trails to hike in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It’s a scenic trail that features beautiful wildflowers, cacti, and mountains covered in rocks.

I recommend getting here a little early to beat the traffic and to hike in cooler temperatures. If you come out here mid-day you’ll be baking in the heat.

If you happen to be traveling with your pup, you’ll be happy to know that it’s a dog-friendly trail. You also won’t have to worry about any elevation gain since this is a flat looped trail.

Gateway Loop Trail — 4.4 miles, ~ 2 hours

The Gateway Loop Trail is a more moderate hiking trail.

This trail is definitely a popular one so beware of larger crowds. You’ll most likely find a lot of mountain bikers on this trail as well.

It’s a super rocky trail so be careful! The first two miles will be the hardest because you’re going uphill—but don’t stress, the last two miles are a breeze.

Lost Dog Wash Trail to Ringtail Trail Loop — 4.4 miles, ~ 2.5 hours

If you’re looking for a moderate hike this is the one and it’s located near Fountain Hills.

You’ll start at the end of the road where the Old Jeep Tour route is and climb north. After about half a mile the trail will turn west crossing a couple of washes.

Once you pass the ridge, you’ll be on your way on the Lost Dog Wash Trail. Be on the lookout for the overlook at the top of Taliesin Ridge where you’ll get great views of Camelback Mountain, Squaw Peak, and Pinnacle Peak.

Moderate to Hard

Tom’s Thumb Trail — 4 miles, ~2.5 hours

This is probably the most difficult out of all the Sonoran desert hiking trails and it’s a popular one.

The trail is located out near Rio Verde and you’ll be able to access the trail all year long.

It’s a short switchback trail from Tom’s Thumb trailhead all the way up to Tom’s Thumb spur at the intersection of the Windgate Trail.

The first 1.5 miles are tough with a good amount of elevation gain, but once you make it to the top it’s an easy time downhill.

There’s no shade on the trails so come prepared with lots of water and sun protection.

Best Scottsdale Hiking Trails, by Travel Blogger What The Fab

McDowell Mountain Regional Park

McDowell Mountain Regional Park has a lot of popular hiking spots to adventure on.

Easy to Moderate

Scenic Trail — 4.4 miles, ~ 2.5 hours

If you’re looking for a way to escape the city the Scenic Trail is the perfect option since it’s an easy to moderate hike.

There’s a $7 entrance fee if you don’t have an annual pass.

The trail starts with a small incline to the top of the hill, but it mellows out as you go further. You’ll have endless mountain views throughout the hike and you’ll even get to see some saguaros.

Thankfully there are bits of shades through the trail, but I still suggest you hike this trail early in the morning to prevent overheating.

McDowell Mountain North Trail — 2.9 miles, ~ 2 hours

The McDowell Mountain North Trail is a moderate and short hike that starts near the Rio Verde.

This is a popular trail to not only hike but also bird watch. It’s a super flat trail so you won’t have to worry about crazy inclines.

You’ll get to see so many saguaros along the trail and wildflowers.

There’s a $7 entrance fee to park your car and there’s no shade in the area.

Moderate to Hard

Thompson Peak — 9.5 miles, ~ 5 hours

One of the hardest trails in McDowell Mountain Regional Park is Thompson Peak. You won’t encounter a lot of people on this trail.

Definitely start early in the morning for this one since it’s a long trail and you don’t want to exhaust in the blazing afternoon sun.

Once you reach the top, you’ll get breathtaking views making the whole hike worth it.

Best Scottsdale Hiking Trails, by Travel Blogger What The Fab
Image via Visit Phoenix

Cave Creek Regional Park

Cave Creek is another popular Regional Park to hike. You’ll find around 12 hiking trails to have fun on.

Easy to Moderate

Go John-Quartz-Slate Loop — 6.8 miles, ~ 4.5 hours

This is an easy hike located near Cave Creek. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a lot of wildlife and some saguaros.

It’s a long but easy loop with beautiful desert views of giant quartz rocks. There is a $7 entrance fee to park your car and hike.

There’s also no shade throughout the trail so come prepared with hats and sunscreen.

Overton Trail Loop — 3.5 miles, ~ 2 hours

The Overton Trail Loop is a popular moderate hiking loop. This trail is beautiful with lots of wildflowers and saguaros.

The trail has been maintained well with very little elevation gain. A lot of people have recommended trying a sunrise or sunset hike here because of its gorgeous views.

You can even see some of the hot air balloon rides from the trail if you go early in the morning. Don’t forget there’s a $7 entrance fee.

Pinnacle Peak Park

Pinnacle Peak Park is a popular place to hike at. It’s most famous for its stunning views from the Pinnacle Peak trail.

Pinnacle Peak Trail — 4 miles, ~ 2 hours

Pinnacle Peak Trail is a moderate-style hike with a small elevation. The trail will take you zig-zagging across the mountain.

Once you pass the 1/2 mile marker, the Grandview rest stop offers a panorama of the valley and McDowell Mountain.

The trail does tend to get pretty busy so be prepared for a crowd. There are also no spots for shade so come prepared.

Echo Canyon Recreation Area

This is a small park that offers 3 hiking trails and free parking.

Camelback Mountain via Echo Canyon Summit Trail — 2.5 miles, ~ 1 hour

If you’re looking for a short and hard hike, you’ll love this trail. During your hike, you’ll get beautiful views that overlook the city.

Plan to come early since this is a popular hiking spot and the parking lot gets full pretty quickly. Bring plenty of water because this hike won’t be an easy one.

It’s a lot of fun but be prepared to have sore legs the next day. Everything along the trail is well marked so you won’t get lost.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

Although this park is not located directly in Scottsdale, I thought it would be fun to include this spot since they offer some great hiking options.

Piestewa Peak Summit Trail #300 — 2.1 miles, ~ 1.5 hours

Had to wrap up with another really hard trail if you’re up for the challenge. The Piestewa Peak Summit Trail #300 is a very difficult short hike that is primarily uphill.

You’ll park near Squaw Peak Drive that takes you to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. The trail starts on a short connector trail and then you’ll go straight up the summit.

It’s recommended to go on a sunset hike here for gorgeous views of Camelback Mountain, the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, and the city of Phoenix.

Those are some of the best Scottsdale hiking trails to explore during your trip! While you probably won’t be hiking all of them during your trip, hopefully, this post helps you narrow down which ones you do want to try.

Save this guide for the next time you’re in town! If you decide to hike any of these snap a pic and tag me on Insta @wtfab. I love seeing where you all decide to go and hearing how the experience was!

Planning a trip to Scottsdale? Explore my other Scottsdale guides here.

Luxury Hotels in Scottsdale: 14 of the Best Places to Stay
What to do in Scottsdale During Your Post-Panny Trip
12 Fun Outdoor Scottsdale Activities
Palm Springs vs Scottsdale
The Best of the Best: Oldtown Scottsdale Hotels
Things to do in Scottsdale: Travel Guide

Best Bars in Old Town Scottsdale
Best Scottsdale Brunch Spots
Epic Scottsdale Girls’ Trip


Does Scottsdale have hiking trails?

Yes, Scottsdale has plenty of hiking options to explore. Some of the most popular hiking trails are in:
– Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve
– McDowell Mountain Regional Park
– Cave Creek Regional Park
– Pinnacle Peak Park

Are Scottsdale hiking trails open?

Yes, Scottsdale hiking trails are open. Make sure to check for any updates on their websites before going.

How hard is the Pinnacle Peak hike?

The Pinnacle Peak hike is moderate with an incline as soon as you start. Just remember to pack plenty of water and bring sun protection.

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