The parks and peaks that make up the Phoenix Mountains Preserve are surrounded by civilization, but feel as remote as the Sonoran Desert outside the city. Located in the heart of Central Phoenix and just 20 minutes from downtown, the preserve offers hiking, biking, and views from prominent summits such as Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain.
Trailhead hours: All gated trailheads and parking areas are open 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Trails remain open until 11 p.m.
The preserve's second highest point (after Camelback) is Piestewa Peak at 2,608 feet. If you want to enjoy the panoramic views, there's only one way up: The extremely strenuous Summit Trail (#300), challenging hikers with a 1,200-ft elevation gain and rocky, unrelenting climb.
Distance: 1.2 miles out-and-back
Trailhead: 2701 E Squaw Peak Dr, Phoenix, the first driveway on the left in the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. Water and restrooms are available.
What to expect: Crowds, exposed schist rock and a difficult climb give way to jaw-dropping views from the top. Bring more water than you think you need, protect yourself from heat and enjoy the challenge. Dogs are not allowed on Summit Trail.
If you'd rather avoid the climb, the area around Piestewa Peak provides plenty of recreation and hiking opportunities. The 3.74-mile Freedom Trail (#302) encircles the base of the peak, while the Quartz Ridge Trail (#8A) climbs to connect with additional trails for views of the surrounding desert. For full descriptions of all hiking options, visit the Phoenix Parks and Recreation page for Piestewa/Dreamy Draw.
Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area (Main Entrance): 2701 E. Squaw Peak Drive
Dreamy Draw Recreation Area: 2421 E Northern Ave
32nd Street Trailhead entrance: NE Corner of Lincoln Ave and 32nd St
North Mountain and Shaw Butte sit at 2,104 feet and 2,149 feet, respectively, and this part of the preserve gives you access to hike up (and around) both. Trail difficulties range from a barrier-free nature trail to the moderately difficult, steady climb up Shaw Butte. Find trail descriptions here.
Although slightly smaller than the popular peaks of North Mountain Park, the region provides excellent views and less crowded trails. Take a 1.6-mile loop around Shadow Mountain, or hike a short but sweet .6 mile summit trail onto Lookout Mountain. Visit here for trail maps and descriptions.
Walk (or bike) around the red buttes at Papago Park. Get Instagram-worthy pics at the iconic Hole-in-the-Rock formation.
Climbers can take two strenuous trails to the peak and leave their chalky handprints on the granite “hump” of Camelback Mountain.
Hikers can traverse 50 miles of trail at South Mountain Park and Preserve, one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.
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