Where to go hiking right now: Spring 2017 Edition

Disclaimer: Hiking can be a dangerous activity and should be undertaken with caution. It is your responsibility to study routes, alert others to your plans, assess local conditions, bring the appropriate gear, and assure that these hikes are within your ability level before attempting any hike. Difficultly levels are subjectively assigned by me from personal experience on each trail at the time I hiked it, and may not be reflective of your experience level or physical fitness. 


Sure, my back injury has been keeping me off the trails lately, but you can still go hiking for me in the meantime.


EASY


ARAVAIPA CANYON

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If you’ve been reading LP for any period of time you know that this is my most favorite place in the world. It’s easy to see why:

 

Aravaipa Canyon is the best hike in Arizona. Full stop. And it is super easy. There is only one downside: Permits. Permits are required and can be really hard to come by during spring and fall. However, if your group is small and you’re willing to try the middle of the week you’ve still got a chance.

DISTANCE: 11 mi each way (maximum)

DETAILS: HikeArizona

LP POSTS: In The Heart of Everything, Paradise Found, Aravaipa Canyon: a Love Letter, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Landscape


WET BEAVER CREEK (to BELL CROSSING)

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My favorite Sedona alternative, Wet Beaver Creek comes into its own before the crowds arrive with the summer heat. Things are very, very easy for the first couple of miles, but the trail does steepen over the last mile or so before Bell Crossing.

DISTANCE: 3.5 mi each way

DETAILS: HikeArizona

LP POSTS: You’re Killing me Smalls, Getting Better at Getting Better


SYCAMORE CANYON via 144

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Sycamore Canyon is 80% as good as West Fork of Oak Creek with 80% fewer people. The first couple hundred yards of this hike are stupid hard, but after that it’s smooth sailing the entire rest of the way.

DISTANCE: 4 mi each way

DETAILS: HikeArizona


WEST CLEAR CREEK (to LAST CROSSING)

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Big views. Cool water. Easy walking. West Clear Creek is criminally underrated.

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Or, at least it was criminally under rated until the NFS started (wisely) limiting entry to the nearby and ballistically popular Fossil Springs. Usage is up, but few people walk more than a mile from the parking lot.

DISTANCE: 4.5 mi each way

DETAILS: HikeArizona

LP POSTS: The Hike that Wasn’t Supposed to Happen, Spring Fly Fishing West Clear Creek


WEST PINTO to OAK FLAT

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Even though the Superstitions butt right up against Phoenix, essentially no-one visits the eastern side of the range. That’s a shame, because the area is chock-full of history, big views, and easy walking.

Remote enough to feel adventurous but easy enough to be attainable,West Pinto, in particular, is a gem. Best of all, in 6 months of constant deer scouting over the fall, we saw a grand total of two other hiking groups.

If that sounds good to you, but you want someone a lot harder, consider side trips up the Campaign

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Or Cuff Button Trails, both of which are very picturesque, very steep, and very little used.

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But be warned, this is what you’ll feel like going up either of those:

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DISTANCE: 2.5 mi each way (to Oak Flat)

DETAILS: HikeArizona

LP POSTS: Ding, Dong, Summer’s Dead, Now, More than Ever, We Need Nature, A Very Superstitions Deer Hunt


HORTON CREEK

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File this one away for “when it gets a little warmer.” This nice easy family hike is perfect for late spring days when Phoenix temperatures are in the low 90s.

DISTANCE: 3.5 mi each way

DETAILS: HikeArizona

LP POSTS: Jack Hears a Who!


MEDIUM


HELL’S HOLE

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As the skinniness in this picture indicates, its been a while since I’ve been back to Hell’s Hole. Think of it as Hell’s Gate-lite.

DISTANCE: 5.3 mi each way

DETAILS: HikeArizona


CHIRICAHUA BIG LOOP

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I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot. Tibet, Central America, Europe, I’ve done them all. That being said, the Chiricauhas are one of the most amazing places I’ve seen. Littered with thousands (millions?) of building sized rock spires, the whole place feels like you’re wandering some sort of Flintstones downtown. Unfortunately the Chiricahuas are long way from anywhere, so you are going to want to get the most of your trip. The Big Loop will take you through all the highlights.

DISTANCE: 8.5 mi round trip

DETAILS: HikeArizona

LP POSTS: Rocking the Rocks


HARD


REAVIS RANCH via 109N

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Mark my words: the crowds at Reavis Ranch will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and makes the NFS move to a designated campground system in the Superstitions. Reavis is full. Full all the time. Full of annoying people. All because in the 1800s Reavis himself planted apples. Sweet, but soft, and quite small they are incredible and well worth the hike. Or at least they would be if you could see through the crowds.

Lucky for you though, spring isn’t apple season so most of the riff raff will be off on other hikes. Still, don’t expect to have the place to yourself.

DISTANCE: 9.5 mi each way

DETAILS: HikeArizona

LP POSTS: How ‘Bout Them Apples


 

HARD

 


BRIGHT ANGEL to INDIAN GARDEN (or PLATEAU POINT)

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This is the smart Grand Canyon hike. The reasonable Grand Canyon hike. Sure, its hard, but if you are in somewhat good shape it won’t kill you. I can’t say that for the Grand Canyon hike below.

DISTANCE: 4.5 mi each way to Indian Garden, 6 mi each way to Plateau Point

DETAILS: NPS

LP POSTS: How to Not Go Insane While Hiking the Grand Canyon this Summer, Staircase to Heaven


VERY HARD


HELL’S GATE:

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I love Hell’s Gate. It’s beautiful. It’s peaceful. I’ve even heard the fishing is good. However:

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So is it worth it?

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Yep.

DISTANCE: 7 mi each way

DETAILS: HikeArizona

LP POSTS: Highway to Hell


RIM to RIVER to RIM

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Look, NPS tell you explicitly not to do this hike:

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And frankly, they’re probably right.

But some of us like doing stupid things. If you are going to go, head down South Kaibab, where the views are better…

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…and go up Bright Angel…

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…where the hiking is (somewhat) easier.

DISTANCE: 13.7 mi round trip

DETAILS: Backpacker

LP POSTS: There and Back Again


Disclaimer: This post, and all posts on LesserPlaces, may contain affiliate links– links that allow me to receive a small kickback at no additional cost to you when you shop through them. This is how we keep the lights on. 



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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, occasionally for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.

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