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.
Fall is here and it’s prime time hiking season throughout Arizona.
But, do you hate reading through guide books? Do you find HikeArizona impossible to navigate? (Editor’s Note: that’s because HikeArizona IS impossible to navigate) Don’t worry, we’ve picked out all the best options for you. We’ve also included links to all the relevant posts here on LP.
See you on the trails!
Aravaipa Canyon is the best hike in Arizona. Full stop. And the rumor is that your’s truly will be writing a story about it in an upcoming national magazine. Permits are already hard to come by this time of year, so you better jump on them before this place starts getting the credit it deserves.
DISTANCE: 12.25 mi each way (maximum)
SYCAMORE CANYON via 144
Can’t stand the Sedona bros? Me neither. Lucky for us Sycamore Canyon is 80% as good as West Fork of Oak Creek with 80% fewer people. Warning though, the first couple hundred yards of this hike are stupid hard.
DISTANCE: 4 mi each way
WEST CLEAR CREEK (to LAST CROSSING)
Big views. Cool water. Easy walking. West Clear Creek is criminally underrated.
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
WEST PINTO to OAK FLAT
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. If you looking for something a little tougher consider adding on the nearby Cuff Button or Campaign Trails for seriously tough climbs but worthwhile views:
DISTANCE: 2.5 mi each way
Just look at that face. That’s a face that says, “
PLEASE GOD DON’T DROP ME INTO THE STREAM THANKS, PARENTS FOR HELPING ME BUILD A LIFETIME APPRECIATION FOR THE OUTDOORS!”
If Jack-a-mundi likes Horton Creek you will too. Check the weather before you go though, this hike is a little high and it will get awfully cold as winter sets in.
DISTANCE: 3.5 mi each way
LP POSTS: Jack Hears a Who!
WET BEAVER CREEK
Another Red Rocks alternative, Wet Beaver Creek comes into its own as the crowds disappear 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
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
CHIRICAHUA BIG LOOP
Look, there is no way to say this without sounding like I’m bragging: 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
LP POSTS: Rocking the Rocks
REAVIS RANCH via 109N
Reavis Ranch is close to nowhere, requires a long hike from any direction, and can get awfully cold awfully early in the season, yet it’s packed all fall. Why? Apples.
In the late 1800s Reavis himself planted an apple orchard that produces a variety of apples that you can’t buy in the store. Sweet, but soft, and quite small they are incredible and well worth the hike.
DISTANCE: 9.5 mi each way
LP POSTS: How ‘Bout Them Apples
MT.HUMPREY’S via INNER BASIN
You don’t have much time left for this one– Humpreys has already had its first snow of the season. But, if you are going to hike Arizona’s tallest peak do yourself a favor and hike it from the north. Sure, its a little longer, but the views are better and the crowds are thinner.
DISTANCE: 8.2 mi each way
LP POSTS: In praise of weekend warriors
BRIGHT ANGEL to INDIAN GARDEN (or PLATEAU POINT)
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
I love Hell’s Gate. It’s beautiful. It’s peaceful. I’ve even heard the fishing is good. However:
So is it worth it?
DISTANCE: 7 mi each way
LP POSTS: Highway to Hell
RIM to RIVER to RIM
Look, NPS tell you explicitly not to do this hike:
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…
…and go up Bright Angel…
…where the hiking is (somewhat) easier.
DISTANCE: 13.7 mi round trip
LP POSTS: There and Back Again
That’s all we’ve got! Check back in a couple of months for the winter update.
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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.