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Jonathan Stull | 04.24.2017

With summertime temperatures that jump into the triple digits, the spring is one of the best times for hiking in the desert Southwestern wilderness of Arizona. The spring wildflowers are in bloom, filling the air with perfumes of orange blossom, lemon, and grapefruit trees, and the desert bursts with wildflower color. Temperatures stay in the range of 70 to 90 degrees, precipitation is minimal, and the thunderstorms of the summer monsoon season are just a distant rumbling. For the months of March and May, the conditions are ideal for long day hikes in the desert among the saguaro and the cholla. For many Arizonans, this will be the only opportunity to experience desert hikes like these until October, when the summer heat subsides. Within a day’s drive of Phoenix is some fantastic desert country—the spectacular Superstition Mountains, the mountain parks outside of Scottsdale, among others. Take a look at a list of Arizona’s best spring hikes, and strap on your boots for a day in the outdoors.

  • Cholla Trail: One half of the trail system on Camelback Mountain, which offers some of the best views of the Phoenix area, can be found on this difficult 3-mile hike that ends in a difficult scramble up Camelback Ridge.
  • Tom’s Thumb: Just north of Scottsdale, ascend to the rock spire through otherworldly boulder fields for great views of the area. Spring wildflowers. No fresh water.
  • McDowell Mountain Park, Scenic Trail: McDowell Mountain Park northeast of Scottsdale is a hiker hotspot, and this is one of its most popular trails through gorgeous desert scenery.
  • Cat Peaks Trail: In Usery Mountain Park, the Cat Peaks Trail is a low-grade, easy ramble through the desert with cholla blooms in April.
  • Pipeline Canyon Trail: Albeit short, the trail at Pipeline Canyon offers an opportunity to watch the birds, scout out wildflowers, or fish in record-setting waters. Or, continue on to the Yavapai Point Trail for the best views over Lake Pleasant.
  • Apache Trail: Although not technically a hike, the 40-mile section of Arizona Highway 88 is one of the best ways to see the Superstition Mountains. Hikes are available from Lost Dutchman, and scrambles from the roadside are options along the way.
  • Peralta Canyon Trail: One of the most popular Superstition Mountains hikes. Moderate in difficulty, it offers great views and fascinating stone formations at Weaver’s Needles.
  • Woods Canyon Lake: Woods Canyon Lake bucks the desert trend with cool waters, fishing, and a serene woodland setting for sojourns from Phoenix—though the drive time is hefty.


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