Arizona is a prime destination for spending time outdoors, and the best hikes in Scottsdale show off the pure charm of the Southwest desert. From flat, easy walks among the saguaros to craggy mountain summits, you’ll find it all in this quaint town encircled by triumphant peaks.
Ready to see what’s in store? Here are the 11 best trails to hit if you’re looking for hiking in Scottsdale. They won’t disappoint!
1. McDowell Mountain North Trail
Enjoy quintessential Arizona wilderness on the McDowell Mountain North Trail. This is among the best hikes in Scottsdale for those seeking an easy walk with plenty to see. Feast your eyes upon giant saguaros, and stop for a water break on one of the shaded benches. The trail is well marked along the flat three miles – great for beginners and families looking to get outside in Scottsdale.
2. Tom’s Thumb
Well-loved by locals and visitors alike, Tom’s Thumb is challenging yet certainly one of the best hikes in Scottsdale. From the summit, you’ll be treated to sprawling vistas of the McDowell Mountains and the city below, making it well worth the effort during the steep, four-mile trek. A word to the wise – wear shoes with tread and support for this trail, as it’s known to be quite slippery.
3. Saguaro Loop and Nature Trail
Starting from the Gateway trailhead in McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the Saguaro Loop is one of the best hikes in Scottsdale for sunset. It’s considered an easy trail but has some rough rocky terrain along the nearly two-mile track. If you’re looking to experience the desert landscape, this is a top pick, though note that there’s no shade along the way, and you should bring plenty of water.
4. Gateway Loop
This popular trail is great for hiking in Scottsdale, with a gradual incline suitable for all fitness levels. You’ll be treated to impressive views of the McDowell Mountains and towering saguaros lining the path. The loop is about four and a half miles – start early to skip the crowds and heavy desert heat!
5. Pinnacle Peak Trail
Experience the best of the Pinnacle Peak area with the namesake trail that snakes around the massive granite formation jutting up from the desert floor. The track undulates and has very few flat sections, which makes for an interesting, yet slightly challenging hike. After gaining some elevation, the trail opens up to the Grandview Lookout, with mesmerizing sights to enjoy before heading back down. It’s about three and a half miles, round trip since it’s not a loop track.
Note: Rock climbers are able to summit Pinnacle Peak from the east side. There are plenty of belay anchors along the way that will help you reach the top.
6. Sunrise Peak
When it comes to the best hikes in Scottsdale, no list is complete without Sunrise Peak. This gorgeous mountain in the McDowell Sonoran Reserve sees plenty of foot traffic, so start extra early if you want the beat the morning rush. It has a decent amount of climbing to the summit, which leads to breathtaking 360° views of the soaring mountains and city in the distance. This is an awesome place to enjoy the massive saguaros and other local flora and fauna that lines the almost four-mile path generously.
7. Bell Pass and Windgate Loop Trail
The Bell Pass trail is a Scottsdale treasure and a choice hike if you’re looking for something longer (a little more than 9 miles) without the crowds. Since it starts from the Gateway trailhead, the first couple of miles can be congested, but once you get to the Windgate section of the trail, the people start to thin out. The rocky Windgate trail climbs until you hit Bells Pass, which becomes more level and provides some of the best vistas in all of Scottsdale. After the saddle, you’ll start to descend back to the crowds on the Gateway trail. Just remember to bring at least three liters of water, so you don’t suffer in the desert heat.
8. Camelback Mountain
It’s pretty easy to guess where this Scottsdale hike gets its name from. The hump-like summit is a well-loved Arizona attraction and offers two challenging routes to reach the top. The Echo Canyon Trail is steep and rocky but has handrails along the way to assist hikers through the toughest portions. Alternatively, take the Cholla Trail, which is pretty gentle throughout the first mile, but quickly leads to picking your way through arduous rocks to reach the top. Whichever way you choose, your hard work will pay off with the best views of Phoenix below. Even better if you make it for sunrise when the sky bursts into color and the surrounding mountains glow pink.
9. Brown’s Ranch Trail
Get a taste of cowboy life on the Brown’s Ranch Trail. Originally used for grazing animals, this family-friendly three-mile trail takes you right to Brown’s Ranch, where you can see some former work structures and imagine horses and cattle roaming free.
10. Adero Canyon Ridgeline Trail
Take in panoramic views from one of the best hikes in Scottsdale, the Adero Canyon Ridgeline Trail. This track offers a serious workout and is considered difficult thanks to the rocky terrain, ample elevation gain (and loss), and very steep inclines. Though this four-mile trek is definitely worth the effort, with views of Four Peaks in the distance and urban Arizona splayed out below.
11. Granite Mountain Loop Trail
This well-preserved trail is one of the best hikes in Scottsdale for soaking in the desert landscape, even if you aren’t in tip-top shape. The track is gentle with a bit of elevation gain, traveling through lush desert vegetation with plenty of saguaros and captivating rock formations. You may even come across some wildlife on the six-mile walk, like the desert tortoise, but remember to always keep your hands to yourself!
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