By John Kuells
If you’re looking for a hike to challenge you a bit, Arizona is your best bet. The Grand Canyon State, with its arid climate, vast deserts, and towering summits, brings explorers hiking that really gets the heart pumping. From Apache Junction to the Red Rocks, here are five energizing hikes to enjoy in Arizona.
You won’t find any novice hikers on this trail. Flatiron is one of the Valley’s most challenging—and rewarding—scenic hikes. Flatiron is located in the middle of Lost Dutchman State Park’s vast wilderness. The trail starts with a gradual ascent followed by a difficult climb up the Superstitions Mountains. You’ll challenge every muscle group during the hike, which features a mix of rock climbing, switchbacks, and vertical ascents. Overall, you’ll experience a 5.5-mile (roughly) hike with a nearly 3,000-foot elevation change. The real highlight, however, are the stunning 360 degree views at the summit. You’ll have a bird’s eye view of the Valley and the rest of the Superstitions Mountains.
It’s no secret that Humphreys Peak is a great hike. This northern Arizona trek is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts—and rightly so. It’s a scenic route that takes you above the tree line of the San Francisco Peaks and guides you to a 12,633-foot summit, the highest point in Arizona. The summit views are undeniably great, but getting there is half the fun. Humphreys Peak is located near Flagstaff’s famous Arizona Snowbowl ski range. Starting at an elevation of over 7,000 feet, you’ll hike through a series of meadows before starting your difficult climb. You’ll then climb through thick forestry before encountering several false summits. The trail features everything from large boulders to clusters of wild flowers. Overall, it’s a challenging nine-mile round trip hike that will leave you ready to conquer the world.
Looking to cool off from the heat? Then take a scenic hike through the Bear Canyon trail to Seven Fall. This popular Tucson hike has all elements of a great desert hike: gorgeous desert landscape, thick forests of cacti, and challenging switchbacks. The real highlight, however, are the shimmering pools of water sprinkled throughout the trail. You’ll cross a variety of different streams on the way to a hidden waterfall. You can also take a refreshing dip in one of the many large pools located on the hike. Seven Falls may be less challenging than similar trails in the Coronado National Forest, but the magnificent falls make this trail difficult to beat.
At first glance, Sunset Vista Trail might not look a difficult hike. The first few miles feature a flat trip along the western side of Picacho Peak. But Sunset Vista Trail is a tale of two hikes. After the first two miles, the moderate trail turns into a difficult ascent up the mountain. You’ll run into a series of twists, turns, and switchbacks during a steep change in elevation. Sunset Vista Trail is not for the faint of heart, as much of the trail is comprised of loose rocks and cables. The trail may leave you sore, but it’s worth it for the scenic views. It’s filled with wild flowers, cactus, and a summit view best enjoyed at sunset.
Wet Beaver Creek is the definition of a hidden gem. It’s one of the few trails in Arizona that features both Sedona’s iconic Red Rocks and a swimming hole. The hike begins on Bell Trail and diverges into a lengthy walk along a shaded creek. Though it doesn’t feature much of an elevation change, the length of the hike alone is enough to leave you winded and ready for a break. Thankfully, the trail leads to a hidden swimming hole known as “The Crack.” Once there, you can enjoy scenic creek side views of the towering Red Rocks. The Crack is also a beloved spot for cliff jumpers looking to make a splash in the shimmering waters. The water is notoriously cold and one dip is enough to reenergize you for the long trek back to the car.