By John Kuells
Arizona is a hiker’s paradise. It’s filled with diverse mountain ranges offering beautiful views and breathtaking scenery. Experience Arizona’s magic to its fullest by taking to the most wonderful trails in the state. These five trails should be at the top of your list whether you’re an avid hiker or new beginner.
Hiking the Grand Canyon is a bucket list item for many. However, hiking one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World isn’t easy. There are many trails ill suited for visitors who aren’t in peak physical condition. Bright Angel Trail offers hikers the best chance to complete a Grand Canyon hike. This eight-mile trek has a nearly 4,400-foot elevation change and ends with a spectacular view of the Colorado River. Hiking the trail is no easy feat. However, there is plenty of shade, several restrooms, and a well-developed trail that makes life easier for hikers. The trail consists of a gradual descent into the canyon that’s surrounded by beautiful scenery. You eventually pass through the lush, green Indian Gardens before reaching a gorgeous plateau. The views are so breathtaking that it’s totally worth the uphill climb back up the canyon. The Bright Angel Trail is perfect for a full day of adventuring filled with one-of-a-kind views.
Lava River Cave is a perfect alternative for hikers looking to avoid the sun-filled trails of Arizona. That’s because this lava tube cave is dark without the aid of a flashlight. Lava River Cave is located in the beautiful ponderosa pine forest near Flagstaff. This ancient geological formation formed through volcanic lava flow that hardened into its current tube like state. As you enter the cave, you’ll encounter a quick descent before leveling off for the rest of the trail. The .75-mile trail is filled with unique geological properties that you have to see to believe. The trail itself can be a bit hazardous. It’s recommended you bring at least three sources of light and some warm clothes, as it can be sub-40 degrees in the middle of the summer. This northern Arizona gem is an adventurous way to take a tour of natural history.
Sedona is an Arizona treasure. It’s located smack dab in the middle of the Coconino National Forest and is surrounded by scenic red rocks and picturesque canyon views. There’s no better way to enjoy Sedona’s natural beauty than by hiking Devil’s Bridge. Don’t let the name scare you. This moderate hike is roughly two miles and is perfect for hikers of all skill levels. The iconic hike involves a 400-foot climb up a busy trailhead. The trail culminates with a view of Devil’s Bridge, the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona. Many hikers take their pictures atop the bridge to celebrate the occasion. This hike does get major foot traffic and usually involves extra hiking due to limited parking. However, it’s all worth it for the unparalleled views of Sedona.
Valley residents are all familiar with Papago Park. For one, it’s located centrally near busy areas of Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale. It also includes an iconic, hole filled geological structure. Papago’s famous red butte was created millions of years ago and due to erosion now includes openings, or holes, throughout its structure. One benefit to the erosion is the Hole in the Rock trail. This easy, half-mile hike requires a light ascent into a large chamber at the butte’s peak. Once there, you’ll be greeted by epic views of the sprawling Phoenix desert. Though not as popular as the crowded Camelback Mountain, the Hole in the Rock is a much easier way to see equally stunning views of the Valley. It’s also best enjoyed during sunrise and sunset for optimal scenery.
Tucson is celebrated for its iconic hiking trails and beautiful views of the Sonoran Desert. Bridal Wreath Falls Trail is no exception. This moderate six-mile trail leads to a beautiful, 25-foot waterfall. Located in the Saguaro National Park, this trail offers close encounters with Tucson’s flora and fauna. The popular hike includes mostly gradual climbs but does have a few steeper climbs. This hike is worth the effort, however, once you reach the waterfall. The last quarter mile involves a climb to a hidden oasis in the middle of the dry desert. Bridal Wreath is an easier alternative to some of the grueling Tucson hikes. It may be a longer hike, but a dip in the waterfall will refresh you for the second half of your trip.