10 Favorite Hikes in the Valley
Luckily, there are tons of places in the Valley where you can take advantage of the natural beauty, gorgeous weather, and off-the-beaten path hikes. Here are just 10 of our favorites:
10. Usery Mountain's Wind Cave Trail
The 1.6-mile trail is fairly easy; it's the most popular hike in the area. There are few rough spots where you have to navigate over some big rocks, but the gentle grade (only 820 feet) and long switchbacks make, at least the first half, a big piece of $6 cake. The second half begins to climb up the rock's face toward the cave. (In the morning it's almost completely in the shade, which is a nice refresher.) And to top it off, along the way, hikers can trot along to the soothing sounds of nature -- the wind rolling over the desert floor, bees buzzing, birds chirping ... the occasional round of gun shots (thanks to the shooting range, of course).
9. Pinnacle Peak
Pinnacle Peak trail is for tourists -- the well-manicured trail is lined with an almost unnatural variety of desert plant species, which are all labeled, and is heavily traveled by people...in jeans. (Note: If you can hike in jeans, you're not really hiking.) The trail head features a concession stand-type information booth and fancy bathrooms, too. The good thing is that most of the "tourists" stop before the trail gets difficult, so the runners, which there are a lot of, and the more serious hikers can continue in relative peace. The 4-mile round trip hike takes a little more than an hour.
8. Nature Trail at Piestawa Peak
The nature trail can be a little trickier than it sounds, but when in doubt, hikers can always find a perch and look around for the informational plaques -- they are bright turquoise and can be spotted from a decent distance. They indicate the general direction you want to head and pass along useful trivia information. As you march along the path, read about teddy bear cholla (the jumping cholla's fuzzy-looking cousin), saguaros (they grow an arm after 75 years, not 100), and ocotillo (this is a succulent, not a cactus). If you're like us, by the end, you'll be wishing for more plaques.
7. Desert Foothills/Telegraph Pass/National East
Phoenix's South Mountain is known for its extensive trail system; even if you start at the same place every time you go hiking, you can end up taking five different trails to the top. The mountain's Desert Foothills Trailhead provides an easy start -- a wide, paved, flat surface. But it quickly breaks off into two directions: up to Telegraph Pass Trail and flat along the Desert Classic Trail. Telegraph Pass is steep, but easy enough because it's rather short. About halfway up, there's a small turnoff where you can see a few petroglyphs. Once you reach the top of Telegraph Pass, which dumps you out next to Summit Road, you can head left toward National West Trail or right toward National East Trail. Either completes a 15.5-mile loop.
3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa, AZ
46th St. and Baseline Road, Phoenix, AZ