The most scenic hiking trails in Arizona

It’s really hard to narrow down the list of most scenic trails in Arizona. Really, the entire state is gorgeous and loaded to the brim with amazing mountain and cacti scenery. Both the weather and geography vary dramatically across the state, and thus, the hikes also vary in scenic beauty. This leads to an incredible diversity of options when it comes to hiking. Whether you are seeking incredible mountain vistas, cacti as far as the eye can see, or even a gorgeous forest of green pine and aspen, Arizona has it all…

Below are 15 of the most stunning hikes throughout the state.

1. Camelback Mountain

Hiking Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona

Hiking Camelback Mountain has long been the iconic must-do for any hiker/outdoor lover visiting Phoenix. While this is one of the most popular hikes in the state, it is also one of the hardest. The trek is just 3 miles round-trip although it’s a rough one that involves maneuvering up and down loose rocks and an intense 1000+ foot elevation gain. For all your effort, you are rewarded with the most incredible overview of the region. Start your hike at sunrise for the best views and avoid the hot summer season at all costs.

  • Location: Phoenix (Park along the street on Invergordon Rd)
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight: Best views of Phoenix
  • Distance: 3.5 miles RT (Choose between the Echo Canyon or Cholla trail to the summit. Most say Cholla is the easier of the 2).
  • Tip: Get here early to ensure parking. Do not attempt hike in summer.
  • More info on the Camelback trail

2. Bowen Hidden Canyon trail

Amazing scenery via the Bowen Hidden Canyon trail in Tucson, Arizona

Although Hidden Canyon may not be one of the most talked about hikes in Tucson, it surely is one of the most scenic. This really is Tucson’s best bang-for-your-buck hike as there is barely any elevation gain and the trek is just over 2 miles roundtrip. Not only are the views out-of-this-world with the majestic Tucson mountains and unending cacti comprising the backdrop along the way, but the lack of crowds oftentimes mean wildlife sightings. It’s not uncommon to see deer running across the mountains and occasionally a bobcat crossing your path. And if that isn’t enough, parking is free!

3. Devil’s Bridge

Devil's Bridge in Sedona, Arizona

This is the standout trail in Sedona – the one all the tourists flock to, and for good reason. As the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona, Devil’s Bridge is truly a unique sight to behold. After a relatively easy 2 mile walk filled with jaw dropping red rock views, you will get to put your fear of heights to test and walk across this seemingly narrow arch. In reality it is not quite as narrow as it looks (8-12 feet wide) but still quite an unnerving feat due to the 100+ drop below. On any given days, dozens will wait in line for this perfect photo opp.

  • Location: Sedona (Park on Dry Creek Rd to access the Dry Creek Vista trail which will connect to Devil’s Bridge).
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight: Walk across Sedona’s largest sandstone arch
  • Distance: 1 mile each way (you may have to park in the Dry Vista Lot and add on a 1 mile connector trail if you do not have 4WD).
  • Tip: Hike in the off season (fall/winter) to avoid crowds.
  • More info on the Devil’s Bridge hike

4. Inner Basin

Golden aspens lining the Inner Basin trail in Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff is a beautiful mountain community in the northern part of the state. The massive Coconino National Forest lends to plenty of incredible hiking opportunities. Many are unaware that this part of the state sees a gorgeous autumn season and that the resulting foliage rivals that found in New England. Phoenix residents flock up here each weekend come fall to enjoy the cooler temps and brilliant foliage.

Inner Basin, a steep 1.5 mile climb up to the heart of the San Francisco Peaks (Arizona’s highest mountain range), is the most mesmerizing hike by far. In fall, the trail is ablaze in the most tremendous golden foliage you will lay eyes upon.

5. Canyon Loop Trail

Tall Saguaro cactus at Catalina State Park in Oro Valley, Arizona

Catalina State Park is the most beautiful place to hike within the Tucson metro region. Located in the quiet suburb of Oro Valley, this quaint, undervisited park is the best place to immerse yourself in the desert beauty minus hefty tourist crowds. The beautiful Catalina Mountain range provides an enchanting backdrop for all hikes. Add in jaw dropping views of hundreds of Saguaro cacti, and you have one incredible hiking oasis.

Check out the Canyon Loop Trail, a relatively easy 2 mile loop featuring breathtaking mountain scenery. Entrance is just $7 per car vs. $25 at Saguaro National Park, and thus, Catalina is the perfect budget friendly hiking alternative.

  • Location: Oro Valley (11570 N. Oracle Rd)
  • Cost: $7 per car
  • Highlight: Amazing views of the Catalina mountains
  • Distance: 2.3 mile loop
  • Tip: Stop by for a coffee at Savaya, a fantastic local coffee roaster just across the street.
  • More info on Catalina State Park

6. Teacup trail

Breathtaking scenery from the Sugarloaf Summit trail in Sedona, Arizona

While most tourists head over to Devil’s Bridge, there are endless stunning trails in Red Rock Country. Over 100 miles of trails featuring views of the towering red rocks can be found throughout Sedona, the little known Teacup trail being one of the best-of-the-best. This often overlooked trail is actually quite close to town, and thus, a perfect choice of those not looking to travel far. The views are simply out of this world with little effort required (the hike is just 3 miles RT) on your part. Continue on to the Sugarloaf Summit overlook for the most exhilarating 360 degree red rock vista.

  • Location: Sedona (Buena Vista Drive)
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight: 360 degree red rock views
  • Distance: 1.5 miles out-and-back, additional 0.7 miles to the Sugarloaf Summit.
  • Tip: Treat yourself to lunch at Pisa Lisa (Best pizza in town) or Picazzo’s (organic Italian restaurant with lots of GF options). Both are within a mile of this hike.
  • More info on the Teacup trail

7. Aspen Nature Loop

Aspen Nature Loop in Flagstaff, Arizona

Out of all the gorgeous trails in the Flagstaff region, Aspen Nature Loop is the most peaceful mountain hike. At just 1.5 miles long round-trip, this scenic loop is perfect for hikers of all ability levels. This hike sits at an altitude of 8000+ feet and features gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains.

Instead of cacti in Southern Arizona, the trail is lined with both pines and aspens. It’s alive with greenery in the spring and summer, bustling with fall foliage in autumn, and usually covered with snow in the winter. Beautiful during all of Flagstaff’s 4 seasons, Aspen Nature Loop is a must for outdoor lovers anytime of year.

  • Location: Flagstaff (9300 N. Snowbowl Rd)
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight: Beautiful foliage
  • Distance: 1.5 mile loop
  • Tip: Plan this hike during the fall season. Not only is the foliage on the trail terrific, but also on the way up the 7 mile long Snowbowl Rd.
  • More info on Aspen Nature Loop

8. Pinnacle Peak

Amazing views of Scottsdale, Arizona from Pinnacle Peak Park

A moderately intense uphill climb up Pinnacle Peak will treat you to the most wonderful views of the Scottsdale area. While the trail is quite challenging due to the uphill nature, it’s nowhere near as difficult as Camelback. In fact, this hike actually offers pretty tremendous scenery considering the amount of effort involved. Be ready for a moderately intense 1.75 mile out-and-back adventure, a great lower body workout, and most importantly, a bird’s eye view of the beautiful Scottsdale region.

  • Location: Scottsdale (26802 N. 102nd Way)
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight: Amazing vistas of Scottsdale
  • Distance: 1.75 miles out-and-back
  • Tip: Avoid the hot summer season
  • More info on Pinnacle Peak

9. South Kaibab trail

Beautiful views of the river from the South Kaibab trail at the Grand Canyon

While just visiting the Grand Canyon is an adventure, hiking the Grand Canyon is even more exhilarating. Many come and go unaware that the Canyon is home to a number of hiking trails. If you really want to take in the beauty, especially in a more private manner, consider hiking the South Kaibab trail.

The trek is tough – 7000+ feet, 1.5 miles of a straight uphill climb, but worth every step! The views are insane and surprisingly the trail does not see nearly as much traffic as it should. Continue on to Skeleton Point if you have the endurance to do so and enjoy the once in a lifetime views including a peaceful glimpse of the river.

  • Location: Grand Canyon South Rim
  • Cost: $35 per car entrance fee, good for 7 days
  • Highlight: Travels through the heart of America’s most incredible natural wonders.
  • Distance: 1.5 miles out-and-back
  • Tip: Bring with plenty of water, snacks, avoid monsoon season and get out there early in the day. Only go out to your comfort level – you can turn back at any point! High altitude tips
  • More info on the South Kaibab hike

10. Echo Canyon Grottoes trail

Incredible scenery at Chiricahua National Monument in Southern Arizona

Chiricahua National Monument is a major bucket list contender for photographers and outdoor lovers visiting Southern Arizona. Located just an hour outside of Tucson, this hike is an absolute must for anyone who appreciates the unique exotic beauty of the desert. This park features hundreds of unusual hoodoos and weird rock formations. It’s a strikingly odd place with views you will find nowhere else. Consider hiking the Grotto trail, an easy 1 mile trek which will take you to an incredible overview of these ancient hoodoos.

11. Slate Mountain trail

Gorgeous views of the San Francisco Peaks from the Slate Mountain trail in Flagstaff, Arizona

For a bird’s eye view of the San Francisco Peaks, take a little half hour drive outside of Flagstaff to hike the Slate Mountain trail. While most tourists focus on the more popular Snowbowl trails (which are fantastic too!), you will get to enjoy a crowd free trek to the most stunning overlook of the Peaks. Really, the scenery along this trail is about as good as it gets in Northern Arizona. The 1.5 mile uphill trek is a bit challenging due to the high altitude, yet still doable if you take precautions and get accustomed to the elevation around town for a few days before attempting the climb.

  • Location: Flagstaff (Drive 2 west miles from FR 191)
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight: Best view of The Peaks
  • Distance: 1.7 miles out-and-back
  • Tip: Prepare for the high altitude by getting used to the change in elevation in town for a few days. Drink extra water and eat more than you are used to in order to prevent altitude sickness.
  • More info on the Slate Mountain trail

12. Doe Mountain

Amazing scenery hiking up Doe Mountain in Sedona, Arizona

Add the climb up to the mesa of Doe Mountain to your Sedona hiking bucket list. Another hike which rewards with outstanding views via moderate effort, Doe Mountain is easily a contender for most incredible Sedona hikes. This hike involves a moderate 0.7 mile climb up to the summit with incredible views the entire journey. There is never a boring view on this one. Once you arrive at the top you can linger around and enjoy the scenery more before making the trek back down.

  • Location: Sedona
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight: Ruins of an old volcano atop the mesa
  • Distance: 0.7 miles out-and-back
  • Tip: Skip this one if you are afraid of heights – the drop is steep!
  • More info on the Doe Mountain trail

13. The Horseshoe Loop

Peaceful mountain scenery along the Horseshoe Loop trail at the Scottsdale McDowell Preserve in Arizona

The Scottsdale McDowell Preserve is an easy contender for best hiking area in Phoenix. Unlike South Mountain Park, the trails here are much more spread out, thus helping to thin the traffic a bit. 215 miles of trails are spread throughout 7 trail systems. The Gateway Trailhead is a nice place to start. Enjoy a relatively easy trek through the Sonoran Desert wilderness as you take in incredible mountain and cacti vistas. The Horseshoe Loop is just under 2 miles, so perfect almost anytime of year, even on mornings during the hot summer season.

14. Cookstove trail

Dramatic overlooks of Oak Creek Canyon via the Cookstove hiking trail

The Cookstove trail is located along Oak Creek Canyon Drive, one of the most scenic drives in Arizona, and really the entire country. Most continue on this 14 mile drive on their way to Sedona. Any hikers looking for a challenging, rewarding hike should stop to take in the beauty of one of the region’s most stunning hikes.

The trek is just over a half a mile, but pretty intense as it’s straight uphill with almost 1000 feet in elevation gain. Keep going as the views keep on getting better. Upon reaching the end of the trail, you will be treated to the most stunning vista of pine studded Oak Creek Canyon.

  • Location: Oak Creek Canyon
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight” Best overlook of the canyon
  • Distance: 0.7 miles out-and-back
  • Tip: Only attempt this hike if you are in decent shape! Also bring lots of water and treat yourself to breakfast at Indian Gardens afterwards.
  • More info on the Cookstove trail

15. Brins Mesa

Brins Mesa is one of the most popular trails in all of Sedona. Due to the intense tourist traffic and lack of shade, this hike is best suited for the slower & cooler fall and winter seasons. The hike is a bit long, although mostly flat, and thus, a great choice for anyone seeking a long leisurely hike. The red rock scenery really is spectacular throughout. Sedona is such a beautiful place, and if you do not see that on the Brins Mesa trail, you are unlikely to see it anywhere else!

  • Location: Sedona
  • Cost: Free
  • Highlight: Grand red rock vistas throughout
  • Distance: 1.5 miles out-and-back
  • Tip: Save this one for the cooler season
  • More info on the Brins Mesa trail