Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kid-Friendly (and Pet-Friendly) Hikes in the Phoenix Area

We are looking forward to cooler weather, aren't you? This is the time of year when the Desert-Dwellers start itching for fall. On those perfect fall-weather days, there is nothing better than getting outside and enjoying all of the hiking and outdoors the Valley has to offer.

Today, we're focusing on hiking with kids or pets. We also have an exciting announcement at the bottom of the post--so keep reading!

Most of these hikes we have personally done with real-life, actual human children. Although neither of us have a dog, hiking with dogs and kids generally means you are looking for an easier trail so it's a similar search.

In general, dogs are allowed at all county, city, and federal parks but must remain on a leash. And of course, don't forget to clean up after your pet (and/or child)!

Here are several places to try for an easy hike with your favorite short-legged friend:


1. Boyce Thompson Arboretum (Superior) Although this place is not really in the Phoenix Area, this beautiful oasis in the desert is most definitely worth the drive. Located near historic Superior, Arizona, about a 60-minute drive east from Phoenix on Highway 60. The Arboretum is the perfect place for exploring, learning, and relaxing too. Marily and her family loved walking the grounds, learning about trees or just enjoying the view. There is definitely enough to keep explorers entertained—mine hugged gigantic trees, ran through rock mazes, and watched butterflies. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 5-12, and free for children 4 and under.

2. Riparian Preserve (Gilbert). There are several trails that wander throughout this preserve, around a lake and swampy areas laden with birds, turtles, and fish. It is a popular spot for bird-watchers, dog-walkers, and families. The lush landscape provides some shade during much of the day.

3. Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area (South Phoenix)
This restoration area is 5 miles of paved and dirt trails along the Salt River. Great for exploring nature, bird-watching, walking, biking, or jogging. You can also take a guided tour or find other educational opportunities at the Rio Salado Audobon Center at 3131 S Central Ave in Phoenix.

4. Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park (Scottsdale). This is a low-water use park with a nice desert botanical trail. The park also has a playground and splash pad.

Easy Hikes

5. Papago Park - Hole in the Rock (Phoenix).  You’ve likely seen this one if you’ve been to the Phoenix Zoo. Basically, it is a long stairway to a big hole in the rock--hence the name.  Short and sweet. There are also other trails at Papago Park if you want more to do.

6. McDowell Mountain Preserve
McDowell Mountain is a large park with over 40 miles of hiking. Trails range in every level of difficulty, including a good 10 different trails rated at easy. The park also hosts lots of fun events for families like nature walks, full moon hikes, junior ranger programs, and more.

7. Thunderbird Conservation Park (Glendale)
This park in North Glendale has 15 miles of multi-use trails. Trails are as short as .25 miles up to a 5 mile hike. Something for everyone.

8. Falcon Hill Park (Mesa). This is the easiest little hike in town with a short climb to the top of Fountain Hill and a view of the city for miles. There is even a playground at the base of it.

9.Silly Mountain (Apache Junction). Even the name of this mountain makes this the perfect hike for kids and pets. There are a few different choices of trails, all quite easy. You'll also find a botanical walk to learn more about desert plants.

10."A" Mountain (AKA Hayden Butte). A short and sweet hike, easy enough for little legs.

Moderate Hikes

11. Pinnacle Peak Park (Scottsdale)
This park is one of the most popular hiking spots in the Valley. The hike is 3.5 miles and leads to incredible views. No dogs allowed at this park.

12.  Usery Park Wind Cave Trail
The Wind Cave Trail is one of those hikes that everyone Arizona needs to try at least once. It is about 3.2 miles round trip and takes you to some fun alcoves which you can sit and rest in before you turn around and head back. For an easy hike, Merkle trail is a great option for families with young children, it is flat enough for strollers and wheelchairs. If we have multiple adults, we might split up and one group takes the older kids on the Vista trail which climbs over the hill. There is a $6 entrance fee to get into Usery Park.

13. Hieroglyphic Trail - The Hieroglyphic trail is located in the Superstition Mountain near Gold Canyon. It can be a little tricky to find the trailhead but the hike is fantastic.  Not too hard and awesome history at the end.  We hiked this trail twice this last spring.  Our youngest were four at the time and were able to complete the hike on their own two feet.  I would recommend this hike for only October-May as this hike gets too toasty when the summer sun is beating off the rocks.

14.  South Mountain
South Mountain Regional Park is the World’s largest city park. It is the perfect place to take out of town guests, whether they like hiking or not. Just a drive up the mountain to stop at Dobbins lookout is worth the trip. There are lots of hiking opportunities here too. Just grab a map at the park entrance or ask a ranger for some suggestions.

15.  Lost Dutchman State Park (Apache Junction)
Lots of options for trails ranging from easy to challenging. The Discover Interpretive Trail is a flat, .5 mile nature trail with labeled plants. Several other trails are available at every level of difficulty, including Flat Iron which is one of the most challenging hikes in the Valley.  In addition, park events are hosted at Lost Dutchman all season long: a sunset hike, geology hike, kid’s activities, star talks and much more. $7 entry fee for each vehicle.

16. North Mountain National Trail.
North Mountain Trail is a 1.6 mile loop around the mountain.  Although it is a short trail it is somewhat strenuous and probably suited better for older children. The steep grade is a nice work out and leads to a great view over the Valley. Unlike some other urban hiking spots, North Mountain has plenty of parking spots.

Hiking Tips:

Be prepared for hiking with lots of water and especially if you are bringing little ones, it’s a good idea to have a first aid kit in the car for cuts and scrapes.

Do you know proper trail etiquette? Hikers yield to runners, and both yield to horses. Downhill hikers yield to uphill hikers. Bicycles yield to everyone. Generally, the people you meet hiking are some of the most friendly and courteous people around--you should be the same.  

Now, get out there and enjoy this beautiful state!


  1. You've been on my Blogger Reading List for a few years, I occasionally comment, and I follow you on FB but have no idea whether or not I am on your e-mail list. We are leaving Chicago late next week for our winter home in Apache Junction and are excited that you are publishing a Fall Guide. Do you need my e-mail address or can you get it from here?

  2. I got it, Bev and I put you on our email list! This list is not to subscribe to all of our posts, it is ONLY for our seasonal guides which we will send out 2-4 times a year. We will have to meet you sometime, you are one of our most devoted readers! Hope you have fun in Chicago.


Hi there! Comments, ideas for things to do, and other insight appreciated.

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