Header image: There's more to Arizona hiking than the Grand Canyon. We promise. Read on to discover where the best, off the beaten path trails are. All images: Adam Nutting
There is no secret that Arizona is an amazing place to go hiking. If you are going on day trips or multi-week treks, you can find many great trails. The first trails that everyone not from Arizona will think of are the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and many of slot canyons near the Grand Canyon.
What you might not know is that there are hundreds of miles of trails all over the state that you can enjoy year round. Grab your hiking boots as we take a tour of the five best-hidden hikes in Arizona.
1. Superstition Wilderness
Located a little over an hours drive to the east of Phoenix the Superstitions are full of areas to hike. This area is known for its history of mining claims and those who work them. There are many stories of people attempting to find hidden treasure caches hidden by outlaws and the miners themselves.
The Superstitions span 160,276 acres and have over 180 miles of trails spanning the area. Some trails like the Peralta and First Water Trails are the most traveled. Trails range from excellent to poor. Some are unmaintained. There are also rumors of ghosts trying to protect their claims as well as Native Americans protecting their sacred grounds. Hikers have reported claims of alien activity.
2. Lost Dutchman State Park
Lost Dutchman State Park is a 320-acre state park located near the Superstition Mountains in central Arizona located 40 miles east of Phoenix. Named after the famous Lost Dutchman Mine is legendary for its stories from the tales of the Old West and Arizona’s mining history.
The trails in and around Lost Dutchman State park are a gateway into the Superstitions and Tonto National forest. The most common hike is the Siphon Draw Trail to the top of the Flatiron. This area is a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of Phoenix. The mixture of hiking trails, nature trails, picnic facilities, 72 campsites, a dump station, restrooms, showers, and group use areas makes the area perfect for a nice weekend getaway.
3. Prescott National Forest
The forest is located in the mountains southwest of Flagstaff and north of Phoenix. The 104,000 acres of wilderness are broken down into eight protected areas. Within these areas you will find 450 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. With a mixture of vegetation provides an endlessly changing landscape. In the lower elevations you will find traditional desert vegetation, but as the elevation rises Chaparral becomes more common, followed by Juniper and Piñon pine. Above that Ponderosa pines dominate the landscape.
If you are looking to go for a day hike from your campsite or go on a multi-day backpacking trip the area will never disappoint. The area’s hiking and backpacking is supported by a tremendous camping infrastructure. Everything from fully functional RV sites and cabins to backcountry dispersed camping sites.
4. Madera Canyon
Located an hours drive south of Tucson Madera Canyon is one of the areas beautiful hidden hikers paradise. Nestled in the Santa Rita Mountains as part of the Coronado National Forest this canyon is full of rich mining history. The canyon is a stop for many migrating birds throughout the year with over 256 species of birds documented.
Madera Canyon has over fifty miles of trails to hike. Most notable is the Old Baldy Trail that leads up to Mount Wrightson. Mount Wrightson is the highest point in the Tucson region at 9,456 ft. Named after William Wrighston, a miner and entrepreneur who was killed in 1865 by Apaches during the battle of Fort Buchanan.
Many of the trails provide spectacular views of Green Valley Arizona and Tucson. This area is perfect for day hikes and short weekend car camping trips, but the area is a favorite spot for locals so come early, as parking is limited.
5. Coconino National Forest
The Coconino National Forest located near Flagstaff Arizona is a 1.856-million acre protected forest. The area is known for its stunning beauty and diverse vegetation. The area boasts deserts, ponderosa pine forests, flatlands, mesas, alpine tundra, and ancient volcanic peaks.
The stunning scenery will have you coming back to explore time and time again. You will have plenty to explore with the many miles of trails in the forest. Wet Beaver Canyon Loop, Tonto Natural Bridge, Red Mountain Trail, Lava River Cave, Fossil Springs Trail and Inner Basin Trail are areas everyone should visit.