If you love the outdoors as much as I do, Arizona is a destination you NEED to add to your bucket list! For my 30th birthday, I planned a road trip from Scottsdale, through Sedona and Grand Canyon National Park to Page, Arizona. Not only was there so much to see and do, but the drive through the desert and red rocks was insanely beautiful!
I would highly recommend visiting between the months of April and May or September and October to avoid extreme heat, cold, snow and large crowds as these are off peak months to visit and therefore, typically less expense. Here are the top 5 best Arizona hiking trails that I would highly recommend for your trip to Arizona as well as some helpful tips if it’s your first time.
1. Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona
Located in the heart of the city and iconic to the city of Scottsdale, this stunning mountain is called Camelback because it actually does look like a camel – head, hump and all! I had read that this hike was hard, but with all the hiking I had done when I was living in California, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was wrong!
There are two trails you can take up: Echo Canyon Trail, which is apparently the harder if the two, and Cholla Trail, the easier trail that I took. I wouldn’t recommend finishing the last third of this hike if you’re terrified of heights, only because it’s pretty easy up until that point. The last third of the hike is literally rock climbing up the mountain. None the less, it was an absolutely breathtaking hike with incredible views of Scottsdale and the view from the top alone is totally worth it! Although I found parts of the trail quite challenging, there were young kids on the trail which means if they can do it, you can too.
Tips: Make sure you bring PLENTY of water. You’re going to need it! I also recommend real hiking shoes on this one but you can wear regular gym shoes as long as they have pretty strong tread. I was totally fine in my Nikes.
I would recommend starting your Cholla Trail hike first thing in the morning at sunrise to avoid the extreme heat and crowds. It’s a 3.1 mile roundtrip hike which will most likely take around 2.5 to 3 hours total.
In addition, the best place to park where you won’t get towed is on Cholla Lane. Pass the Phoenician Golf course on your left while driving down N Invergordon Road and take a left on Cholla Lane. You can park pretty much anywhere before the residential neighborhood and follow the signs to Cholla Trail.
2. Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, Arizona
This was by far the highlight of the time I spent in Sedona! The hike up to the bridge was pretty easy and the views on the hike itself were absolutely stunning even before reaching the bridge. I already can’t wait to go back here and do this hike again someday!
Tips: There are 3 ways to get to Devil’s Bridge via 3 trails. Picking which route you’d like to take really depends on how far and how intense of a hike you’re looking for. I was unfortunately short on time so took the easiest and shortest route from the Dry Creek Road parking lot.
For the shortest and easiest hike, plan to park right off of Dry Creek Road. The official Devil’s Bridge trailhead is at the end of the paved road and only a mile hike to the bridge. The hike is pretty flat for the first 3/4 mile and you will come to a fork in the road. Make sure you follow the signs to lead you towards the bridge!
When you arrive at the bridge, it looks extremely skinny, but it’s actually quite wide! Everyone was really nice about taking turns to take individual photos on the bridge. PLEASE be careful when walking out onto the bridge as it extends 80 feet above the ground!
Make sure you also bring plenty of water with you. This hike can be done by children of all ages – Just make sure you keep an eye on them and don’t let them get too close to the edge. The other more challenging and longer trailheads that lead to Devil’s Bridge include Chuck Wagon Trail which is 8.4 miles roundtrip or Mescal to Chuck Wagon Trail which is 5 miles round trip.
3. Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon has been a destination on my bucket list ever since I was a little girl. I had seen it in movies but in person, there is NOTHING that compares! The size of this natural beauty is absolutely mind blowing and photos do not do it justice whatsoever.
Note that in order to get into the Grand Canyon National Park, there is a $30 fee per car. I would 100% recommend doing the entire drive through the Canyon via the South Rim which will take you about 4 hours from start to finish because there are about 8 different look outs to stop and take photos.
Tips: Start your journey by entering the park through Tusayan, Arizona. I would also recommend staying in this little town so you can start you’re hiking and exploring early in the morning. There are several hotels to choose from but I stayed at the Best Western Premier which has a heated pool, hot tub, bowling alley and bar inside!
Once in the park, park in parking lot D and walk to the canyon from there. There is a large paved road you can walk along next to the canyon with restaurants, shopping and bathrooms. You can hike Bright Angel Trail early in the morning and go as far down into the canyon as you’d like. Please note that the trail is pretty skinny (6-8 feet wide in some parts) and it’s extremely easy to fall in if you’re not cautious and winds are high. It DOES happen!
There are also mule ride tours that take this trail down and back up so hikers are expected to move out of the way to allow them to pass.
I only hiked down about an hour and hiked back up about an hour and a half because I wanted to take time to explore El Tovar Hotel, have drinks of their patio and eat at Harvey House before our drive through the park and up to Page.
4. Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona
Although it’s really considered “a hike,” there are NO WORDS to describe how absolutely stunning Antelope Canyon is in real life. There is an Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon, both of which offer daily tours through different tour companies. I chose to explore Lower Antelope Canyon with Ken’s Tours because it’s apparently less crowded than Upper Antelope Canyon, although quite honestly it was extremely crowded in my opinion.
Tips: Make sure you book your reservation to tour Antelope Canyon far enough in advance, especially if you’re traveling during Summer months when it’s most crowded. The canyon only allows 2,500 visitors per day and turns away on average 4,000 who failed to make one!
If you choose to tour the lower canyon, note that you do go up and down a 2-3 steep latters. In addition, the best time of day to visit either canyon is between 10am and noon as the light is shining directly above, making the lighting ideal for photographs. As noted in my Antelope Canyon blog post, I would recommend hanging back at the end of the tour group to snag some solo photographs. The tour last about an hour or more so you will have plenty of time to take a lot of photos.
5. Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona
Horseshoe Bend is technically considered more of a walk because it’s just a short ten walk from the parking lot! Despite the lack thereof, it is definitely a sight to see and should be on your bucket list! This natural beauty has taken over a BILLION years to form and was created by the continual flow of water through the canyon walls. Dont get too close to the edge! It’s a 1,000 foot drop to the bottom which is equivalent to a 99 story building.
Tips: The best time to photograph Horseshoe Bend is mid day when the sun is directly overhead. At sunrise, part of the canyon will be darkened by shadows and at sunset (although extremely beautiful) the sun will be directly in your way of photographs. I would also suggest checking the weather to see how windy it is. When we first arrived the winds were 20 miles an hour which was pretty painful in shorts given that the sand was flying everywhere!