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Enjoy the Great Outdoors With These Scottsdale Hikes

Enjoy the Great Outdoors With These Scottsdale Hikes

This desert oasis we call home is the perfect arena for outdoor adventure.  With its breathtaking sunsets, purple mountains, cloudless skies, and abundant wildlife, Scottsdale is a hiker’s dream.  There are endless trails to explore all over the city with a range of difficulty levels and terrains.  Whether you want to go biking on a rocky mountainside or bring the whole family on a beautiful nature walk, you’ll find what you’re looking for with any one of these beloved Scottsdale hikes.  Just remember: when you hit the trails, always bring plenty of water and never underestimate the power of the Arizona sun!

Gateway Loop Trail

4.5 mi. / 650 ft. elevation gain

Difficulty level: moderate

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Located in the sprawling McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Gateway Loop Trail is a fantastic introduction to the Scottsdale desert for hiking newcomers, families, or those from out of town.  You’ll get a great workout on the rocky uphill climb to the top of the mountain, and on your descent you’ll see panoramic views of North Scottsdale.  This hike is heavily trafficked and well-marked, and it takes about an hour and a half to complete.  Run, bike, or hike this trail with friends – the choice is yours.  What’s ideal about the Gateway Loop Trailhead is that if you’re in the mood for a shorter or longer hike, there are plenty of other trails to choose from at this trailhead.

Pinnacle Peak 

3.5 mi. / 1300 ft. elevation gain     

Difficulty level: moderate

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You can’t miss the huge, pointed rock formation that marks Pinnacle Peak, a unique Scottsdale landmark.  Located near Troon North, Pinnacle Peak offers a hiking experience that simply can’t be replicated elsewhere in the Valley.  Hike up and around the Peak to see incredible views of Troon North Golf Course, North Scottsdale, and the luxury homes built along the mountain.  Areas of the trail are also available for rock climbing.  Stop at the lookout points to view other mountain ranges in the Valley, and enjoy informational signage about the native wildlife along the trail.  This out-and-back trail has a varied elevation gain throughout, except for the staircase at the end which will get your heart racing.  This classic trail is heavily trafficked by tourists and locals, so if you prefer a quiet hike, start early to avoid the crowds.  If you want to impress your friends from out of town, or if you’ve never hiked this mountain yourself, check out Pinnacle Peak on your next free weekend.

Camelback Mountain 

Echo Canyon: 2.5 mi. /  1,414 ft. elevation gain 

Cholla: 2.6 mi. / 1,161 ft. elevation gain 

Difficulty level: difficult

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Camelback Mountain is not only one of the most popular hiking trails but also a must-see destination in Scottsdale.  People from all over the world hike this spectacular mountain to experience its challenging trails and see its jaw-dropping views of the Valley at the summit.  There are two different trails which lead to the Summit, Echo Canyon and Cholla.  The Echo Canyon trail is perfect for avid hikers seeking a thrilling challenge; you’ll be rock scrambling up steep inclines and using all four limbs to navigate to the summit.  The Cholla trail is best suited for tourists or locals who are less experienced hikers but still want to experience the magic of Camelback.  Whichever side you choose, be mindful of the difficulty level of these trails.  Get ready for a strenuous climb to the summit on a heavily trafficked trail – and a view that makes all the hard work worth it!

Quartz Trail

9.6 mi. / 1,194 ft. elevation gain 

Difficulty level: easy

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Quartz Trail, part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, is a quiet path nestled behind the McDowell Mountain Ranch neighborhood that soon retreats into the peaceful desert.  Accessible for hikers, runners, and bikers of all ages, Quartz Trail is a lesser-known Scottsdale hike that is no less of a gem.  If you’re hoping to escape the crowds during popular hiking hours, this is the perfect hike for you.  Walk past houses and lush wildlife in a flat desert wash until you’re surrounded by mountains on all sides.  Spot quartz rocks all along the trail, and if you’re up for a hill workout, hike straight up to the massive quartz deposit on the side of the mountain for a show-stopping view.  Though this awesome trail is tucked away, once you know about Quartz Trail, you’ll want to keep coming back whenever you need a hiatus from the bustle of the city.

Sunrise Trail

3.6 mi. / 1,112 ft. elevation gain 

Difficulty level: moderate

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Sunrise Trail, located near Fountain Hills, is an everyday essential route to add to your hiking rotation.  Climb to great heights in a matter of minutes with vibrant views of the yellow wildflowers and green flora covering every inch of the mountainside.  The ascent is a steady uphill climb with switchbacks, but reaching the summit is worth the sweat.  Hike to Sunrise Peak for a sky-high overview of North Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, and the Fountain Hills World Famous Fountain which runs every hour for fifteen minutes.  Nestled behind a quiet neighborhood, Sunrise Trail is a more convenient, less crowded option than some of Scottsdale’s most popular hikes with the same five-star city views.

Tom’s Thumb

4.0 mi. / 1,236 ft. elevation gain 

Difficulty level: difficult

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If you really want to get out of the city, it’s worth the longer drive to reach Tom’s Thumb Trail on the other side of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.  Once you arrive, you’ll see where the trail gets its name.  This unique, remote hike features fascinating rock formations that come in all kinds of shapes, such as giant thumbs and mushrooms.  Along the smooth trail, you can observe a variety of bird species and other native wildlife in the area.  The steep switchbacks in the beginning of the hike will help you hit your “move goal” for the day, but the trail evens out into a relaxing path perfect for viewing the rock structures up close.  Tom’s Thumb Trail is perfect for hikers and runners who only want to see the desert for miles and miles, far removed from the noise of civilization.     

With over 300 days of sunshine every year and hundreds of miles of undisturbed desert wildlife, Scottsdale is a hub for outdoor recreation.  Get active and take advantage of any of these hikes to marvel at nature’s beauty here in this sunny desert sanctuary.

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