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The Best Kept Secret Hikes in Arizona

The Best Kept Secret Hikes in Arizona

For those who have lived in Arizona for a long time, it is easy to find your favorite local spots and stick to them over and over again. While there’s nothing wrong with a good routine, it can also be exciting to switch things up every now and then!

Especially with the hiking scene in Phoenix, sometimes you might feel like you are always hiking the same trails on repeat! While hikes like Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak are local staples for good reason, the beauty of living in Arizona is that there are almost endless hiking options around the state. The next time you feel yourself entering a hiking rut, check out some of these best kept secret hikes.

Grand Falls

Thirty miles north of Flagstaff, you’ll find an incredible hike called Grand Falls. This hike leads you to the waterfall where the hike gets its name. Grand Falls stands 181 feet tall, making it a higher waterfall than Niagra Falls! It is also nicknamed “the chocolate waterfall,” as it often looks brown from the muddy sediment in the water. 

This waterfall is activated by snowmelt each year, so it is best to visit in March or April when the snow melt is the most prevalent. For those who are feeling extra adventurous, you can hike down into the gully to see the waterfall up close, but make sure to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting pretty dirty- there is a lot of mud on the way down! 

For those who would love to experience Grand Falls but don’t want to endure the mud, you can also access it via a car with four-wheel drive. The reason this incredible sight is lesser known is likely because it is located on the Navajo reservation, and the signs to access it can be tricky to follow. Look for road signs leading to the Grand Falls Bible Church and take a left to get there!

Tonto Natural Bridge

Located in between the towns of Payson and Pine, Tonto Natural Bridge is exactly what the name would suggest- a gorgeous red rock bridge. This incredible natural phenomenon was worn into the rocks over thousands of years, and is an amazing sight to see in the middle of a pine tree forest. 

The natural bridge rises 183 feet above the ground, and you can access the bridge from several different lookout points. Note that pets are not allowed on any of the hiking trails in this state park. 

There are four different hiking trail options that all allow you to explore this area and see this natural masterpiece! All four trails vary in terms of duration and difficulty. The Gowan Trail takes you down and back to an observation deck at the bottom of the creek. This trail is considered difficult, and typically takes about an hour. The Anna Mae trail is also a great trail option in order to get close to the bridge, and it is a more moderate hike that also takes an hour.  

The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park does have an entrance fee of $7 a day for adults, and $4 for children ages 7-13. This impressive bridge is definitely worth a visit as there is truly nothing else like it in the state!

Wind Cave Trail

Want to spice up your hiking routine and try out a new trail that ends at a scenic cave? Located in Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa, Arizona,  Wind Cave Trail is a beautiful hike you may not know about in the Valley!

Wind Cave Trail is considered a moderate hike, coming in right under three miles. It usually takes under two hours to complete, and Wind Cave Trail is an out and back trail, so you’ll go down the same way you came up! As a bonus, your dog is welcome on this trail as long as they are on a leash. 

You’ll gain about 800 feet of elevation on the way up to the cave vista lookout, but the ascent is mostly shaded if you hike in the morning. While the cave enclosure is fun to see and doubles as a good place to catch your breath after hiking up, the expansive view is really the main attraction. From the lookout, you’ll have awesome views looking out into Phoenix and the East Valley. Make sure to bring your wallet, as it costs $7 per car to enter this park.

Robbers Roost

Some people argue that Robbers Roost is the most scenic hike in all of Sedona, making it one of Arizona’s best kept secrets. This trail is more lightly trafficked most of the year than some of the other Sedona hike hot spots, but it is certainly worth a visit to see some truly stunning views. 

This hike is a great option for anyone looking for a less strenuous hiking option, as this three mile trail is relatively even until you get to the very end. The actual Robber Roost nest spot is a giant hole in the rock. Straight out of the hole you can see beautiful views of the Sedona landscape, where it is fun to imagine robbers in the Old West plotting their next move. This cave faces the east, so it would also be a beautiful place to hike and watch the sunrise in the morning.

Weavers Needle 

For those who love a fitness challenge, summiting Weavers Needle should be on your hiking radar. This hike is located in the Superstition Mountains in Phoenix, and comes with some interesting historic folklore. It is rumored that the mountain’s structure makes it likely the Weavers Needle has a rich vein of gold, which has led many treasure hunters to visit the spot since the gold rush. So far no one has found it- but maybe it will be your lucky break!

This hike offers a very steep climb that is more rock climbing than true hiking at times. You will even see people attempt to free solo in the Weavers Needle area. It is an 8 mile round trip hike to reach the top, but the victory at the end is having a 360 degree view of the Superstition Mountains landscape below. It is not recommended to try this strenuous hike in the summer, instead it is best to visit from October through February.

Another great perk to exploring some of Arizona’s best kept hiking trails is getting to see cities and areas of the state you might not have sought out otherwise. Not only will this give you a new sense of adventure, but it will allow you to see more of the state you love and return home with some amazing new photos, dust on your boots, and hiking memories. With all of these hikes, remember to bring an adequate amount of water! Hydration is crucial out on these desert trails. 

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