An Introduction To Hiking In Arizona
Okay, so if you are from Florida you know hiking isn’t all that popular in our state because well, it sucks. My view of hiking in Florida consisted of walking around at about 30 feet above sea level and seeing a lot of pine trees. Don’t get me wrong, Florida has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes and marine life in the world. That doesn’t change the fact that the entire state is essentially flat. In fact, many of the friends I meet out West benevolently label me a “flatlander,” a term I was unaware of until I moved away from the Southeast. So, two and a half years ago when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona I was amazed at all of the towering peaks and mountain ranges that surround the valley. A natural born adventurer, I set out immediately to conquer those colossal peaks.
Conversely to Florida, hiking is probably the #1 outdoor recreational activity in the greater Phoenix Valley. There are over a dozen peaks just in Maricopa County. It’s a great way to exercise, meet new people, and my personal favorite – relish the breathtaking views and natural beauty of the Great American Southwest. Since I’ve been lucky enough to experience this stimulating new past time, I’d like to share some of that experience with my fellow flatlanders. For now I’ll focus on my three favorites, but as I continue to explore updates will follow.
My Personal Favorite – Brown’s Peak
Four Peaks is the tallest mountain range in Maricopa County. Named as it looks, there are four distinct peaks just north east of Phoenix that are visible from most places in the valley. I’ll be honest; I did this for bragging rights. I wanted to be able to point to the massive range and an outdoor networking event or mixer and causally say, “Yea, I’ve hiked Four Peaks. It’s kind of a big deal.” The tallest peak is Brown’s Peak which I recommend for anyone who wants to get the experience. It’s a medium to advanced hike with some pretty exhilarating scrambling near the end and breathtaking views from the peak. The only catch – it takes about 2 hours to get to the trailhead from Scottsdale and half of that is an unpaved semi-maintained road.
Second Favorite – Mt. Humphreys
So this was another ego-inspired hike. While Brown’s Peak holds the title for highest point in Maricopa County at an elevation of 7,657 ft., Mt. Humphreys is simply in a whole different league at an impressive 12,633 ft. This makes Mt. Humphreys the highest point in the entire state of Arizona. This is definitely an advanced hike, however the trail is well defined the entire way. It is more of an endurance test than anything at almost 10 miles round trip. When I went it was late September so I didn’t have to worry about snow-pack or avalanches but I did experience a violent lightning and hail storm on the way down.
The Scottsdale Outdoor Enthusiast Social Club aka Camelback Mountain
Scottsdale, Arizona is a wonderful place to live and play. The city is full of active people that enjoy the being out in the sunny desert landscape. To their delight there is a prominent peak protruding from the pacific desert terrain just minutes from Old Town Scottsdale.
Camelback Mountain is very popular with locals and tourists alike due to its proximity to the city and relative ease of access. Since it is so popular, it is not uncommon to see hundreds of people on the mountain on any given day. Round trip the average hiker can conquer this mountain in about 2 hours even with a 15-20 minute rest-stop at the top to enjoy the scenery.
Tips and Tricks To Hiking in Arizona
So my fellow native Floridians and flatlanders, should you find yourself visiting the great state of Arizona or even getting really crazy and moving out here, I suggest you take a hike. Here are a few things I wish I knew when I started:
- Water is essential; Invest in a Camelbak or bring a backpack with lots of water – carrying it sucks
- Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, higher socks, shoes with good grip, and bring snacks – headbands optional
- Yield to uphill and unexperienced hikers – common courtesy
- Try a sunset or sunrise hike once you’re comfortable with a trail – epic
- Find a spot near or at the Peak to meditate or do yoga – #onelove
- Hike with friends sometimes and alone sometimes – pros and cons to each
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