4 Best Kid Friendly Hiking Trails in Phoenix
So, you’re visiting Arizona with the kids and looking for a great hiking trail that is the perfect marriage between tough enough to nap later but not so hard that the soundtrack to your entire hike is a four year old whining.
Awesome! You’ve landed in the right place.
Hiking in Arizona is a truly special experience. When I moved here with my family in elementary school I remember hiking and finding the views to be breathtaking and unique — you can see for miles!!! The mountains are easily accessible by vehicle, many are kid friendly and the views….. they’re simply amazing and you don’t always have to make it to the top to get a glimpse of the expansive view below.
Since we have kids and enjoy the outdoors we thought it would be helpful for other traveling families to read about trails and hikes specifically designed for little kids. Our four year old can hoss it up a mountain, but sometimes we want something a little easier.
Some of the most important features that make these four trails / walks the best include the following:
- Trails that are easily accessible by vehicle
- Clean, well tended to trails
- Incorporate education and environmental stewardship
- Easy to access bathrooms for potty breaks (duh)
- Easy elevation changes
- LOTS of natural beauty
So here they are, the top 4 best hiking trails in the Phoenix Metro area–
4. Gateway Trailhead – Bajada Nature Trail
What we love: The Bajada Nature trail is located right smack dab in the front of the Gateway trailhead. This fun and educational walk is a 1/2 mile of McDowell Sonoran Preserve mixed in with age appropriate information about the Sonoran Desert and emphasizes the importance of environmental stewardship (winning!). There is no elevation change on the trail so strollers are easy to use and kids of all ages will enjoy walking, running or strolling through.
The trailhead has an awesome facility before the actual hiking trails. The bathrooms are extremely clean, there are water fountains that are easy to access and there are stewards available to answer any questions, comments or concerns you have.
If you are looking for a more difficult hike or are an experienced hiker with older kids Gateway is also a perfect place to go for some great views. With over 30,000 acres and over 150 miles of trails through the preserve there is really something for everybody!
ADDRESS: 18333 N Thompson Peak Rd, Scottsdale 480-312-7013
3. Papago “Hole-in-the-rock”
Located next to the Phoenix Zoo (on Galvin Parkway just south of McDowell Road) the Hole-in-the-rock walk is not so much a hike as it is a gently ascension into great views of Downtown Phoenix and the surrounding Papago Preserve. The Papago Park spans over 1,200 acres and is one of the largest parks for recreation in Phoenix (just behind South Mountain).
What we love: The walk is easy and has worn in trails leading around the mountain and up to the viewpoint. You could bring a stroller, but I wouldn’t suggest it since the trail has steps that lead up to the hole and it is quite bumpy! If you have a baby carrier for infants or new walkers bring it! (I use a Tula)
FUN FACT: Geologists have evidence to suggest that prehistoric Hohokam inhabitants used the hole in the rock to record the position of the sunlight as it shone through the opening to mark seasonal events such as solstices and the equinox. The rock’s formation dates back between 6 and 15 million years and its natural structure is credited to the wonderful effect of erosion which gently carved out holes and shaped the sandstone over millions of years.
The surrounding area is gorgeous and once you are done with your obligatory photo in the hole explore the lake and trails around the mountain to kill some extra time.If you are zoo bound stop in afterwards and catch a glimpse of the sunset. I might be biased, but Arizona has some of the best sunsets in the world.
How cute is he?!?!
ADDRESS: 625 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008
2. Lost Dog Wash and Nature Trail
North of 124th Street behind Anasazi Elementary School lies the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead which serves as a major access point to the rest of the McDowell Mountain Park and Preserve.
What we love: Right before you access some of the main trails you’ll find a similar interactive exhibit to Gateway only Lost Dog Wash Nature Trail gives kids the opportunity to both learn and do yoga, how cute is that?! The path is flat and doesn’t increase in elevation making it a fun starting point to some of the slightly harder trails. I’m all about getting in a little education in along with some exercise and the panels on the nature trail are easy to read for kids four and up.
We met an extremely helpful steward who gave us information on which trail to take that was kid friendly. The Lost Dog Wash Trail we chose spans about 4.5 miles and crosses through a number of washes before leading you gently up and down the mountain. There is a great view of the Valley just after you’ve reached a low ridge line. We didn’t make it all the way through due to a couple grumpy four year old children (whattya gonna do?), but we chose to go on a Friday morning and the trail was quiet and serine (despite the whining).
If you are looking for an adult and older kid friendly hike head over to the Taliesin Overlook which takes about 1hr30min to complete and has varying levels of difficulty for an intermediate hiker. Also, like Gateway the trailhead has wonderfully clean facilities for bathroom breaks and helpful staff to answer your questions about the trails that are the most appropriate for your trip.
1. Pinnacle Peak
Our number one favorite hike in the Phoenix Metro area that is also kid friendly is Pinnacle Peak! If you haven’t hiked these Scottsdale trails you must go as soon as you can. When you first pull into the parking lot you might be slightly frightened and question everything I am about to tell you, but KEEP MOVING!
Before the main trailhead you will find some great restrooms (can I emphasize the importance of easy to access bathrooms when hiking with littles any more than I already have???). The day we went the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center team was outside the main facility with a baby desert tortoise and information about the work they do. Along the trail you’ll also find mounted plaques with information on the native wildlife along the well tended to trail.
What we love: So, lets get into logistics and explore all of the things we love about this kid friendly hike. One way the trail spans around 1.75 miles with the highest elevation point at 2,889 feet. You can experience incredible views from just about everywhere on the trail which is probably the feature point of the hike. There are some steep elevation changes and a portion with switch backs (gentle) but there are more spots that provide a decline than incline, and who doesn’t want to feel a little burn on a Saturday morning?
Another high point of the trail (aside from the bathrooms and view) are the smooth trails. You don’t have to worry about twisting an ankle or going too fast since there are curves and turns along the way. Unlike the nature trails we explored this is definitely not a stroller friendly excursion, but if you have a structured carrier or hiking backpack you will absolutely do just fine! We went with our friends who also have a little one and they frequent this hike with their daughter in tow. Nolan was absolutely a champion and had so much fun pretending to be a race car along the trail and stop to say good morning to everyone he met along the way.
Oh, and did we mention the views?
ADDRESS: 26802 N 102nd Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85262
We hope you enjoyed this post and we can’t wait to explore more of the trails and places Arizona has to offer for families both visiting and permanent residents. Don’t forget to bring lots of snacks, water and of course a healthy appetite for the gorgeous Arizona desert landscape!