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8 Best Family Hiking Places In Scottsdale

Scottsdale offers a premium vacation destination filled with the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Filled with acclaimed dining, resorts, nightlife, shopping, and, more importantly, the lush desert landscape, Scottsdale is never short of opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Scottsdale is reported to have the largest number of spas per capita among all cities in the United States. Scottsdale welcomes visitors in the middle of the summer with over a hundred pools in its numerous resorts. Therefore, there are things to do in Scottsdale in March for tourists.

When we think of the desert, we think of dryness and lack of water. However, the Sonoran Desert is different. Visitors can explore some of the gorgeous lakes of Arizona, paddle-board down the Salt River, and kayak along the Verde River. With the heatwave of Scottsdale comes opportunities to eat and drink. Cool drinks and spicy food keep the spirits up high in Scottsdale.

The rates of resorts in Scottsdale will be so appealing to visitors that they may plan an extra day of stay or enjoy a spa treatment. The nightlife of Scottsdale is appealing as life in the day. Live music, dive bars, dance clubs, beer gardens, and wine clubs fuel the nightlife of Scottsdale—and the visitors.

1. Tempe’s Papago Park

Best Family Hiking Places in Scottsdale

Papago Park is an easily accessible and scenic desert area in Phoenix. With over 1500 acres filled with biking and hiking trails, Papago Park houses tourist attractions like the Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Garden, AZ Heritage Center, and the “Hole in the Rock” hike. Papago Park offers a diverse range of hiking experiences, which are both kid and adult-friendly.

The most famous path in Papago Park is the “Hole in the Rock” path. The path can be accessed from the parking lot of the Phoenix Zoo. Hikers have to turn left from the zoo and will land at another parking lot by the lagoon, near the butte. The “Hole in the Rock” hike is a 5–10-minute hike but the most famous for its picturesque scenery in the sunset.

Another trail that hikers can go on is the trailhead west of the College and Curry parking lot, an easy hike that provides a view of Tempe Town Lake and downtown Tempe from the summit. This trail houses the Hokokam ruin of Loma del Rio. Going along the trailhead west of Papago Park leads to the Double Butte Loop, a trail famous among hikers and mountain bikers, which leads north to the scenic red buttes.

2. McDowell Sonoran Preserve

hiking near Scottsdale az

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is geologically unique and houses some of the most exotic cacti forests, wildlife, and stunning geography. The Preserve provides an opportunity for hikers to explore over 30,580 acres of the Sonoran Desert.

The Sonoran Desert Preserve offers award-winning facilities and outstanding desert trails for both kids and adults. A note of caution for hikers is that the trails may or may not have water-filling stations. Therefore, they have to ensure extra water bottles while hiking.

The Preserve is divided into the Northern and Southern regions. Famous trails in the Northern region include Granite Mountain, Fraesfield, Brown’s Ranch, Tom’s Thumb, and Pyma-Dynamite, while the Southern region includes Gateway, Sunrise, Lost Dog Wash, Ringtail, Quartz, and Westworld.

The Granite Mountain Trailhead provides access to the pristine areas around Granite Mountain in the northern region of the Preserve. The terrain is made up of crushed granite with saguaro fields and rock formations. However, hikers have to carry extra water as there is neither water nor a restroom on the trail.

3. Canyon Lake

best hikes in scottsdale

Canyon Lake, along with the Guadalupe River area, makes up the Water Recreation Capital of Texas. Its picturesque scenery is full of fun experiences and tourist attractions and never fails to satisfy hikers with its numerous hiking trails—both for kids and adults. The Natural Bridges Cavern is a go-to place for any hiking enthusiast.

The Discovery tour is the most sought-after tour in Natural Bridges Cavern, illuminated with the latest LED technology. Visitors will walk 180 feet below the surface to witness ancient rock formations like flowstones, stalactites, soda straws, and more, which continue to grow to this day. Three-quarters of a mile is covered in an hour of the tour.

The Hidden Passages Tour takes visitors to witness ‘cave ribbons’ and ‘wet turnip shields.’ A specialty of the tour is that all lights are turned off for a while, and tourists experience complete darkness. The tour covers one-third of a mile and lasts about an hour. Visitors can enjoy the combined experience of both the Discovery tour and Hidden Passages tour when they sign up for the Combo Tour.

4. Apache Wash Hiking and Biking

best hikes in scottsdale for family

The Apache Wash Trailhead is a heavily trafficked back trail suitable for hiking, running, walking, and nature trips. The Ridgeback Overlook Trail is relatively moderate and is a quick outer loop to the hilltop past the Ridgeback Trail junction.

The hikers will cover a distance of 0.5 miles, and the elevation changes only by 50 feet. West Skip Rimsza Paso is the most accessible of all trails in the Apache Wash trailhead. It is a concrete trail and does not change much in elevation-only about 15 feet of elevation change, and visitors cover 3.1 miles in the process.

The Esplanade Trail is an easy trail but with a diverse course. The first part of the Esplanade is sparse and flat but is filled with twists and turns to keep the hiker on alert. After some time into the trip, hikers will witness vegetation on one side and the desert on the other.

Hikers will cover 3.4 miles on the trail with an elevation change of 127 feet. Lying between the Ocotillo trail and the Sidewinder Trail, the Ridgeback trail is of moderate difficulty but provides scenic views. Hikers are advised to start from the Sidewinder Trail as the hike from the northern side is not as steep as that from the southern side.

5. Camelback Mountain in the Echo Canyon Summit Trail

camelback mountain hike

Camelback Mountain is the tallest mountain in Phoenix and is considered one of Phoenix’s best-hiking destinations. The Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla trail are two trails that offer a route to Camelback Mountain.

It covers only a distance of 2.1 miles and has an elevation change of 1281 feet. Therefore, it is better not to hike if the hiker is not experienced enough as the trail is ridden with dips and hikes. Hikers are expected to start early, carry enough water, and wear solid hiking boots if they plan to go for the hike.

6. Pinnacle Peak Summit Trail

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Pinnacle Peak Trail takes place in Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale. A well-maintained area that houses a short, educational hiking trip to the summit, Pinnacle Peak Trail covers 3.5 miles with an elevation change of 516 feet.

The trail offers spectacular views of the surrounding areas. After the ½ mile mark, the Grandview rest stop provides a view of the valley and McDowell Mountain located 2.5 miles away. From Owl’s Rest, one can view Camelback Mountain in the distance.

The trail is accessible to all hikers with specially marked areas for experienced hikers. The trail has a topography of boulders and houses numerous desert creatures like desert tortoises, Gila monsters, and others.

7. Bajada Nature Trail of the Gateway Trailhead

The Gateway Trailhead of the southern region of the Preserve is barrier-free and has all the amenities a hiker would want. Most of Scottsdale’s trails can be accessed from this trailhead. Kids of any age can access the Gateway Trail, and the older kids take on the interior trails.

The Bajada Nature Trail is designed for people of all ages, even those with physical challenges. The trail provides a fun experience filled with games and activities for kids. It is located close to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve’s Sabina Recreation Visitor Centre.

The Trail is a half-mile interpretive loop with no elevation gain. With diverse desert flora like cacti and wildflowers, the hike is a must for any avid hiker and can be accessed by people of all ages. The access route of the trail is made up of concrete, asphalt, and stabilized decomposed granite to meet accessibility standards.

The Bajada Nature Trail is the perfect trail for birdwatching. Gila woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and Cactus wren are commonly spotted, while red-tailed hawks, great road runners, and turkey vultures are occasionally spotted. The trail offers an interactive experience for knowing more about the Sonoran Desert.

8. Lost Dog Wash and Nature Trail

One of the most accessible points of the southern region of the Sonoran Reserve, the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead provides extensive vehicle parking facilities, gathering areas, and other amenities. Short and easy trails around and across the natural desert wash make the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead.

The trail is one of the most accessible trails for beginner and experienced hikers and even for families. The trail is under five miles long, has an elevation change of 350 feet, and explores the foothills, protected washes, and bajadas of the Sonoran Desert. Like the Bajada Nature Trail, the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead is kid-friendly with various educational activities, including short educational nature trails.

The trail is marked and is laden with parking, a restroom, and water fountains. The Kovach Family Nature Trail is the latest addition to the Lost Dog Wash Trailhead, comprising two loops each quarter-mile in length.


The geographical and geological diversity of Scottsdale, Arizona, makes visitors want to come back. Scottsdale is any hiker’s dream with its various hiking trips and other amenities. Therefore, avid and beginner hikers can pack their bags and set their sights on Scottsdale, Arizona, for a once-in-a-lifetime hiking experience, for themselves and their families and kids.

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