Best Hiking Trails in Scottsdale

Pinnacle Peak Park as the sun rises over cactus and hiking trails in Scottsdale Arizona
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Embarking on a breathtaking hiking adventure is often the perfect way to reconnect with nature and find solace from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And when it comes to magnificent hiking trails, Scottsdale, Arizona, offers a plethora of options that are bound to ignite your wanderlust. Nestled in the majestic Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale boasts a remarkable landscape adorned with rugged mountains, vibrant flora, and awe-inspiring vistas. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting your outdoor exploration, Scottsdale’s trails have something to offer for everyone. In this post, we will delve into the best hiking trails this vibrant city has to offer, from challenging ascents to serene strolls. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your water bottle, and let’s embark on an unforgettable journey through the top hiking trails in Scottsdale.



Tom’s Thumb Trail

Trail Length: 4.4 Miles | Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult | Elevation Gain: 1,297 Feet | Trailhead: Tom’s Thumb Trailhead

Tom’s Thumb Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a captivating hiking experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s wonders. This 4.2-mile trail leads you through diverse terrain, offering breathtaking views and a challenging ascent. The highlight of the trail is the iconic rock formation known as Tom’s Thumb, standing tall against the vibrant desert backdrop.

Reasons to Hike Tom’s Thumb Trail:

  • Scenic Beauty: Immerse yourself in the picturesque landscape of the Sonoran Desert, with panoramic views of towering mountains, unique rock formations, and sprawling desert vistas.
  • Iconic Rock Formation: Witness the awe-inspiring Tom’s Thumb rock formation, a prominent landmark along the trail that will leave you amazed by its sheer size and beauty.
  • Challenging Terrain: Challenge yourself with a moderately difficult hike that includes a rewarding uphill climb, providing a sense of accomplishment and an opportunity to test your hiking skills.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Keep an eye out for desert wildlife along the trail, including various bird species, desert reptiles, and even the occasional glimpse of native mammals like coyotes or javelinas.
  • Photography Opportunities: Capture stunning photographs of the unique desert landscape, dramatic rock formations, and breathtaking vistas to preserve your memories and share the beauty of Tom’s Thumb Trail with others.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Trekking Poles, Snacks


Gateway Loop Trail

Trail Length: 4.5 Miles | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 702 Feet | Trailhead: Gateway Trailhead

Gateway Loop Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, invites you to embark on a captivating hiking adventure amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Sonoran Desert. This 4.5-mile trail offers a perfect balance of moderate difficulty and scenic rewards. As you traverse the rugged terrain, you’ll be treated to stunning views, desert flora, and a sense of serenity that only nature can provide.

Reasons to Hike Gateway Loop Trail:

  • Scenic Desert Landscape: Immerse yourself in the stunning beauty of the Sonoran Desert, with sweeping vistas, towering saguaro cacti, and unique rock formations along the trail.
  • Varied Terrain: Experience a diverse hiking experience as the trail takes you through rocky slopes, sandy washes, and gentle ascents, offering a mix of challenges and tranquility.
  • Wildlife Spotting: Keep your eyes peeled for desert wildlife such as javelinas, jackrabbits, and a variety of bird species, providing opportunities for exciting wildlife encounters.
  • Trail Running: Gateway Loop Trail is popular among trail runners, providing a dynamic and invigorating route with its elevation changes and scenic surroundings.
  • Photography Opportunities: Capture the beauty of the desert landscape, dramatic rock formations, and vibrant flora along the trail, creating lasting memories and stunning photographs.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Trail Map, Snacks


Pinnacle Peak Trail

Trail Length: 3.5 Miles | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,302 Feet | Trailhead: Pinnacle Peak Park

Pinnacle Peak Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers an exhilarating hiking experience surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty. This 3.5-mile trail takes you on a journey through the picturesque Sonoran Desert, showcasing majestic saguaro cacti, rugged rock formations, and panoramic views. With a moderate difficulty level, hikers can enjoy a rewarding ascent to the peak, immersing themselves in the tranquility of this remarkable desert oasis. 

Reasons to Hike Pinnacle Peak Trail:

  • Spectacular Views: Immerse yourself in breathtaking panoramic views of the Sonoran Desert, including the iconic Pinnacle Peak, as you ascend the trail.
  • Unique Desert Flora and Fauna: Encounter diverse desert plant life, including towering saguaro cacti, vibrant wildflowers, and the possibility of spotting native wildlife along the way.
  • Moderate Challenge: Enjoy a moderately challenging hike that offers a satisfying workout and a sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit.
  • Tranquil Surroundings: Escape the bustling city and find tranquility in the serene desert environment, where you can disconnect and rejuvenate amidst nature’s beauty.
  • Photography Opportunities: Capture stunning snapshots of the dramatic desert landscape, picturesque rock formations, and expansive vistas, creating lasting memories of your adventure on Pinnacle Peak Trail.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Trekking Poles, Snacks


Lost Dog Wash Trail

Trail Length: 4.1 Miles | Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate | Elevation Gain: 439 Feet | Trailhead: Lost Dog Wash Trailhead

Lost Dog Wash Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, promises an enchanting hiking experience amidst the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. This 4.6-mile trail winds through a captivating landscape, offering a moderate hike suitable for all skill levels. As you explore the trail, you’ll be surrounded by towering saguaros, desert wildflowers, and stunning desert vistas.

Reasons to Hike Lost Dog Wash Trail:

  • Natural Beauty: Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of the Sonoran Desert, with its diverse flora, towering saguaro cacti, and breathtaking desert scenery along the trail.
  • Varied Terrain: Enjoy a mix of gentle slopes, sandy washes, and rocky sections, providing a dynamic hiking experience and opportunities to explore different landscapes.
  • Wildlife Sightings: Keep an eye out for native wildlife such as desert birds, jackrabbits, and reptiles, offering exciting chances for wildlife encounters during your hike.
  • Family-Friendly: Lost Dog Wash Trail is suitable for families, with its moderate difficulty level and opportunities for children to connect with nature while enjoying the outdoors.
  • Tranquil Atmosphere: Escape the city noise and embrace the peaceful ambiance of the desert, finding solace and relaxation as you wander along Lost Dog Wash Trail.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Trail Map, Snacks


Brown’s Ranch Trailhead

Trail Length: Varies | Difficulty Level: Varies | Elevation Gain: Varies | Trailhead: Brown’s Ranch Trailhead

Brown’s Ranch Trailhead in Scottsdale, Arizona, serves as a gateway to an array of scenic hiking trails. With its convenient location and multiple trail options, this trailhead is a popular starting point for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll or a more challenging trek, Brown’s Ranch Trailhead offers a variety of routes that showcase the beauty of the Sonoran Desert

Reasons to Hike Brown’s Ranch Trailhead:

  • Trail Variety: Explore a diverse range of hiking trails with varying lengths and difficulty levels, allowing hikers of all skill levels to find a suitable route.
  • Scenic Desert Landscape: Immerse yourself in the stunning beauty of the Sonoran Desert, with picturesque views of majestic mountains, desert flora, and unique rock formations.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Encounter native wildlife such as desert birds, rabbits, and reptiles along the trails, providing opportunities for exciting wildlife sightings and nature appreciation.
  • Trail Running and Biking: Brown’s Ranch Trailhead is a favorite spot for trail runners and mountain bikers, offering well-maintained paths and an exhilarating outdoor experience.
  • Peaceful Serenity: Escape the noise of the city and find tranquility amidst the vast desert landscape, allowing you to connect with nature and enjoy a sense of peacefulness during your hike.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Trail Map, Snacks


Balanced Rock Trail

Trail Length: 4.3 Miles | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 351 Feet | Trailhead: Fraesfield Trailhead

Balanced Rock Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers a captivating hiking experience amidst the remarkable desert landscape. This scenic trail takes you on a journey to witness the awe-inspiring Balanced Rock, a unique natural formation that defies gravity. With its moderate difficulty level and rewarding views, Balanced Rock Trail is a must-visit destination for hikers seeking both adventure and natural wonder. 

Reasons to Hike Balanced Rock Trail:

  • Unique Natural Formation: Marvel at the striking Balanced Rock formation, a stunning geological wonder that showcases the delicate balance of nature.
  • Scenic Desert Landscape: Immerse yourself in the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, with its rugged mountains, vibrant flora, and panoramic views along the trail.
  • Moderate Difficulty: Enjoy a moderately challenging hike that offers a sense of accomplishment and adventure, suitable for hikers of varying skill levels.
  • Photography Opportunities: Capture breathtaking photographs of the Balanced Rock formation, desert vistas, and dramatic landscapes, creating lasting memories of your hike.
  • Nature Observation: Observe the diverse desert ecosystem, including unique plant life, desert wildlife, and the fascinating geological features along the trail.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Camera, Snacks


Sunrise Peak Trail

Trail Length: 4.4 Miles | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,166 Feet | Trailhead: Sunrise Trailhead

Sunrise Peak Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers a breathtaking hiking experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s wonders. This 4.4-mile trail leads you through the rugged Sonoran Desert, culminating in panoramic views from the summit of Sunrise Peak. As the trail meanders through diverse terrain and showcases vibrant flora, prepare to witness a stunning sunrise and embark on a memorable journey into the beauty of the desert.

Reasons to Hike Sunrise Peak Trail:

  • Spectacular Sunrise: Witness the awe-inspiring beauty of a sunrise from the summit of Sunrise Peak, painting the sky with vibrant colors and illuminating the surrounding desert landscape.
  • Panoramic Views: Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Sonoran Desert, with sweeping vistas of rugged mountains, rolling hills, and the vast expanse of the desert below.
  • Challenging Hike: Take on the moderately difficult trail, offering a rewarding ascent and an opportunity to test your hiking skills while enjoying a sense of accomplishment.
  • Wildlife and Flora: Encounter diverse desert wildlife, such as birds, rabbits, and reptiles, and marvel at the unique flora that thrives in the arid desert environment.
  • Photography Opportunities: Capture stunning photographs of the sunrise, the striking desert scenery, and the captivating views along the trail, preserving memories of your unforgettable hike.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Camera, Snacks


Marcus Landslide Trail

Trail Length: 2.4 Miles | Difficulty Level: Easy | Elevation Gain: 300 Feet | Trailhead: Gateway Trailhead

The Marcus Landslide Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, invites you to embark on a captivating journey through a unique geological phenomenon. This trail, nestled amidst the stunning desert landscape, takes you through the remnants of the Marcus Landslide, where massive rocks and boulders have tumbled down the mountainside. With its intriguing history and scenic surroundings, the Marcus Landslide Trail offers a one-of-a-kind hiking experience that combines adventure and natural wonder.

Reasons to Hike Marcus Landslide Trail:

  • Geological Wonder: Explore the fascinating remnants of the Marcus Landslide, where massive rocks and boulders create a unique and visually stunning landscape.
  • Scenic Desert Views: Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding Sonoran Desert, with its rugged mountains, vast expanses, and desert flora.
  • Historical Significance: Learn about the geological history and formation of the Marcus Landslide, gaining insights into the natural forces that have shaped the area.
  • Photography Opportunities: Capture extraordinary photographs of the impressive landslide formations, desert vistas, and dramatic landscapes along the trail.
  • Off-the-Beaten-Path: Experience a less-traveled trail, offering a sense of solitude and tranquility amidst the captivating beauty of the desert.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Camera, Snacks


Granite Mountain Loop Trail

Trail Length: 2.3 Miles | Difficulty Level: Easy | Elevation Gain: 260 Feet | Trailhead: Granite Mountain Trailhead

The Granite Mountain Loop Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers a captivating hiking experience amidst the rugged beauty of the desert. This 4.7-mile loop trail takes you on a scenic journey through diverse terrain, including granite rock formations, picturesque valleys, and breathtaking vistas. With its moderate difficulty level, hikers can immerse themselves in the serenity of nature while enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Reasons to Hike Granite Mountain Loop Trail:

  • Spectacular Granite Formations: Marvel at the impressive granite rock formations that dot the trail, creating a unique and visually stunning landscape.
  • Panoramic Views: Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding desert, with sweeping vistas of rugged mountains, vast valleys, and the expansive Sonoran Desert.
  • Diverse Terrain: Experience a variety of terrains, including rocky paths, gentle slopes, and picturesque valleys, adding excitement and exploration to your hike.
  • Wildlife and Flora: Encounter native wildlife and admire the diverse desert flora, offering opportunities to connect with nature and appreciate the ecosystem along the trail.
  • Moderate Challenge: Challenge yourself with a moderately difficult hike that provides a satisfying workout and a sense of accomplishment upon completing the loop.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen,  Hat, Water Bottle, Trekking Poles, Snacks


Windgate Pass

Trail Length: 3.7 Miles | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,080 Feet | Trailhead: Gateway Trailhead

Windgate Pass Trail in Scottsdale, Arizona, beckons hikers to embark on an exhilarating journey through the rugged beauty of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This 4.5-mile trail takes you to the majestic Windgate Pass, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding desert landscape. With its challenging terrain and rewarding vistas, Windgate Pass Trail is a must-explore destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure and natural splendor. 

Reasons to Hike Windgate Pass Trail:

  • Spectacular Views: Enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and the surrounding desert landscape from the vantage point of Windgate Pass.
  • Challenging Terrain: Test your hiking skills with the trail’s rugged and steep sections, providing a thrilling adventure and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Wildlife Sightings: Encounter native wildlife such as desert birds, rabbits, and reptiles along the trail, offering opportunities for exciting wildlife sightings and nature observation.
  • Scenic Beauty: Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert, with its unique rock formations, desert flora, and expansive vistas that showcase the area’s rugged charm.
  • Photography Opportunities: Capture stunning photographs of the dramatic desert scenery, vibrant sunsets, and the panoramic vistas along the trail, creating lasting memories of your hike.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Sunscreen, Hat, Water Bottle, Trekking Poles, Snacks


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