If Arizona doesn’t stand out to you as one of the finest hiking states in the country, you haven’t spent enough time outside! From carefully-carved canyons that draw crowds from all over the world to quiet trails nestled deep into the ponderosa pines, Arizona boasts a lineup of hiking trails quite unlike anywhere else. In a year when simply getting outdoors is more meaningful than ever, there’s been no better time to lace up and pick a trailhead.
No worries if you’re a newbie, as you’ll find hikes on this list fit for any level of experience. What they don’t compromise on is the wow factor- these are some of Arizona’s best. From the heights of the Grand Canyon to famous slot canyons and rock formations fit for another planet, here are 6 fantastic, bucket list-worthy hikes in Arizona!
Oh yeah, you’ve seen this one before. The dramatic curved river is one of those see-it-to-believe-it places, but those who shy away from “touristy” areas should definitely still visit. The grandeur of the overlook is worth dodging Instagrammers or getting up (far too) early to enjoy. Another perk? It’s one of the most easily-accessible objectives on this list thanks to a flat, ADA-compliant paved pathway. While some might consider it more of a walk than a hike, it’s a fantastic excuse to get outside and nearly unbeatable in terms of the effort to payoff ratio. If you want to snag the best view possible, try to make it during golden hour or around sunset when the canyon is painted in unbelievable pink and red light. If you live in Arizona, you’ve just got to make the trip.
Where: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, near Page
How long: 1.5 miles roundtrip
How hard: Easy
Echo Canyon Trail
For a taste of what makes hiking in Arizona so unique, a visit to Echo Canyon is a must. This trail is tucked into a “sky island”, or independent mountain range in the deserts of Chiricahua National Monument. Echo Canyon Trail cuts through towering spires of red rock, leading you through nooks and crannies that glow beautifully in the afternoon sun. While Echo Canyon is a fairly easy hike, those wanting more of a challenge can take on the Big Loop, which links together a few different trails. If you’re planning a visit here to hike, it’s well worth it to plan a camping trip and spend some more time exploring among the fascinating balancing rocks of the area.
Where: Chiricahua National Monument
How long: 3.5 miles roundtrip
How hard: Moderate
Bright Angel Trail
You simply can’t talk about hiking in Arizona without talking about the Grand Canyon. This astounding natural wonder offers a hiking experience you just can’t find elsewhere, and hikers would be remiss to leave it off their bucket lists. While there are several top-notch contenders when it comes to choosing hikes in the Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Trail tops the list. This trail leads you down the South Rim and into the canyon. It’s a more strenuous route, and those looking for a serious adventure can stretch it into a multi-day hike to reach the Colorado River below. Those not so keen on pitching a tent can choose to turn around at any of the stellar viewpoints along the trail. This trail is more challenging and certainly not a great fit for anyone with a fear of heights, but it’s an unforgettable trek and one of the most renowned hikes in Arizona.
Where: Grand Canyon (South Rim)
How long: Flexible up to 12 miles
How hard: Moderate to challenging
Lava River Cave
Ever gone for a jaunt in a lava tube? Probably not. This geological anomaly resides in Coconino National Forest, and it was formed over 700,000 years ago when molten lava crusted over on the outside but continued to flow inside. Don’t try it if you’re nervous in caves, but certainly try it if you want to feel like you’re in a sci-fi film. While the path through the cave is easy, bring warm layers (the sun don’t shine down here) and sturdy shoes. Also, pack a headlamp or three, as the darkness inside isn’t something you’d want to negotiate if your batteries ran out. Bring the whole family for this one, kids will love the “lavacicles” hanging from the ceiling.
Where: Coconino National Forest, near Flagstaff
How long: 1.6 miles roundtrip
How hard: Easy
It’s very likely impossible to spend any amount of time in Arizona and not know about Antelope Canyon, one of the state’s most sought-out natural attractions. The gently waved, bright-red slot canyon trail frankly looks like it could be on Mars. The walk through the canyon itself is easy, but the scenery is simply unreal. Watch out for heavenly spots where a single beam of light spills down from above to the canyon floor. You’ll need a guide to hike through the canyon, but this tends to be easy to arrange in nearby Page or Flagstaff, and you won’t be tackling any difficult terrain while on the trail. Bring a camera, walk slowly, and enjoy the feeling of being inside an issue of Nat Geo.
Where: Near Page
How long: Half-mile roundtrip
How hard: Easy
Havasu Falls is one of the most stunning areas in Arizona, but potentially also one of the hardest to actually get to. Hey, you’ve gotta be up for a challenge sometimes! Havasu Falls is on the Havasupai Reservation off the Grand Canyon (Havasupai meaning “people of the blue-green water”), and you’ll have to get exceptionally lucky through the permit system as only a handful of tourists are allowed through to the falls each year. If you snag a permit, you’ll be able to embark on the 10-mile hike to the trailhead, stretching through a pleasant canyon to the town of Supai. From here, you’re on to Havasu Falls itself, a spot often-photographed but rarely enjoyed in person. The distance is demanding, but the reward is a private peek at the stunningly blue falls nestled into a red-rock canyon. The fun doesn’t end here though! The turquoise, multi-tiered nearby Beaver Falls is absolutely worth the detour (you have to spend at least three nights at the nearby campground to get a permit, anyway). While it requires the most planning of all of Arizona’s bucket-list hikes, it’s definitely worth the trouble.
Where: Havasupai Reservation
How long: 10 miles one-way
How hard: Challenging
Arizonans, if hiking isn’t on your list of things to do, you’re missing out. This state is blessed with outstanding scenery, and all you need to find it is your own two feet! Start with this bucket list of hikes and don’t be shocked when you get hooked.