We have a wealth of great hiking, biking, and horse trails in and around Scottsdale. This page is a work-in-progress, so check back frequently for more information.
There are few outdoor activities that rival the spectacular beauty seen by exploring desert trails, and we have some the best in the world. Most trails are blessed with natural surfaces of “DG” or “decomposed granite” that is very stable and dry for sure-footed traction.
Follow the links below for more information, as well as digital maps and locations to pick up printed maps. Make sure you put on lots of sunscreen (even in the winter), wear light, thin clothing, and take plenty of water!
Trails in Scottsdale’s 30,000-acre (so far) McDowell Sonoran Preserve are too numerous to describe here. However there is a great list on the City of Scottsdale’s Preserve web page (as well as some great videos), and on the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy website.
Pinnacle Peak in North Scottsdale has some great hiking, too.
One of the greatest things about living in Scottsdale is access to phenomenal urban trails that have incredible beauty and some that provide vigorous challenge.
There are two major flat trails in the southern part of Scottsdale: The Greenbelt and the Arizona Canal.
Our Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt is an ingeniously re-purposed flood control wash that runs from our mid-section at Shea Blvd to our southern border and beyond, linking with Tempe Town Lake. The Greenbelt is a linear park connecting a number of city recreation facilities, parks, and golf courses. It wanders back and forth across the Hayden Road alignment before turning more easterly around Mountain View Road.
There are many places to stop for rest breaks, people watching, picnics, coffee, breakfast, and treats along the way. There are many bikers, walkers, runners and roller blade enthusiasts on this mostly-concrete pathway, so stay to the right and exercise caution (and courtesy) when passing.
There’s something magical about water flowing in the desert. Canals maintained by Salt River Project crisscross the Valley. Many of them have broad, level canal banks that can be used for walking, running, and biking (but please exercise caution and use responsibly).
The Arizona Canal provides a horizontal link from the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and points east toward Red Mountain, across Scottsdale, Phoenix, and on to the west side of the Valley. Starting in the east you’ll be traversing almost-virgin Sonoran desert along the mostly flat, mostly smooth DG surface of the canal bank.
The cotton fields and the occasional wild horse on the SRPMIC give way to suburbia, crossing into Scottsdale. Almost immediately you’ll be in the heart of Downtown Scottsdale passing the Waterfront Towers, Fashion Square Shopping Mall, and the Soleri Bridge.
Following the water westward across Scottsdale’s western border into Phoenix you’ll be paralleling Indian School Road past the spur Crosscut Canal that goes toward Tempe. You’ll encounter the historic Arizona Falls power generating station. Through the upscale Arcadia neighborhood, past the front door of the Biltmore Resort, and on into Phoenix, the landscape is an interesting mix of suburban tranquility and big city bustle.
For a little more vertical challenge, Camelback Mountain features Echo Canyon on the northwest end of the mountain, and the Cholla Trail on the east end. Camelback Mountain is technically in Phoenix, but it is an iconic feature overlooking Scottsdale. Parking is very limited, so please carpool and if you have to park please do so respectfully.
Here’s a summary of links above:
- McDowell Sonoran Preserve
- McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
- Pinnacle Peak
- McDowell Mountain Regional Park (Maricopa County)
- McDowell Mtn RP “Maps”
- City of Scottsdale Recreation Facilities
- Canal Information
- Canal Safety
- Arizona Canal
- Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community
- Arizona Falls
- Camelback Mountain
- Trail 100
- Mt Bike AZ
Other interesting hikes in very close proximity to Scottsdale include:
- Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak) in north-central Phoenix
- Piestewa and Trail 100 are part of the “Trails and Desert Preserves” in the City of Phoenix
- The Arizona Canal is part of the planned Sun Circle loop around the Northeast Valley under construction with portions open for use
- The Maricopa Trail loop around Maricopa County is also under construction
- The Arizona Trail that runs from Mexico to Utah
Here are some more links to trail information:
- Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club
- David Bickford’s Phoenix Trail Dude
- Bikeways information from the City of Scottsdale.
- Desert Botanical Garden’s Wildflower Infosite.
- Roger Naylor’s Arizona Wildflower Hikes on AZCentral.
- John Stanley’s 3 Hikes in the Superstitions on AZCentral.
- Beth Duckett’s Top Spots for Hiking article on AZCentral.
- Trails in the City of Scottsdale.
- Find Yourself, how rescuers locate you via trail markers.
- General information about hiking in the desert.
- Desert Exploration from the CVB.
- CVB hiking articles.
- Take a Hike Arizona.
- EveryTrail.com listings for Scottsdale.
- AZCentral.com hiking info.
- Pinnacle Peak hiking from Joanna Haugen.