5 Awesome Hikes in Scottsdale


Article by Susan Ginsberg

Photography by Susan Ginsberg

Ah the majestic mountains that surround the Valley! We are so lucky to have the opportunity to get our shoes a little dirty and recharge our souls with the beauty of this beautiful terrain. Even though the mercury is rising, we don’t have to hibernate indoors while the temperatures rise. However, it’s important to bring LOTS of water and get an early start before the heat kicks in and makes things more challenging.

Though there are over 320 miles of hiking trails in the Scottsdale area, I chose 5 of my favorite hikes to explore- with differing levels that the beginning hiker and the most advanced can appreciate.

The beauty of where we live is that there are so many options to choose from. So get your hiking shoes on, and I do recommend hiking shoes as opposed to athletic shoes for the sole (pun intended!) purpose of gripping the earth or the rocks, and not slipping along the way. 

1. Marcus Landslide   

Address23015 N 128th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85255 (Located at Tom’s Thumb Trailhead) When you arrive at the trailhead, turn left before you reach the building.

  • Miles: 4.1
  • Elevation Gain: 518 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: easy-ish

Why I like it: Though there are little elevation gains, the views are extensive- Four Peaks, Weaver’s Needle, and the Superstitions are visible on a clear day, as are the interesting and extensive rock formations, many with interpretive signs. I also love the nice, wide trail- perfect when taking a pet on a leash or walking side by side with a friend. Since we have a lot of out of town visitors and many are not experienced hikers, this is a great one to explore.

2. Tom’s Thumb 

23015 N 128th St, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

  • Miles: 4.0
  • Elevation Gain: 1,236 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: hard

Why I like it: I am going to go out on a limb, or a peak I should say, and announce that this is my favorite hike on this list. Not only is it a gradual yet steep incline, but I also find the footing a bit easier to manage. More trail, less rock, yet sometimes it can be a little sandy and slippery.  There are many places along the way to look back and snap pictures of the McDowells and urban Phoenix, and the elevation enhances these views. We like to touch Tom’s Thumb, a 150-foot tall granite rock formation, at the very top for good luck!

3. Gateway Trail

Address 18333 N. Thompson Peak Rd, Scottsdale, AZ, 85255

  • Miles: 4.2
  • Elevation Gain: 715 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: moderate

Why I like it: I really enjoy the facility and the ease of parking here. There is also a nature walk with interactive signs making it ideal to take young children exploring the desert or individuals who find hiking out of their realm of capabilities, but wanting to appreciate a nice, informative nature walk. Though Gateway trail is a longer loop, it is not very steep, so I really enjoy this hike when I want to be out in nature, appreciating the cacti and nearby peaks, while not necessarily pushing the limits on my ticker. Though it isn’t very steep, it is rather rocky so watch your footing.

4. Sunrise Trail

Address: 12101 N 145th Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85259

  • Miles: 3.6
  • Elevation Gain: 1,112 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: moderate to hard

Why I like it: This is one of my favorite hikes of all time. It seems less trafficked then many of the other hikes I have included, and it gives me a feeling of peacefulness when hiking this beautiful trail, despite the cardiovascular efforts of its gradual incline. If you time it correctly, you may even see the big fountain of Fountain Hills shooting up (every hour on the hour). I also enjoy the switchbacks and its gradual incline that allows me to view so many beautiful peaks including, The Superstitions, South Mountain, Camelback and the McDowells, as well. The last quarter of the hike does get a bit more strenuous and there are some loose, gravelly rocks, so be cautious.

5. Pinnacle Peak Trail

Address: 26802 N 102nd Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85262

  • Miles: 3.5
  • Elevation Gain: 1,020 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: moderate

Why I like it: This is a beautiful hike with a slightly steep incline at the beginning and interesting, boulder like rock formations along the way.  Hikers on the trail always seem so happy and friendly, and I always seem to run into someone I know on this trail; this is a very popular, and very well-loved hike! About halfway into the trek, there is a panoramic viewpoint called Grand View. This is a great place to snap photos with the McDowells and the Valley in the backdrop. Further up is another viewpoint called Owl’s Rest. This is a good stopping point when hiking with young children or with less seasoned hikers, without challenging them too much while still enjoying some great views, including Camelback at a distance.  Since the out and back trail is shaped like an ‘M’, If you continue on, you will go down and then climb back up another part of the mountain. The trail gets more strenuous, and some  (aka me!) call it a ‘Stair Climber’ towards the very end!

Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Trail   

Honorable Mention (not in Scottsdale – between Arcadia &  Paradise Valley)

Address: 5855 N Echo Canyon Cir, Phoenix, AZ 85018 (note: there is another trail called the Cholla trail, which is even more challenging, but I am only discussing Echo Canyon Trail)

  • Miles: 2.4
  • Elevation Gain: 1423 feet
  • Level of Difficulty: Hard

Why I like it: Truth be told, even though this is not one of my personal faves, and I have often nicknamed it ‘My Nemesis’(!), I couldn’t exclude it from this list due to its sheer notoriety. Echo Canyon has very steep elevation gains, with uneven footing as you climb upwards. I found myself constantly looking down and watching my foot placement, but maybe that is just because I tend to be extra cautious. This is a very popular, heavily trafficked trail and the views at the top are worth the trek. For those who do not want to go the extra challenge to the very top, there is a saddle that offers amazing views of the Phoenix metropolitan area along with the rest of the valley. I do not recommend this hike when the temperatures soar; there are many rescues and the majority are from heat related injuries. Bring more water than you think (and sunscreen!) and go early before the sun gets more intense.

Happy trails and enjoy exploring all the natural beauty that Scottsdale has to offer!

Health and wellness is such a broad field. I would love to know what my readers are the most interested in seeing each week. Please drop me a line telling me what interests you most. Is it aesthetics? Meditation? Fitness? Essential oils? Preventative health? Let me know what you would find compelling to learn about.

Email Susan@stopandbreathe.org, find me on InstagramFacebook, or visit my website, StopandBreathe.org.

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