Little Hikers, Happy Trails : Kids Guide to AZ Outdoors



The weather is about to cool down! Yay! This is the time of year we live for in Phoenix and makes the summers worth the heat. One of our favorite things to do when the weather is nice is hike together as a family. Most Saturday or Sunday mornings will find us hitting a trail locally. We have some favorites, but we are always looking for family friendly hiking in the local area!


We have used the book 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Phoenix as a way to find new hiking areas. Since moving here two years ago, we have discovered some great trails! Here are some of our favorite family-friendly hiking spots:

Thunderbird Park:  These trails have the advantage of being very close to our house! The trails are easy to medium in difficulty for my daughter. She has gone all the way to the top and back down without too much issue. I also hike this trail with friends when the kids are in school. It can get crowded at this park.

Westwing Hiking Area: These trails vary in difficulty from easy to very difficult. My five year old has not had any problems with the easier trails. You see some beautiful views from the top too.

Deem Hills Park:  My daughter hasn’t done the complete circumference of this mountain yet, but maybe this year is the year! My husband and I have done it together-it is  a relatively easy hike (there is an option to go to the top too which will give you some elevation). Watch out for mountain bikes though.

White Tanks: We definitely enjoy this park and have been several times. The trails range in difficulty from very easy and child friendly to very difficult. The Waterfall Trail is fortunately one that’s very easy-you could almost take a stroller on this trail as it is very flat and partially paved. It’s about 2 miles roundtrip and my daughter has done it with no difficulty. At the end of the trail is a canyon where you will usually find a pool of water and if the rain has been particularly heavy, a waterfall. You can also see tadpoles and frogs. You will see some petroglyphs along the way too. It is really neat! This trail is popular and will get crowded. There is also a playground nearby for some after hiking fun. You do have to pay to get into the park ($6 per car), but the trails are very well maintained and when we have visited, the park rangers are readily available. There is plenty to explore here!

McDowell Sonoran Preserve: These are trails in Scottsdale; we have hiked two of them. Pretty and relatively easy. Also nice for a change of scenery.

Norterra Preserve: A scenic trail system north of Norterra. We have hiked here several times and it is very pretty and not too difficult for the little ones. One time we got lost and ended up hiking through a neighborhood. Oops!

Hole in the Rock and Papago Park: My daughter loved this hike and I think it’s one that anyone who is interested in hiking should do! The climb to the hole is actually pretty easy (there are stairs). Once you are in the hole, you have to keep a close eye on your kids–the potential for a fall scared the mama in me. But there were plenty of kids there on the day that we went and it isn’t dangerous as long as you stay away from the edge. Really fun and different hike, especially for kids!

Some trails I have not personally tried (but can’t wait to check out!) are North MountainBlack Mountain, Piestewa Peak, Camelback Mountain, and Pinnacle Peak.


Some things to consider, especially hiking with kids:

  • Don’t be afraid to head back if anyone in your group can’t handle any more hiking. Remember you have to walk as far back as you came in so allow for that, especially for kids! Sometimes we hike out half an hour or so and then turn around and head back.
  • You don’t have to complete every trail; there will be other days of hiking! Bring plenty of water and make sure the kids are drinking enough! If you are going to be out for several hours, a snack is a good idea too. Keep on the trails and watch out for wild life.
  • Wear plenty of sunscreen and a good hat. Caution kids about running-my daughter has fallen a few times on the trails from tripping over a rock or going too fast.
  • Make sure everyone is wearing appropriate footwear; I have had difficulty finding hiking shoes or boots specifically in my daughter’s size, but she does fine with her regular sneakers.

Overall, I love hiking with my family. It is great exercise, a great way to experience nature together and introduces your kids to an activity they can enjoy throughout their lives. We love seeing parts of the city we wouldn’t otherwise see and exploring new trails.  And, it costs nearly nothing!

Tell me, where do you like to take your kids hiking in the Valley?

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Eileen has been married to her husband, Eric, an Air Force officer, since 1998. A pharmacist by trade, she worked that gig for ten years until her promotion to full time stay-at-home mom in 2009. Eileen and Eric have one daughter, Little E, who is a feisty little girl obsessed with Octonauts. As a military family, they move every 3-4 years, most recently from Southern Virginia to Arizona. They have lived in the Phoenix area since July 2012 and love the southwest! Hopefully they have found their “forever” home. Eileen’s passions and hobbies include photography, reading, travel, cooking, doing creative projects with her daughter, hiking and working out. She can often be found sipping a latte at Starbucks, looking for the next great read at Barnes and Noble, or browsing Ulta for the latest beauty find.



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