Wildflower season is peaking in Arizona right now. Given this wet winter weather, the wildflowers are blooming all over. If you’d like to soak up some of that classic scenery by hiking, here are some of Arizona’s best wildflower hikes.
We spoke with Arizona hiking expert Mare Czinar for most of these recommendations. Czinar has been writing the blog Arizona Hiking since 2008, writes a weekly hiking column for The Arizona Republic, and is the author of several books about local trails. She hikes every weekend.
The best time to see wildflowers? In late March to early April.
“You get a hybrid. You get not only the low rolling wildflowers like the poppy, but you get the early blooming cacti. This is the two or three weeks of the year when you’re going to get both the cactus and the wildflowers and the flowering shrubs,” she says. “This is the ideal time. Plus, the weather is great.”
The only drawback to hiking this time of year? You have to watch out for rattlesnakes. As with any hike, be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Happy trails!
Picacho Peak State Park in Pinal County
Picacho Peak State Park is currently blanketed in wildflowers and is getting plenty of attention says Czinar. Located about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson and just off the Interstate 10, the park is home to two easy trails, two moderate trails and the Hunter Trail. Perhaps the most notable of the bunch is the 2-mile Hunter Trail that goes to the summit of Picacho Peak. This route is steep and features steel cables—gloves are recommended—to navigate to the top of this 1,500 feet tall peak. This park can get crowded.
Wild Mustang and Wild Burro Loop Trail in Marana
If you’re searching for trails nearby Picacho Peak State Park that are less crowded and don’t charge any fees, consider heading to nearby Marana. Czinar recommends the Wild Mustang to Wild Burro Loop Trail, which is just over 8 miles. If you’re short on time, you can just do an out-and-back with one of the hikes and avoid doing the full loop. Expect to see plenty of yellow flowers all over.
The Quartz Mine Trail in the Skyline Regional Park in Buckeye
Skyline Regional Park in Buckeye features plenty of blooming wildflowers.
“Right now, the Quartz Mine Trail is just going crazy with brittle bush and scorpion weed and poppies and buckwheat and lupin and just gives you enough eye candy,” Czinar says.
Many hikers will do a Skyline and Quartz Mine Loop Trail that’s about 4.5 miles long. Czinar tells us you can create others loops that incorporate the Quartz Mine Loop, too.
Kovach Family Nature Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale
Scottsdale’s Kovach Family Natural Trail is flat trail that’s ADA-accessible and ideal for those with mobility issues or young kids. Strollers are welcome here. Czinar tells us that, in addition to plenty of wildflowers, you might spot strawberry hedgehog cactus with its signature pink flowers and cholla. You can even get mini lessons about the natural world here. Look forward to educational signs posted along the trail that list names, pictures, and descriptions of various desert plants and discuss the ecosystem.
Jane Rau Brown’s Canyon Trail in Scottsdale
The Jane Rau Brown’s Canyon Trail kicks off at the Brown’s Ranch Trailhead in North Scottsdale. The trail is named after community activist Jane Rau, who was instrumental in establishing the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This roughly 0.4-mile loop trail is barrier free and an easy stroll for all. You can see wildflowers along with placards detailing the plants you’re seeing. This area features sweeping desert views and plenty of cactus. This hike is also ADA-accessible.
The Mormon Trail in Phoenix
South Mountain’s 1.1-mile out-and-back Mormon Trail, which gains about 720 feet in elevation, is currently blooming with wildflowers.
“There’s a lot of different ecosystems there. When you go into rock crevasses, you might find tuberose. You go on the sunny sides where you’ll see the poppies. In the drainage areas, you’ll also see a lot of flowering shrubs like a wolfberry,” Czinar says of her recent hike there.
Hikers also can link the Mormon Trail up to the National Trail to make a loop. Fat Man’s Pass is another popular attraction that’s just off the Mormon Trail.
Palo Verde Trail in Tonto National Forest
Located in the Tonto National Forest north of Carefree, the Palo Verde Trail is a great wildflower hike because it’s up on ridgeline. “You get those flowers that pop in the sunshine,” Czinar says. Expect to see cholla, ocotillo with red flowers on the top, and lupins.
The Palo Verde Trail is a roughly 8.3-mile out-and-back trail.
Sidewinder Trail in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve
The Sidewinder Trail in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve travels along the side of a hill. You’ll find a variety of flowers in the shade, says Czinar. One added bonus? Hikers who head up early in the morning can expect to see colorful hot air balloons across the sky.
This hike kicks off at the Desert Hills Trailhead and ends at the Apache Wash Trail Head. The trailhead is just off of the Carefree Highway.
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