Lace up with these 14 running and hiking groups in Arizona

Lace up with these 16 running & hiking groups in Arizona

Photo courtesy of Canva

By Trinity Murchie

January 30, 2024

National forests, parks, and reservations make up roughly 80% of the Arizona landscape. Combine that landscape with an average of 300 annual days of sunshine and you get an outdoor playground primed for people to traverse. If you’re local to Phoenix or Tucson, partaking in the outdoor playground is simply a must.

Running and hiking are two great ways to stay fit, have fun, appreciate the beauty of the state, and build a community that will make you all the more proud to call the Southwest home. So check the weather report, grab your water bottle and breathable clothing, and get ready to enjoy the outdoors with one (or more) of these hiking and running groups.


Running Groups

Whether you are a seasoned pro who runs marathons, a hobby runner, a senior citizen looking to get out and move, or just a curious fitness newbie, running groups are a great way to maintain heart health while forming community with other individuals in the great outdoors. Below is a list of inviting running groups where you are welcome to do just that.

Aravaipa Group Runs: This weekly running group is broken into three groups: a Fun Group, a Mid Group, and a Fast Group. These divisions run between 3.5-7 miles, with a goal of doing so within an hour. A social is offered after each run, with locations varying each week. Based just outside of Phoenix and open to all ages, this group is run purely by volunteers. The weekly running group meets throughout the greater Phoenix area and there are also races ranging in cost from $45-$135 depending on length and location of run.

Arizona Road Racers: This nonprofit running group has been around for more than 50 years and is championed by a volunteer board of directors passionate about promoting fitness. They host races, social events, and collaborate with other running groups to make sure there is appropriate equipment present at each event. The group is open to all ages and offers free participation to children of members, only charging $5 for children of nonmembers. To become a member, fees are $25 for an adult, $30 for a young adult, and $35 for a family, with those fees covering free entry to any races.

The Best Race: Sign up for the newsletter, attend in-person races around Phoenix, or run virtually on your own time. Races are held each month, sometimes more than one, and cost $35-$45 to join, with discounts available for race bundles. Several races raise funds for various charities, and all races give swag to participants. Some races are timed, others are just meant to be completed.

Run This Town: Open to all ages (children under 18 must have a guardian), this group not only connects you to other locals, it adds you to a global virtual network, offers swag upon becoming a member, and provides a finisher’s plaque upon completion of any race. Runs are intimate, comprising three run “waves” capped at 15 runners, with a minimum of seven runners, and if a race must be postponed to meet minimum attendance or sells out, there’s the virtual option to keep you motivated during your time on the waitlist. A portion of proceeds from each race goes to orphanages in East Asia.

Southern Arizona Roadrunners: Located in Tucson, this not-for-profit organization seeks to promote health in Tucson and southern Arizona through hosting races and events of different distances. The organization is open to people of all ages and abilities, as the focus is on both running and walking. They even have a group, Fit Kidz, dedicated to inspiring children to be active from an early age.

131 Event Productions: Despite the generic name, 131 Event Productions is active in organizing many themed runs just east of Phoenix. The organization hosts a majority of its races in the historical and picturesque city of Chandler, offering a variety of runs to cater to a diverse community. Races include the SHE Power 10k & 5K, a race intended to empower women of all ages, plus Run4Love, a family-friendly race meant to foster Valentine’s Day Cheer, with plenty of others to choose from as well.


Hiking Groups

If you find running to be fascinating but not your favorite way to enjoy the outdoors, consider taking a hike. No, don’t leave this article yet, that’s not what we meant. Look around you. See all those mountainous peaks? There is certain to be a hiking trail nearby that will leave you breathless from the beauty. With so many stunning trails throughout the state, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start, so try out one of these hiking groups to experience different trails near you.

Tucson Tails and Trails: Other than the delightfully alliterative group name, this hiking group is appealing because it is dog-friendly. Most groups don’t allow for dogs due to liabilities, so if you have a cute pup at home who also likes to explore trails, this group is for you. Put together by a volunteer, this group explores hiking trails around the Tucson area that are dog-friendly. There are a few rules, including leash length, socialization, and preparedness, but they are more or less common sense to keep the hike pleasant for all involved. TTT hosts frequent hikes and requires RSVPs to cap each one at a reasonable number of participants.

Friends Hiking Club: With a goal “to provide that ‘boost’ that we all need to get out there and really SEE Arizona,” Friends Hiking Club is a great group to join to truly appreciate the beauty of the Grand Canyon State. While based in Tempe, the group doesn’t limit hikes to the local trails—they’ve organized a wide array of hiking and camping trips over the last 25 years throughout Arizona and elsewhere in the Southwest. Monthly meetings are held for members and prospective members to meet and mingle.

Wandering Soles: With 23 years of experience, this group is for folks between the ages of 20-50 and strives to maintain a balance between organized and easy-going. With hiking as the primary focus, this group is also open to camping, backpacking, and other outdoor activities to foster an even stronger sense of outdoor community. Hikes and trips range from easy to difficult in order to cater to a wide array of capabilities. Regular meetings are held at the beginning of each month in Gilbert—the tech city just east of Phoenix—that prospective members may attend to meet the hosts, interact with participants, and explore what Wandering Soles is all about.

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center: A spiritual center geared for all ages and open to different forms of spirituality, this hiking group is a little different than the rest. Their mission statement is as follows: ”Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center is a loving spiritual community that welcomes all people regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation and honors all paths to God. We are dedicated to transforming lives by inspiring and awakening individuals to discover God’s Spirit within them.” While this is, in layman’s terms, a church, Unity is known nationwide for hosting an array of themed groups, and that includes hiking with the Phoenix branch. This is a hiking group to join if you are also looking for a spiritual community.

Southern Arizona Hiking Club: The Southern Arizona Hiking Club (SAHC) offers monthly calendars full of fun hikes and activities ranging from easy to difficult throughout the greater Tucson area. Unlike other groups, SAHC is year-round for those willing to brave the high heat of the summer months (bring lots of water). Founded in 1958, this club has evolved from a few members to more than 500. Membership is open to people of all ages, and children are welcome to join on any hike that matches their skill level. The fees to join are $25 per year, $15 for additional family membership, and $10 for a one-month membership.

Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club: This group is based just outside of Phoenix in the college town of Tempe, boasting a full event calendar—in fact, there is a hike or activity to join almost daily. The hiking and camping trips are not strictly limited to Phoenix, either, with hikes available in Sedona, Wilcox, Superior, and Sunflower as well as throughout Maricopa County. While certain hikes and camping trips are open to people of all ages, this club is geared to adults of a higher skill set. Membership fees are $30 per individual or $40 per family, annually. Hikes are also open to all, with a $5 fee for nonmembers.

Arizona State Parks and Trails: Although this is not a group or club by definition, it is a nationwide effort open to all ages to get people enjoying the great outdoors, which includes a free ranger-led hike. This is guideship at its finest, as the rangers leading the trails spend their year tending to these trails and state parks, learning them like the back of their hand. Join to learn not only about the hiking trails but about the local flora and fauna. This effort is inclusive to all of the state parks of Arizona—and there are a lot of those—at no cost save for the entrance fees to the park, making Arizona State Parks and Trails events budget-friendly and highly educational.

Sun Lakes Hiking Club: Seniors, snowbirds, and retirees, this one’s for you. Open to those residing, renting, or leasing in Sun Lakes or Sunbird (both 55+ communities), this hiking club is divided into three tiers of difficulty and offers weekly hikes from November through April. Fees include a $6 initiation fee and a $5 annual membership.


Ways to Preserve Arizona’s Outdoors

If hiking or running isn’t your thing but you appreciate the great outdoors and want to get involved in a philanthropic way, here are two organizations that help keep the natural beauty of Arizona thriving.

America Walks: This organization seeks to create safe and enjoyable walking in communities nationwide, with three branches in Arizona: Tucson, Mesa, and Prescott. Through summits, meetings, and canvassing, the group is more than just a walking club, it’s an organization seeking to influence policy and fund allocation to create enjoyable outdoor space within communities. If you want to help communities find safe ways to walk, run, and hike, here is an organization committed to just that.

Wild Arizona: Formed in 1979 and thriving with it’s volunteer-based crew, “Wild Arizona’s mission is to protect, unite, and restore wild lands and waters across Arizona and beyond, for the enrichment and health of all generations, and to ensure Arizona’s native plants and animals a lasting home in wild nature,” according to its website. Volunteering with Wild Arizona includes surveying trails, native planting, and more. This is an organization that connects people with the wilderness, has successfully sought legislative change, and offers education to people of all backgrounds.

Regardless of your strategy to experience Arizona to the fullest, finding an outdoor group is a great place to start. Through one of these groups you can find community, knowledge, fun, and fitness. If you run and join a race, you will have a lasting fitness tale to share as you age. If you hike a new trail, you will forever know about that trail and can share it with friends and family. Regardless of the group you decide to explore, it will become a lasting part of your experience in the Grand Canyon State. If for some reason none of the above 16 groups pique your interest, try looking at your local Nextdoor, BuyNothing, or Meetup chapters to find groups, neighbors, and events that can get you outdoors to appreciate the natural beauty of Arizona. The beauty here is meant to mesmerize—all you have to do is leave your house and look around.


READ MORE: 12 places in Arizona that feel otherworldly


  • Trinity Murchie

    Teacher, writer, and traveler, Trinity lives in a small town and enjoys gardening, cooking, and exploring all things bizarre. Catch her at local ruins exploring haunted histories, in quaint towns with creatives, or at the farmers markets hunting for unique ingredients. Wherever you catch her, be sure to say hi; she’ll want to hear your story, too.



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