From hieroglyphics to hot dogs: 12 Arizona trails for every wanderer

From hieroglyphics to hot dogs: 13 Arizona trails for every wanderer

Photo courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden via Facebook.

By Trinity Murchie

May 24, 2024

If Arizona was like how it’s portrayed in the movies—brown, dull, and full of nothing but cacti—chances are high that fewer people would move here, visit here, and remain here. Chances are also high that we would not have all the cool trails that we do.

Although these 12 trails might have you crying out “mirage!” after witnessing their cool features, they are very much real and offer proof of the cultural, historical, and environmental diversity of the Grand Canyon State. Oh, and make sure to check out the water trails if you are actually experiencing a mirage—it may be time for you to cool down.

History Buffin’

Arizona’s History is nothing short of fascinating. If you are interested in looking at the history and traversing along the paths that held the footsteps of the pioneers who made Grand Canyon State living possible, you can check out the Historic Trails of Arizona, maintained and mapped out by Arizona State Parks and Trails.

This may be a fascinating exploration for many, but if you are looking for a more explicit payout on a trail, here are some that give glimpses of the history and story of what makes Arizona, Arizona.

Vulture Mine Trail

Mining has had and continues to have a large impact on the unique infrastructure of Arizona. On this trail, you will drive 15.4 miles on a loop just outside of Morristown through stunning desert views, remnants of a homestead, and several abandoned mines. This trail is a road less traveled, which means there will be several opportunities to get out, walk, and feed any “urbexing” desires you may have, without running into anyone else. A dirt bike, 4×4 vehicle, or standard lifted vehicle are all well suited to handle this bumpy trail. Be warned that there is hardly any shade, so bring your water and SPF.

Location: In Morristown Elementary District just off of West Gates Road

Hieroglyphic Trail

The Hieroglyphic Trail to the Petroglyphs, located in Superstition Wilderness, has a big payout for those curious about Native history. Along the rocky, moderately challenging foot trail, there are year-round pools of water and stunning canyon views, with a final stop complete with Petroglyphs believed to be left by the Hohokam people some 1,500 years ago.

Dogs are welcome to join on a leash, and since this is by all definitions an archaeological zone, be sure to practice the leave-no-trace rule. If you aren’t bothered by heat, you can go any time of year, but be aware that this trail is located near Apache Junction and has that notorious high heat from May to October. Most people prefer taking this hiking trail during the cooler months.

Location: Gold Canyon along East Cloudview Avenue

The Arizona Trail

Calling all thru-hikers! This 800-mile thru-hike has a high payoff. Starting/ending at the US-Mexico border at the Coronado National Memorial and the Kaibab Plateau region near Utah, this trail provides an overview of the heart of Arizona.

I was fortunate enough to play “trail angel” for a long-time friend in April when she needed a break at the halfway Picketpost Trailhead split in Superior. During her three-day recoup, she shared photos of a myriad of wildflowers, watering holes, and all different weather (sun, lightning, snow). This trail goes through different altitudes, terrain, and environments, resulting in a true understanding of Arizona’s environmental diversity. It is only fitting that it has earned the name: “The Arizona Trail.”

Location: Coronado National Memorial near the US-Mexico border to the Kaibab Plateau region near Utah

Urbanization, Please

If you prefer something a little more urban yet still nature-centric, check out these cool trails that require nothing more than a day, a pair of comfortable shoes, and a sense of wonder.

Indian Bend Wash Path

This 11.8-mile path, also referred to as “The Scottsdale Greenbelt,” goes through the urban areas of Scottsdale and Tempe, but passes by several beautiful parks, water features (creeks and lakes), skate parks, and paths that lead to other stunning trails, such as the trail that leads to Papago Park as well as the trails that connect to Tempe Town Lake. There are also businesses, golf courses, and fishing opportunities along the way.

This is a greenbelt that provides some much-needed nature escape from the urbanization of the greater Phoenix area. Talk about the best of both worlds.

Locations: Maricopa County, Venturoso Park to south of Shea Blvd and North Hayden Road to East Curry Road

Desert Botanical Garden

Imagine trails that are surrounded by Arizona’s native flora and fauna, ranging from ancient to modern. With distinct trails, all offering their own unique theme and lesson, the Desert Botanical Gardens located in Phoenix holds trails worth perusing and pursuing.

Entry costs $16.95 for all guests during the summer months and if you go the second Tuesday of each month entry fees are waived. The trails at this attraction are highly informative and simply beautiful.

Location: 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix

The Tucson Loop

Named ”the number one Bike Path in America” by USA Today, the Tucson Loop is the trail to travel for all the cyclists out there! With 131 car-free miles, this trail passes through several community parks, state parks, a public pool, and even farmers markets! It is a great way to see the beauty of Southern Arizona while safely traveling on two pedal-powered wheels.

Locations: Use this interactive map to figure out the best starting point for you. Hint: there are about 131 miles worth of starting points.

From hieroglyphics to hot dogs: 13 Arizona trails for every wanderer

Photo courtesy of The Loop via Facebook.

Must Love Water

Most love a trail with some water features, there is just something so serene about it. These trails all feature water of some sort, a true refresher on the hot summer days.

Salt River Tubing

Have you seen the wild horses of Arizona? Do you like floating on a river with friends? This trail is less trail and more river, but makes it on this list for how fun it is! For a shuttle pass + tube fee of $20, you can park at the end of the river, take a bus to the top of the river (with your cooler, swimsuits, and keys), and spend 4-5 hours peacefully floating with the current to your car, looking out for wild horses, enjoying natural tree growth, all while soaking in freshwater with friends. It gets crowded, but it’s crowded with happy Arizonans appreciating the beauty of the state.

This is a summer must for anyone planning a trip to the Mesa/Tonto National Forest area. It’s even worth planning a trip for!

Location: 9200 North Bush Highway, Mesa

From hieroglyphics to hot dogs: 13 Arizona trails for every wanderer

Photo courtesy of Salt River Tubing via Facebook.

Beasley Paddle Route

If you kayak, canoe, or do paddling of other sorts, this is the paddle trail for you! It is generally considered easy, yet there are a couple dozen class-1 rapids to enjoy (so probably avoid paddle boarding). Located on the Verde River, this 10.2 trail boasts several tree varieties, various wildlife, and a fun time. Due to the vast flora, each visit could yield an entirely different viewing experience.

Location: Camp Verde

Pipeline Canyon Hiking Trail

This trail is about 4 miles long and is located within Lake Pleasant. What makes it stand out from the other trails at Lake Pleasant is the floating bridge amidst rolling hills. You can literally walk on water here. Grab the kiddos and pup and get ready for a relaxing experience on this trail in Maricopa County.

Alternative for Equestrians: This trail is also popular for horseback riding!

Please note: The floating bridge has been under repair off and on. Please check the website for updates.

Location: Maricopa County Park Lake Pleasant

Feed Me!

Whether you worked up an appetite from going along the above trails, or you just enjoy tasty treats, these are the trails for you.

Flagstaff Brewery Trail

Brew and bites, beers and pints. If you find yourself in or around Flagstaff, be sure to check out the Flagstaff Brewery Trail consisting of eight different breweries. Register for the digital passport online, fill it out as you go via the geo-stamp system at each brewery, then bring your filled-out passport to the visitors center to get a commemorative pint glass! Local brews and a practical keepsake? Sign me up!

Location: Flagstaff, various locations

From hieroglyphics to hot dogs: 13 Arizona trails for every wanderer

Photo courtesy of Visit USA Parks via Facebook.

Mesa’s Fresh Foodie Trail

Before embarking on this trail, make sure to have a napkin to wipe up the drool (and maybe a gym membership to balance out the good eatin’).

The Fresh Foodie Trail of Mesa is a foodie’s delight as it includes wineries, breweries, locally sourced meals, top-ranked chefs, outdoor dining with views, award-winning ice cream, and so much more. If you haven’t experienced Mesa from the foodie’s perspective, be sure to add this trail to your summer bucket list–it does not disappoint. It may make for a well-planned summer (and fall) date night!

Sonoran Hot Dog Trail

Starting near the Mexican border and making its way up to Tucson is the Sonoran Hot Dog Trail. This is a true Arizona delicacy—if you use the word delicacy liberally, that is!

Wrapped in bacon and served on a bolillo-style bun, this hot dog is topped with pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, and all the condiment fixins that you’re used to. It should be no surprise that this protein-rich dog originated in Mexico and exists in Arizona as a nod to the state’s roots. If you haven’t tried one yet, well, use this map to change that ASAP!

From hieroglyphics to hot dogs: 13 Arizona trails for every wanderer

Photo courtesy of Mudwater/CC BY-SA 4.0.

Hit the trail

If you’ve made it through the listicle this far, you now know that Arizona has a trail for everyone: the diversity of this state represents the diversity of its people. Explore history, enjoy planned urban escapes, float on a river, and eat some delicious food. Arizona is full of life, so go live it up!

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.From hieroglyphics to hot dogs: 12 Arizona trails for every wandererFrom hieroglyphics to hot dogs: 12 Arizona trails for every wanderer


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  • 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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