az hiking

Beginner’s Guide to Arizona Hiking

The springtime weather in Arizona is nothing short of glorious, marking the perfect time for even hiking beginners to hit the trails. Here, local experts recommend novice-friendly trails, pre- and post-hike stretches and safety tips for hiking with dogs.

Arizona Trails

From the Grand Canyon to Tucson and everywhere in between, Arizona Office of Tourism outlines eight beginner-friendly hikes to attempt this spring.

Wickenburg: Hassayampa River Preserve

All ages will enjoy the outdoors at the Hassayampa River Preserve near Wickenburg. Along the easy trails hikers will find a historic landmark and can try their luck at spotting javelinas, raccoons, foxes, deer or the more than 200-plus species of birds. The Hassayampa River is sure to entice hikers to take a breather and enjoy the beauty of this riparian habitat.

“This area is great for beginners because it offers several shorter loop trails, shade and the river flows year-round which attracts all types of wildlife.”

Baldwin Trail. Photo credit: Visit Sedona

Sedona: Baldwin Trail

This 3.3-mile round-trip loop trail features great views of Cathedral Rock and is both kid- and dog-friendly. Midday trips don’t offer as much shade as morning or late afternoon, so visitors should plan accordingly. Fortunately, the cool water of Oak Creek is nearby — just be sure to grab a Red Rock Pass before hitting the trail.

“As one of Sedona’s amazing Secret 7 hiking trails, the real insider’s tip here is to start this fairly short hike in the late afternoon to catch the sunset over Cathedral Rock.”

Pinetop-Lakeside: Woodland Lake Trail

This one-mile loop circles the lake and offers a peaceful experience that changes throughout the seasons but is always a perfect spot for bird watching and viewing wildlife creatures. Several markers along the trail enable visitors to track how far they’ve gone and how much farther they need to go. It’s a good fit for all skill levels including your furry friends, as dogs are allowed as well.

“Woodland Lake is an ideal hike for families with kids because it’s designed to keep everyone engaged throughout the short course with informational signs and distance markers. It almost teaches you how to approach other trails.”

Peavine Trail. Photo credit: Franz Rosenberger

Prescott: Peavine Trail

The Peavine Trail was built in 1893 by the Santa Fe Railway. As a former railroad bed, its wide, crushed stone and dirt avenue makes it perfect for strolling (or rolling) along this trail and possibly catching a glimpse of wildlife. The full trail is more than five miles long, but some visitors have been known to shorten the route by hiking to the one-mile point and taking in the amazing views of the Granite Dells at Watson Lake before turning back.

“One of the great things about Prescott is that it’s truly a four-season area, offering over 450 miles of hiking trails for a variety of skill levels. And the truly adventurous can even hike with a llama!”

Grand Canyon National Park: South Rim Trail

The Rim Trail extends from the Grand Canyon Village area on the South Rim to Hermits Rest. You can begin this hike from any viewpoint in the Village or along Hermit Road as shuttle buses enable visitors to customize the hike to their own needs. The Rim Trail is ideal for visitors who desire an easy hike as part of the trail is paved and accessible, and offers a moment of peace with quiet views of the inner canyon.

“Of course no list of Arizona hikes would be complete without the Grand Canyon. While the park offers plenty of hikes for every experience level, the Rim Trail is walkable and still provides incredible views that have made the Grand Canyon a must-see for visitors from across the globe.”

Tucson: Freeman Homestead Nature Trail at Saguaro National Park

This easy 1.1-mile loop trail offers visible signs that highlight the various types of vegetation in this beautiful part of the Sonoran Desert. These include saguaro, ocotillo, creosote and palo verde trees, along with blooming wildflowers in the spring. The trail is named for Stafford Freeman who lived in the area during the 1930s; while not much remains at the site of the old homestead, the park benches serve as a rest stop near Freeman’s favorite mesquite shade tree.

“As iconic as the Grand Canyon is to the north, Saguaro National Park in Southern Arizona is home to nearly two million mighty saguaros — the iconic sentinels of the Sonoran Desert. Plus, if you visit in the next couple months, you’ll be greeted by beautiful wildflowers along this trail.”

Coronado Peak. Photo Credit: NPS – Volunteer Ron Stewart

Hereford: Coronado Peak Trail at Coronado National Memorial

This short, interpretive trail climbs from the trailhead at Montezuma Pass up to Coronado Peak. Gaining about 300 feet in less than a quarter of a mile, this easy climb offers high rewards of sweeping views of Sonora, Mexico and the San Pedro River and San Rafael Valleys. While resting under a shade ramada, one can enjoy the spectacular views and ponder how human history has shaped both the natural and cultural landscapes of this unique borderlands area.

“Before you start, make sure to stop in at the visitor center to learn about the Hike for Health program. It’s a fun way to challenge yourself with an extra incentive: After you’ve hiked, you earn a unique Coronado National Memorial pin as a souvenir.”

Bonus Hike — Superior: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

The Arboretum is a 353-acre oasis in the uplands of the Sonoran Desert displaying 19,000 plants from around the world! Visitors find themselves immersed in a colorful wonderland of unique plants indigenous to the desert. The walkways in this cool hideaway are varied, some heavily shaded and others flowing through the desert cacti, plants and rose gardens.

“This hidden oasis offers nearly three miles of pathways and trails winding through colorful gardens, woodlands and native riparian habitat, with much of the trail system accessible for wheelchairs. It’s also a great learning experience as the Arboretum provides maps and handouts which offer information on the other trails and gardens.”

Hiking Stretches

“Hiking is one of the most effective lower-body workouts a person can do,” says Nick Alcocer, personal trainer, certified flexologist and general manager at StretchLab, which has several Valley locations. “Hiking involves the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, calves and abdominals. It is very important to remember to always warm up the body before performing any physical activity–especially hiking.” Here, Alcocer discusses the importance of stretching before–and after–tackling the trail.

When is the best time to stretch? Stretching is a great way to prepare for a long hike. However, there are two types of stretches that we must differentiate before we go any further. Dynamic Stretching involves constant movement through the full range of motion (ROM) of any given joint. What that means is you are stretching the muscles surrounding a joint by moving through its full range of motion. One example of this is arm circles. The arm extends fully at the elbow and wrist and then (while kept completely straight) is rotated in a circular motion through the shoulder joint’s full circular range. One way to think of Dynamic Stretching is to remember the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.” The Tin Man was unable to move until he put oil in all of his metal joints. Dynamic Stretching does this same exact thing. It allows the body to promote circulation to the joints, essentially lubricating and preparing the body for some serious movement. The second type of stretching is called Static Stretching. Static Stretching is a hold-and-release stretch where you hold a position while stretching any given muscle group. A type of Static Stretch is a seated toe-reach. This is an example of a static hamstrings stretch. A person is seated with their legs extended straight out in front of them, back is straight and chest is up. The person then takes their arms and reaches for their toes while keeping the back straight by hinging at the hips. They would then hold and maintain this stretch for about a 20- to 30-second count. Dynamic Stretching is meant to prepare the joints and muscles for physical activity such as hiking. Static stretching is meant to lengthen and relax the muscles that were just under exertion during your hike. It is very important to always remember to stretch before and after hiking.

How can one tell if they have properly stretched? The body knows when it’s muscles and joints are tight. Recognizing the signs such as joint pain, back pain, inflammation, lack of energy and decreased muscular stamina are just a few of these signs. It is important to pay attention to the body before and after stretching. Pay attention to how move and how you feel before a good stretch session. Then, compare that feeling after completing a stretch session. Be mindful of the differences you notice. Remember that “Rome was not built in a day.” Likewise, mobility and flexibility are dependent upon frequency and consistency.

What are the benefits of stretching? There are several physical benefits someone can feel after a great stretch. The first is increased movement and range of motion. When the muscles are properly stretched, the joints are able to open up, and you can move more freely. A second immediate benefit is increased circulation. When you stretch, you open the space between the muscle fibers. This is where blood is meant to flow freely. When the muscles are tight and inflamed, blood flow is restricted. Stretching helps to reopen those pathways, allowing fresh, oxygen-rich blood to reach the body – especially the brain. That brings us to our next benefit: increased energy. As circulation increases in the body through stretching, more oxygen is able to reach the muscles and the brain. Oxygen is responsible for creating energy. Thus, increased circulation leads to increased energy levels. And let’s be honest, we could all use a little more energy to get us through our long days. Increased oxygen to the brain also assists with overall brain function. Needless to say, stretching is a no-brainer.

Hiking with Pets

As many of Arizona’s beginner hikes are pet-friendly, you might be wanting to take Toto out on the trail. Michael Morefield, marketing and communications director for the Arizona Animal Welfare League, shares tips for safely hiking with pets.

  • Pet owners taking their dog on a trail should always practice the B.A.R.K. rule which stands for: Bag your pet’s waste. Always leash your pet. Respect wildlife. Know where you can go.
  • Always keep in mind the 1for1 Pet Hydration Rule: Your dog should be drinking one ounce of water for every pound they weigh per day and, when hiking, that needs to go up. So for a big dog, that would be half a gallon or more per hike, or more than four standard bottles of water.
  • Not all leashes are suitable for hiking because they can pull at your dog’s neck or constrict airflow. Proper hiking leashes include easy walk harnesses and ruff wear harnesses to allow your pet ample mobility while on the trail. 
  • It’s important to remember that your dog is the one hiking with a fur coat. Plan your hikes around a time of day that is not going to over exhaust them like early mornings or evenings.
  • While most people won’t hike with their pet in the middle of summer, spring and fall can also bring high temperatures that can be harmful to your pet. AAWL works with MD Petcare Animal Clinic which report more calls for heat exhaustion in pets in spring and fall over summer. Remember to never leave your pet in a park car even in cool weather as the inside of a care can quickly reach high heat even in the spring. 
Amara Resort

Amara Resort’s Sedona Adventure

Maybe you’re hoping for a hike with a luxe twist? With proximity to several world-known hiking destinations, Amara Resort and Spa in Sedona has launched an adventure-focused stay package and a dedicated concierge team for off-site excursions.

Available to book now through the end of the year, Amara is offering a “Sedona Adventure” stay package. The package, starting from $259 per night, includes overnight accommodations, a daily fresh-squeezed juice or smoothie per guest, a seven-day Red Rock Pass to explore some of the most popular trails in the area, a book of Sedona’s best hikes and a souvenir Amara collapsible cooler bag packed with a picnic lunch for each guest from SaltRock.

The resort also launched its Adventures at Amara concierge team, which can curate off-site, socially distanced activities for guests including jeep tours, private hikes and yoga classes, golf excursions and more.

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