My family is happiest when we are outdoors. My kids actually prefer being outside, instead of watching tv or playing video games. Being outside re-connects us with nature, the sun provides us much needed vitamin D and it’s great way to spend some much needed family time. Besides the weekend soccer or football games we attend, my family enjoys the outdoors by…taking bike rides, taking our dog for a walk or to the dog park, picnicking and playing in the park, camping, fishing, kayaking, and hiking!
With so much places to hike in the valley here are my favorites and why.
- Wind cave trail : Located in the Usery mountain this hike is a moderate hike with young kids. The trail does have a bit of an incline but easy enough for kids 5 and up. This hike is just under 3 miles roundtrip and give yourself a generous 3 hrs for the hike if you have young children. There is a $6 (cash is best) park entrance fee.
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum : Located in Superior, AZ this place is a glorious place to visit and walk around at anytime they are open specially in the spring. You can cover about 2-3 miles of walking around here. The arboretum is a great way to learn about desert plants, insects or birds. The walk can be leisurely and easy for the little kiddos.
- Camelback Echo Canyon trail: This is a moderate to HARD hike, depending on who you take with you. This 3 miles roundtrip hike is something I highly recommend for kids 10 and older, but if you are patient enough to help younger kiddos climb then go for it. Echo trail has a parking lot and a bathroom at the bottom which makes it ideal but parking lot does fill up by 615am on the weekends. Going on a week day before 7 should be ok. This is a climbing, uphill hike and goes up to 2704 ft in elevation at the top, but don’t let that discourage you, the view is amazing. If you are hiking with the kiddos I highly recommend bringing lots of snacks and water and to take your time. Give yourself about 3 hrs with the young ones and two if hiking with older kids. Don’t be afraid to stop and let people pass you on this hike.
- Silly Mountain in Apache Junction: This is a great hike to take the kiddos to…our favorite trail is about 2.5 miles long and it loops so you don’t see the same thing going back. There is more than one trail and you could easily get detoured so be sure to stop at each fork and read the map carefully. The trails can be go from easy to difficult but use the map through out the trails to determine which is best for you. There is a bit of an elevation change and hills but nothing like Camelback. There is no bathroom or water source here, so please plan accordingly. Stop somewhere before you get here if you think you might need to use the restroom in between.
- The “A” mountain: Located off of Mill Avenue this is a quick and easy hike. This hike will take you less than 40 minutes roundtrip with little kiddos. Parking can cost you $2 but if you want a little more steps I suggest parking by the Tempe town lake park where parking is free and walk over. The view of the city is great at the top and a must stop for Sundevils fan. Wanna lengthen your hike? Hike around the lake for a bit!
- Papago park Hole in the rock: Another easy and short hike in Tempe this hike start at Papago park and depending on the trail you take it can be under 20 minutes to 35 minutes. If you park directly under the rock the walk is very short, so I highly recommend you parking further away and walking longer to the rock. This spot can get busy too on the weekend so plan on starting a bit earlier than 830am. Parking is free the trails are fairly easy for little legs. Ramadas and restroom are located on the east side of Galvin park and are perfect spots for a picnic lunch. You might also want to eat your snack up at the hole on a not so busy day. Need extra steps the Phoenix Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo is located across Galvin Park, park there and walk across or do this walk up the hole before you walk around the garden or the zoo.
- Gilbert Riparian Preserve: The preserve is located on Guadalupe and Greenfield and is a great place to start your kiddos love for hiking. You can take a trail around the man made lake (super easy) or you can take any of the side trails that can take lead you to the bird/wildlife sanctuary to the east of the preserve. Bring some bird seeds to feed the duck if you must and bring water with you. This hike/trip can be as quick as 15 minutes or as long as 2 hours depending on where and what you end up doing during this urban hike. A plus with this hike is the playground where kids can climb around and the Greenfield library just steps away!
- Treasure loop trail: Located in the Lost dutchman state park, this hike is gorgeous in the spring. Parking is $7 and cash is best! The wild flowers are abundant and if you are lucky you will see all sorts of wildlife running around. The trail itself is easy and has a gradual inclined but not very high. this is a 2.5 miles round trip loop and can be lengthen by going taking another trail at the forks of the trail. There are places to rest and pictures opportunities are everywhere. The Superstition mountain views and all of the desert fauna make for amazing back drops. Set aside 3-3.5 hrs for this hike.
- Hieroglyphics Trail in Apache Junction: A hike turned educational, this fairly easy hike ends at the top with some hieroglyphics. The hike is about 3 miles and I could take 1.5-2 hrs round trip. Bring a small sketch pad & pencil for the kiddos so they can copy some of the hieroglyphics they see.
- San Tan Regional Trail: This trail is located in Queen Creek and has tons of hiking trails to choose from. There are parking here but also has a small day use fee. Trails you choose can be as short or as long as you want and you could definitely get up to 10 miles in easy. Not that you would want to do that but you could. This is a great area if you lived closer to the Queen Creek area. The views and sights are amazing and the sunsets are a must see here. Great view of the east valley for sure.
So there you have it my top 10 favorite hikes in or around the east valley. If you are really wanting to pursue hiking with or without the kids I highly recommend you invest in a hydration pack for your water….This is probably the easiest way to carry a lot of water with you. For mommies or older kids I recommend investing in a waist pack with water bottle holders, I have this one. It is plenty of water for a 2-3 hr hike and the pack is big enough to hold a few things. Things such as:
Suggested packing list: (please use your judgement on what and how much of these you might want to bring…quick and easy hikes will only require water)
- Lots of water. It is always better to overpack water than to run out especially if you are hiking with kids. Water can sustain us longer than food. Dehydration is no joke and not fun. So please bring enough water whenever you go. I suggest 16 oz of water per hour you are hiking. This can change depending on the weather where you are hiking..Hotter means you might want to bring more water. Kids should bring their own water as well.
- Snacks: protein inspired with a bit of carbs (jerkies, nuts, protein bars, granola bars, trail mix, individual peanut butter cups)
- Sugary snacks: depending on the day sometimes having a treat in the bag can motivate the little hikers to keep going. (fruit snacks, snack size chocolates, licorice, skittles) plus this is a great way to raise blood sugar in case of emergency.
- A To Go first aid kit like this one. I get mine from the dollar store and usually add a capsule or two of tylenol and benadryl.
- A camera: Nowadays we use our phones as a camera and that is just fine. My kiddos usually carries our little point and shoot and take pictures along the way. This is a perfect way to getting them looking at everything which also means 500 pictures later, but hey it’s all digital and you can delete the not so picturesque ones 🙂
I hope that you get to enjoy these hikes with your family. Did I miss one or two of your favorites? If yes, which one…I love exploring new places and would love to check out your favorite hiking spot. If you are new to hiking with the kids I really hope you like these kid friendly hikes. I would save Camelback for older kids but the choice is your. I really hope you make it a great day and happy hiking.