The Phoenix area is blessed with many great wilderness preserves right inside the incorporated cities within Maricopa County. All feature hiking trails to suit all fitness levels - from relatively flat strolls for casual hikes to trails guaranteed to give even the strongest a good workout.

Visitors from out of town, and even some locals, frequently ask our store staff about a few good places to go hiking, so we've put together our top 10 suggestions for good hikes that are all a short drive from central Phoenix. Our suggestions cover trailheads right in Phoenix proper and in every direction extending out from town. There are many other choices of course, but these are popular, easy to get to, and are fairly representative of all the trail options in our area.

You do want to consider the extreme weather potential before heading out on a hike in the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe area, especially if you are a first-time visitor. The best time to hike is October through April when temperatures are moderate or even cool in places. Between May and September though, it can be brutally hot - it's more likely to be above 100' than below during those 5 months - so you'll need lots of water, head protection and protective clothing. If hiking in the summer, it's important to head out at sunrise before things really get cooking!

Most trails in the Phoenix area are open to mountain bike riders in addition to foot traffic, and you'll find some horse-back riders as well on some trails. You'll also be sharing trails with rattlesnakes, scorpions and other critters, so watch your step and where you put your hands.

You can trek to a number of mountain peaks around the Valley of the Sun, or stroll along in desert washes. Either way, make sure you're properly outfitted with the right shoes, hiking socks, snacks, day packs and other hiking gear before your next outdoor adventure. Just stop by LowerGear Outdoors retail camping store in Tempe, easily reached near the intersection of 101 and 202 east of the ASU campus.

The top 10 trail areas we suggest for exploring around our camping store and in other corners of the Valley - in no particular order - include the gems below (with general vicinity). Click on the listing-link for more information on that hiking area, including a map of the trailhead location.

South Mountain (south Phoenix / Ahwatukee)
Usery Mountain (east Mesa)
Estrella Mountains (west Phoenix / Goodyear)
Cave Creek Regional Park (north Phoenix / Cave Creek)
Piestewa Peak (north-central Phoenix)
Dreamy Draw (north-central Phoenix)
Lost Dog Wash (north-east Scottsdale)
McDowell Mountain Regional Park (Fountain Hills)
Papago Park (east Phoenix / southwest Scottsdale)
Camelback Mountain (north-central Phoenix)