A practical guide to getting around Arizona in search of a safer outdoor activity + a movie/book recommendation.
So you are staying at home for a while. It is best to stay safe and comply with social distancing recommendations. However, there are various means to find a new adventure (even an easy one), to learn a new skill and to focus on proactive everyday choices instead of getting stuck in the panic limb.
If hiking is not in your normal free time routine it might be a great time to add it. Arizona boasts some of the most various terrains that fit any level of adventurousness. We will uncover each trail in a new post starting with the ones local to the PHX area and advancing into the camp spots close to hikes. *If you are looking to explore various locations but don’t own a tent and prefer to avoid hotels - campervans might be a great choice. They come fully equipped for wherever your trail takes you. One of our favorite campervan rentals is Escape Campervans. We have collaborated with them on a few camp mug projects and truly appreciate their professionalism as well as the unique art that they put on every van.
The first one (and one of the easiest to access) is located near the Biltmore area and features Phoenix Mountain Preserve. It has a combination of trails with different elevation gain and has parking lots at a number of its trailheads.
For those who practice mountain bike riding or trail running the Northside access would work best as it opens a number of routes with little to no uphill.
My personal favorite is the trailhead at N32nd St and E Lincoln Dr. The parking lot is a bit tight there (something to be ready for). The trail starts very mellow and leads gradually to a bit steeper part towards the end. The area is known for its abundance of quartz and you can see white rocks piling on the hills along the trail. Two-thirds of the hike is located in the sort of a narrow valley and protected from the sun most of the morning and later in the afternoon.
As you start ascending into the mountain preserve you will momentarily find yourself feeling very distant from the city. While being easy to access via a car this hike is surprisingly secluded and opens some great panoramas and view of both the iconic Camelback mountain and the high rises of the downtown Phoenix.
There are optional ways to prolonging your hike or cutting it shorter. Ruth Hamilton trail (same trailhead) is 3.1 ml long out and back. It has 813ft elevation gain and is dog friendly. It takes you all the way to the top and down on the other side of the hill and back. Although you would have to make two ascends the good thing to keep in mind is that the way back to the car is all downhill. The last quarter of the hike is a bit rugged and is recommended for a person confident in their shoes and knees. So the most popular spot to turn around is at the top of the first hill to get to. You will see a bench calling your name there too :)
If you have way too much time on your hands try challenging yourself with the whole Squaw Peak Circumference. It is a 6.8 ml hike that starts at the same trailhead and loops around the Squaw Peak Mtn. Make sure you have plenty of water and that your cellphone is fully charged as the West side of the preserve is very secluded and has poor to no cell service.
Finally, my ultimately favorite workout route combines Ruth Hamilton and LV Yates Loop (As found on All Trails App). It is a 4.4 ml part loop with 1,007 ft elevation gain. If you want to make it easier go clockwise (and avoid a rugged Hamilton uphill). Or I prefer to hike to the first bench to the start of the loop and then jog it counterclockwise (as the crowd thins around there). It would be mostly flat or with little terrain change up until that Hamilton uphill (which is a great strength-building part). It is pretty easy to miss but if you reached a parking lot you’ve gone too far. Instead, try to shoot for the ridge on the top of the hill East of you. Finally, you can either walk or jog downhill back to your car to cool down.
The reason to feature this trailhead first was due to its proximity to the city and a variety of routes it offers that can help to cater to your needs while avoiding the crowds. It really does feel like a distant wilder area in spite of being in the midst of the city infrastructure. More details on the routes and their profiles are available on All Trails app.
Great movie to watch about a man’s choice to get out of the comfort zone: ”The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.
A great book to read about early mountaineering and a battle between the mountain peaks and people is: