Top 5 Tips for Arizona Summer Hiking

Arizona summers are no joke. There’s no denying that. But that doesn’t mean that you have to set hiking completely aside. The primary rule for Arizona summer hiking is to be smart. I’ve included below 5 of my top tips for surviving summer while also staying active.

Bring enough water. And snacks.

This is the most critical. Hiking in Arizona in the summer without enough water is a huge mistake. It’s a desert, so water sources are scarce. Often times, even if sources exist in the other 3 seasons, they’re dried up once summer rolls around. Believe me, I’ve made the mistake before of bringing a filtration system with the expectation to reap the benefits of a stream that was no longer there. I can’t reiterate enough: load up that CamelBak with more water than you think you need. Bring snacks while you’re at it. No one wants to be a hangry hiker.

Go early. Or late. Or up north.

During the summer in Arizona, early hiking means 5am so that you can be off the trail by the time if starts heating up around 7 or 8. Take that seriously. Starting at 7 might seem early enough, until it’s 9am, 100 degrees and there’s no shade.

Alternately, you can start your hike at sunset under the bright light of a headlamp. Before going that route, though, make sure you research the trailhead hours as many close at sunset. Also be familiar with how much heat the rocks can hold. If you’ve never tried a night hike, start small with a mile or two to make sure you’re comfortable with the residual heat emanating off the ground under foot.

Not feeling that early bird or night owl vibe? You’re in luck. The Mogollon Rim and Flagstaff are only a couple hours away from Phoenix, and both offer a number of beautiful summer hikes. Not sure where to start? Try Inner Basin trail, Cabin Loop, West Clear Creek or Mount Humphrey’s.

Not in the mood to drive north? Give Brown’s Trail in the Four Peaks Mountain Preserve a try. It’s high enough in the mountains that it remains relatively cool, even in the summer months.

Camelback Mountain

Dress appropriately. And bring layers.

Bringing layers might sound like zany advice, but you’ve seen the people working in long sleeve shirts in the summer. Some of you may even have thought “that person is insane.” In reality, layering in the heat is a great way to reduce exposure – as long as your layers are breathable.

Along with layers, bring items that will help shield you from the summer sun: a hat, sunglasses, in some cases an umbrella might be appropriate. Don’t go overboard as you’ll be carrying these items with you, but go smart.

Plan Ahead.

I can think of nothing worse than being lost in the Arizona desert in the summer. Except being lost with no water or food in the Arizona desert. To avoid this, follow tip number 1, but also make sure you plan ahead. Know which trail you’re following. Bring a map in case you get lost. And if you need to, take a break in the shade.

Resting in the shade at Bear Mountain in Sedona

Don’t hike alone.

I am notorious for breaking this rule, but it’s one that really should be followed. Especially in the summer. Hike with a friend – particularly a human friend as the beasts should be left at home if it’s over 100 degrees (by law). And – summer or not – always, always tell somewhere where you’re going and when you’re expecting to be back. Safety first, folks!


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