Grab the kids and head outside for a fun-filled family hike
By: Lisa Altomare
Spending time outdoors with your family is one of the many incredible perks of living in beautiful Arizona. And hiking together is a fantastic way to enjoy quality time outside, burn off energy (oh yeah!), explore nature and create family memories to last a lifetime. Luckily you don’t have to go far to enjoy a wonderful, family-friendly hike. Below are a few of our favorite North Valley trails. For the best hiking experience, remember to bring lots of water, apply sunblock, and keep alert for any critters you might encounter – providing lots of space if you cross paths. Morning temperatures are ideal for hiking.
HIKE 1: Jewel of the Creek / Dragonfly Loop Trail
Spur Cross Conservation Area, Jewel of the Creek Preserve, 4400 N. Spur Cross Rd., Cave Creek, fees $2 per person
Kids of all ages will have a blast exploring this mostly shaded, easy, 2-mile loop. The trail circles a lush, tree-lined creek, situated just a few miles north of the town of Cave Creek. Fun features include a kid-sized cave (bring your flashlights kiddos!), a couple of wood-plank crossings, a pond just right for skipping stones, and an abundance of butterflies and dragonflies – Spring through Fall. The trailhead is located across the road from the parking area, just in front of a private home.
HIKE 2: Quartz Trail
Cave Creek Regional Park, 37900 N. Cave Creek Pkwy., Cave Creek, fees $6 per vehicle
This moderate, 4-mile loop is perfect for the rock enthusiasts and collectors in the family. Winding through the beautiful foothills of Cave Creek Regional Park, this trail overflows with scatterings of red jasper and hoards of glittering white quartz. In fact, the quartz is so abundant here it has been used to create trail cairns, and a 12’ high outcropping forms the hike’s highlight. To access the Quartz Trail, park at the Tonalite Trailhead, and take the Slate Trail for 0.6 miles. The well-marked turnoff for the Quartz Trail is on the left. Follow the Quartz Trail to its end at the Go John Trail, and turn left again to loop back to the parking lot.
HIKE 3: Apache Vista
Sonoran Desert Preserve, 16000 E. Sonoran Desert Dr., Cave Creek, no fees
This moderate, 2-mile loop circles up and around a classic Sonoran Desert hill – in one of Phoenix’s newest preserves. From the overlook at the top, you’ll be able to pick out area landmarks, miles away, in every direction. In winter it’s not unusual to see hot air balloons soaking in the views from on high. Hike close to sunrise or sunset and you’ll likely hear coyotes singing in the adjacent desert. Start the loop by heading up Sidewinder Trail (just behind the area facilities). After descending around the back of the hill, turn left onto Apache Wash Trail, and then again onto Ocotillo, to return to the parking lot.
HIKE 4: Pipeline Canyon Trail
Lake Pleasant Regional Park, North Park Rd., Lake Pleasant, fees $6 per vehicle
Add to the family’s hiking fun with a walk across a floating bridge and potential wild Burro and duck sightings. This moderate, 1.9-mile, out-and-back hike, follows the hills of Lake Pleasant, beside the Aqua Fria River, to a bridge that crosses a small cove. Kids will get a kick out of the lake views and abundant wildlife. The bridge makes a good fishing spot if you opt to bring poles and bait. To access the trailhead take Castle Hot Springs Road north towards Scorpion Bay. Enter the park at North Park Road and follow it to the end. The floating bridge is 0.5 miles into the hike.
HIKE 5: Rock Springs Spur Trail
South Warner Road, Black Canyon City, no fees
Tucked into the hills, just behind Black Canyon City, this moderate, 1.4-mile out-and-back trail leads to a hidden creek-side canyon and wide stone beach. The Aqua Fria River makes a sharp U-turn around Black Canyon here, depositing sand and stone from its upstream travels. The water level varies from season to season, or after a good rain. But there’s always plenty of tadpole hunting and splashing around to be had in the clear, cold water. To access the river, take the Rock Springs Spur Trail for 0.8 miles to the Black Canyon Trail and turn left. Parking for the hike is located 0.6 miles north of the I-17 exit 242 on Old Black Canyon Highway, and then 0.5 miles west on S. Warner Road.
*Photos courtesy of Lisa Altomare
Lisa Altomare is a freelance Art Director and the founder of the Arizona Hiking Website, AZ Utopia. She is an avid hiker who regularly hits the trails throughout the state. Find her detailed hiking recommendations at azutopia.com.