Family hikes without climbing a mountain


PHOENIX – David Olson knows the trail system in Phoenix. He has been a forest ranger for years.

“We all know the main popular trails, but there are so many other trails out there,” Olson said.

In the city of Phoenix alone, there are over 200 miles of designated trails.

“You don’t have to go to the top of a mountain to hike,” Olson said.

David showed ABC15 the Esplanade trail at the Sonoran Preserve in North Phoenix.

It’s far enough from Interstate 17 that you feel out of town, even if you’re not.

It is nearly 3.5 miles long and the elevation gain is only 127 feet. To give you perspective, Piestewa Peak is a steep 1,200 foot incline.

The Lookout Mountain Circumference trail is rated as moderate to difficult. The drop, 150 feet.

You will have a view of the north of Phoenix and the east towards Scottsdale. It’s just over a two mile loop that usually takes about an hour to complete.

“Because the trail can be five miles long, that doesn’t mean you have to do it all,” Olson said. “If you start it and say it’s going to get harder – where you feel it’s difficult, maybe it’s a good time to turn around and try it in the next few days and just progress to do it all at a different time.”

Maricopa County Parks and Recreation also offers shorter family trails.

Even if they are considered easy, you will always have your dose of nature.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park’s Nursery Tank Trail in Fountain Hills is only about half a mile long, but it’s in the county’s largest park at 21,000 acres.

It will take you about 13 minutes on foot and it is popular for bird watching and running.

Usery Mountain’s Merkle Trail near Apache Junction is also family friendly – no mountains to climb on this one.

It will take you about 23 minutes to complete the loop. It is also good for bird watching.

Then in the West Valley in White Tank Mountain Regional Park, the Black Rock Trail is just over a mile.

It will take you about 30 minutes to walk. The area is very popular, so expect to see other people.

And the waterfall trail is a bit longer, almost two miles, but great for walking and running. It will take about 45 minutes to complete.

The key, however, on any trail is to make sure you are prepared with the right shoes and of course, plenty of water.

“A lot of tourists who come here, or people who aren’t from the desert, might not think about it.” says Olson. “They just see that big mountain over there and then when I get to the top. Well, you have to be careful.”


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