Preview Excerpts from Take a Hike Phoenix

This gorgeous sight can be found on the Spur Cross and Elephant Mountain Loop in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.

This gorgeous sight can be found on the Spur Cross and Elephant Mountain Loop in Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.

Hey all!

The wonderful people at Moon.com posted my Top Five Phoenix Area Hikes to De-stress During the Holidays complete with full excerpts from my hiking guidebook, Take a Hike Phoenix.

Here’s my author page for the entire list of posts and reviews with color photos (ooh-la-la!).

If that’s looking pretty good to you, consider taking the $12 plunge and purchase Take a Hike Phoenix today.

Happy hiking to you!

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Best Solitude Hikes for Beginners in Honor of National Take a Hike Day

This Sunday (November 17th) is National Take a Hike Day!

I’m excited. But given my pathetic blog stats lately, I very much understand that not everyone is a hiking nut like me.

I get it. Exercise — an activity that requires you to wear tight clothing, grow sweat rings, and potentially expose your lack of cardiovascular endurance — is not something everyone wants to share with other humans.

So for those of you who hate getting sweaty in front of others, I propose you give one of these trails a shot. Each is easy, short, and offers plenty of privacy so you can try out this hiking thing without feeling too self-conscious.

Tip: Click the hike title for a link to its EveryTrail review and be sure to scroll to the bottom right corner of the EveryTrail page for driving directions.

You can so totally do this. I promise.

You can so totally do this. I promise.

South Central Valley: Judith Tunnell Trail in South Mountain

This is a barrier free trail. Which means it’s wheelchair friendly. I was sure to include wheelchair-friendly hikes in every chapter of my book and I regret that I did not feature this one (2nd edition, here we come!) because it really is lovely. The trail is beautifully paved and was totally deserted when I explored it with my family a few weeks ago. At just 1.3 miles total with only a few small inclines (inclines that would totally make my arms fall off if I were in a wheelchair, btw), this hike amounts to a leisurely stroll if you’re a walking person. It also features plenty of benches and shaded structures with educational plaques to help pass the time.

West Valley: Black Rock Loop in White Tank Mountain Regional Park (Free admission on National Take a Hike Day!)

Flat. Short. Deserted. Easy. There’s not much holding you back from trying this trail out. And it has two options: The Long Loop at 1.2 miles and the Short Loop at 0.5 mile. Yes, you can take as much time as you want on this little-known trail that simply walks through the flat desert around a couple large black rocks. Your biggest challenge will be avoiding the cholla that surrounds the trail.

Central Valley: Mohave Trail 200 in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

Okay, so if you haven’t been to the gym lately (And why would you? Too many judgmental eyes!), this one might be a little tough. But who cares when you can openly curse your burning lungs and take as many breaks as you wish because there’s no one around to silently mock you? I’ve hiked Mohave five or six times and I think I’ve seen one other person on the trail. I assume it’s because everyone else is busy killing themselves by hiking up the neighboring Piestewa Peak. Mohave is only 0.6 mile up a mere 300 feet to a tiny perch that offers a spectacular view to South Mountain and the city below. After soaking up the scenery, you make an easy descent back to the trail head to total a scant 1.2 mile.

Blevins is so beautiful, it's CRAY.

Blevins is so beautiful, it’s CRAY.

East Valley: Blevins to Cat Peaks Loop in Usery Mountain Regional Park (Free admission on National Take a Hike Day!)

I recently took my sister-in-law on this hike in the east valley to prove to her that I wouldn’t force her into anything too hard-core. It worked. We enjoyed a breezy, 3-mile walk on the flat terrain of this desert trail that is off the radar for hikers. If you can walk across a parking lot, you can easily manage this trail. The only human contact you’ll have is with the locals who choose to enjoy this trail on horseback. So even if you’re working up a sweat, there’s no shame. At least you’re not making an animal do the heavy lifting.

North Valley: Sears-Kay Ruin Loop in Tonto National Forest

This one requires a bit of a drive. But consider the distance your insurance policy against the peering eyes of health elitists who might cruelly judge your muffin top (jerks!). At just 1 mile total, this little loop is one of my all-time favorites. You’re out in the middle of nowhere, climbing a small hill, and touring the ruins of a 900-year-old Hohokam village. With plenty of informational plaques, you’ll have all the excuses you need to take breaks between breaths (this one’s great for kids, too).

Have a happy National Take a Hike Day, everyone!

Ten Alternate Trails to Hike While Camelback Echo Canyon is Closed

Camelback Cholla Trail at your service.

Camelback Cholla Trail at your service.

Want to know more about these trails? You’ll read all about them in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores late November and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

I’ve see a few tweets that will surely upset a Phoenix hiker or two.

According to azcentral.com, the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain may not re-open until January 2014, a solid 2 months later than the originally scheduled November date. I’ve seen other tweets say that Valley hikers might be waiting even longer due to delays in the trail renovations, parking lot expansion, and bathroom construction.

These tweets don’t upset this Phoenix hiker, however. Because I have options. In fact, I have 81 of them which I will share with you in late November when my book is released.

In the meantime, though there’s no replacing the Echo Canyon Trail, here are quick summaries of ten alternate trails that offer some of the same features of that valley favorite.

Cholla Trail on Camelback Mountain

3.6 miles, 1,300 ft. elevation gain

Did you know there’s a trail on the other side of the mountain? With constant climbing, heavy scrambling, and views from the very same summit reached via the Echo Canyon Trail, the Cholla Trail will surely satisfy your need for climbing Camelback Mountain. The similarities to Echo Canyon don’t end there…the parking is a nightmare. With no proper parking lot, hikers must park parallel along Invergordon Street then walk to the trailhead.

Piestewa Peak Summit Trail in Phoenix Mountains Preserve

2.4 miles, 1,200 ft. elevation gain

This one’s a no-brainer. Wildly popular, the Piestewa Peak Summit trail demands hard-core huff n’ puff all the way up. And up. With barely any reprieve from the climbing, Echo lovers will feel that scathing lung burning they crave. No scrambling efforts required here except for the parking. It’s crowded at the trailhead but there are other parking lots within walking distance.

Holbert Trail at South Mountain

3.6 miles, 950 ft. elevation gain

Like making it to the top? This trail will take you to the highest point accessible in all of South Mountain park at Dobbins Lookout ( 2,330 feet). This one’s a more subtle burn but offers plenty of sweat-filled climbing as you make your way to the stone-stacked structure which marks your endpoint. The big difference here is that reaching the top means running into non-hikers who opted for the mountain drive, accessible by car. But with views of the entire city, you’ll barely notice.

Black Mountain in Cave Creek

2.2 miles, 1,275 ft elevation gain

It’s really no secret that Black Mountain is Cave Creek’s Camelback Mountain. It’s a hefty grunt all the way up this rocky trail with zippo switchbacks to ease the pain. Make it to the top and you’ll be treated to views that rival Camelback’s. It may be a drive but it’s right off the main drag in Cave Creek so treat yourself to a burger and beer afterward.

Not so little anymore! Say hello to Tom's Thumb.

Not so little anymore! Say hello to Tom’s Thumb.

Sunrise Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve (aka McDowell Mountains)

3.7 miles, 1,100 ft elevation gain

To put it simply, this is a stellar hike. The trail and trailhead are brand new, beautifully maintained, and in a nice area of North Scottsdale. Reaching Sunrise Peak guarantees clear views of your beloved Camelback as well as the Phoenix Mountains, the Superstitions, Four Peaks…you can even see the Fountain Hills fountain’s massive projectile of vertical water if you time it right.

Tom’s Thumb Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve (aka McDowell Mountains)

4.1 miles, 1,325 ft elevation gain

Okay, so when you’re on Camelback and you’re looking north, you’re looking at the McDowell Mountains. Have you ever noticed the single, rocky protrusion that looks like a teeny little thumb? That’s Tom’s Thumb. And after you sweat your way up this challenging trail, it won’t be teeny. In fact, it’s so huge, you can barely wrap your head around its massiveness.

Pinnacle Peak Trail

2.9 miles, 1,000 ft elevation gain

This trail offers the same Scottsdale fanciness that the Echo Canyon Trail boasts. Nice area of town, beautiful trail, and tons of opportunity to stare into rich peoples’ backyards. This trail is less of a summit hike and more of an up, down, up, down…turn around and do it all backwards kind of hike. You’ll love it.

Image credit: www.jfryhale.com

The Flatiron. Reaching the top feels the way this photo looks. (Which is awesome.)

Siphon Draw Trail to the Flatiron in Superstition Mountains

5.8 miles, 2,750 ft elevation gain

I am going to say this now and I’m sorry if you’re offended. This hike is way, way, waaaaayyyy better than Camelback Mountain. Six miles. Vertical climbs. Merciless crawling over boulders. And the absolute most breathtaking I-am-on-top-of-the-freaking-world-right-now views. If you love Camelback, you must do this hike.

Hunter Trail at Picacho Peak

3 miles, 1,900 ft elevation gain

To the timid, this trail is downright terrifying. But if you like the steep parts on Camelback when you have to grip those bars, you’ll adore this trail. It’s one of the few in the U.S. that boasts via ferrata climbing — Italian for “iron road”. Picture this: rockface, metal cables, and you gripping the cables while hanging on for dear life as you climb your way to the summit. Chickens, you’re going to want to sit this one out.

Elden Lookout Trail in Flagstaff, AZ

5.1 miles, 2.400 ft elevation gain

Admittedly, this requires a lot more driving on your part. But if you can zip up Camelback Echo Canyon Trail, it’s time to up your game, friend. This trail is about 5 miles roundtrip with 2.400 feet in elevation gain. It’s like two Piestewa Peaks stacked on top of each other surrounded by thin, Flagstaff air. No bones about it — you’ll feel like a serious hiker after you finish this one.