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!

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Papago Park Doesn’t Suck

I dig the buttes in Papago Park.

I dig the buttes in Papago Park.

Check out more photos, gps information, and other details of  this hike on my Everytrail.com page which shows a loop we created one day. A detailed review of a Papago Park hike is featured in my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores fall 2013 and is now available at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

“That trail SUCKS!” my husband Lou said the other day as we drove past Papago Park.

He was referring to the Eliot Ramada Loop on the west side of Galvin Parkway. The trail offers a paved portion for the first half mile until you reach the Eliot Ramada, a large shady structure poised between the massive, erosion-pocked red rocks called the Papago Buttes.

The trail is easy.

Easy for us anyway. Because, save a few creaky joints and Lou’s “arthritis” in his toe (eye roll), we are young, able-bodied hikers in the prime of our lives.

Not everyone has the luxury of hating that trail, however.

About four years ago, I convinced my grandmother’s caregiver and a few family members to meet up for a hike. With a heavy blanket tucked around her limp body and gray curls poking out from under her fuzzy beanie, GJ (our nickname for her) felt the chilly December air as we took turns (okay, brother Alan did most of it) pushing her wheelchair along the paved trail in Papago Park.

It was hard work.

Shortly after our family hike, GJ had another stroke. A big one. And it pretty much kept her at home for the rest of her life.

After my mother’s stroke earlier this year, we ventured to Papago Park once again for weekly hikes. Mom could walk okay but I had to keep a hand on her belt so I could yank her straight if she started to lose her balance. We started with the paved portion, taking breaks at each bench. We made it to the ramada. After a couple weeks, we braved the uneven terrain of the surrounding dirt trails. Eventually, we could walk the whole park.

That's Mom. Dwarfed by the amphitheater in Papago Park.

That’s Mom. Dwarfed by the amphitheater in Papago Park.

Today, Mom is hiking the Quartz Ridge Trail 8A, a much more challenging trail, three times a week by herself.

Papago Park is where my GJ got out of the house for one of the last times. Papago Park is where Mom healed from her stroke. Papago Park doesn’t suck.

This is the very same speech I gave Lou after he made his callous remark. Needless to say, he recanted his comment.

Nobody disses my trails. Nobody.