Arizona’s landscape is incredibly diverse — from the red rock canyons and mountain peaks in the north, to the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts in the south. And with year-round sun and warmth, The Grand Canyon State offers nearly unlimited opportunities for year-round hiking.
Hikers will find plenty of options for all ability levels. But if you’re looking to go beyond the well-traveled, beginner trails to really experience how spectacular and varied the Arizona landscape is, then this trail roundup is for you.
The moderate trails on this list can be completed in anywhere from a few hours to a full-day, and are ideal for hikers with a basic level of fitness and who are well-prepared with good footwear and plenty of water and snacks.
Here are our picks for the best moderate day hikes in Arizona that showcase some of Arizona’s most scenic wonders while offering a bit of a workout, too.
1. SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL TO SKELETON POINT (GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK)
- Length: 6 miles (9.7 kilometers)
- Elevation Gain: 2,200 feet (671 meters)
- Dogs Allowed: No
- Reservations Required: No (A $30 per car entrance fee is required to enter the park)
- Nearest City: Flagstaff
- Trailhead Location: South Kaibab Trailhead
It’s hard to fathom how immense the Grand Canyon is without venturing below the rim. Skip the more popular Bright Angel Trail and opt for the South Kaibab Trail — it’s less crowded and the views are much more dramatic.
The South Kaibab Trail begins at the South Kaibab Trailhead, located near Yaki Point, and leads down to the Colorado River. Limited parking is available near the trailhead, so take the South Rim Shuttle Bus from the Visitors Center for easy access.
The trail to Skeleton Point starts off with a steep downhill climb. Ooh Aah Point is just under a mile from the trailhead, and it’s a great place to turn around if you’re worried about the hike back out. It’s also a great destination if you’re hiking with kids.
From Ooh Ahh Point, another series of switchbacks leads to Cedar Ridge, a wide mesa with scraggly trees, a restroom, and plenty of sitting room for a lunch break. Continue for 1.5 more miles to arrive at Skeleton Point, where you’ll get your first glimpse of the Colorado River.
The trail heads further downhill from here, but the park does not recommend hiking below this point as a dayhike. Return the way you came and keep in mind that it often takes twice as long to hike up as it did to hike down.
2. CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAIL (SEDONA)
- Length: 1.2 miles (1.9 kilometers)
- Elevation Gain: 744 feet (227 meters)
- Dogs Allowed: Yes
- Reservations Required: No
- Nearest City: Sedona
- Trailhead Location: Cathedral Rock Trailhead
The Cathedral Rock Trail leads to an impressive viewpoint midway up Cathedral Rock, a picturesque red sandstone butte and one of the most photographed landmarks in Arizona. Although short, the trail is very steep in spots, and requires a bit of scrambling.
There’s limited parking at the trailhead, so arrive early in the morning to secure a spot. It’s wonderful at sunset, but expect crowds since it’s one of the most popular sunset spots in Sedona.
The trail starts out relatively flat and passes through a sandy wash. From there, the trail begins to climb steeply across slickrock, aided by steps and handholds in some places.
There are tons of places to explore once you get to the top viewpoint, with plenty of photo opportunities along the entire trail.
3. ECHO CANYON LOOP (CHIRICAHUA NATIONAL MONUMENT)
- Length: 3.3 miles (5.3 kilometers) round trip
- Elevation Gain: 550 feet (168 meters)
- Dogs Allowed: No
- Reservations Required: No (There are no entrance fees)
- Nearest City: Wilcox
- Trailhead Location: Echo Canyon Trailhead
Chiricahua National Monument is an amazing wonderland of unusually-shaped rocks in the southeastern corner of Arizona.
The Echo Canyon Loop is the most popular trail in the monument, and for a good reason. The trail weaves through the heart of the park’s formations including the “Grottoes,” a series of narrow cave-like passageways and “Wall Street,” a small slot canyon.
Most hikers prefer tackling the loop in the counterclockwise direction, which results in a slightly less steep climb out of the canyon. The trail descends quickly from the trailhead passing through the “Grottoes” before entering Echo Park, a surprisingly verdant canyon with a stream that flows in the winter and spring.
The next segment of the trail winds through Rhyolite Canyon before climbing back to the trailhead via the Ed Riggs Trail.
If you’re looking to put on more distance, you can easily make this hike longer. Several other hiking trails connect with this loop such as the Massai Point Trail, which leads to an observation tower built by the CCC in 1934 and the Chiricahua Canyon Big Loop, which is nearly ten miles long and connects all the park’s top landmarks.
4. BULL PASTURE/ESTES CANYON LOOP TRAIL (ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT)
- Length: 3.6 miles (5.8 kilometers)
- Elevation Gain: 925 feet (282 meters)
- Dogs Allowed: No
- Reservations Required: No (A $12 per car fee is required to enter the park)
- Nearest City: Why
- Trailhead Location: Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon Trailhead
The Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon Loop Trail is one of the few maintained paths in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a quiet desert refuge on the Mexican border and underappreciated jewel of a park. It’s the only place in the U.S. where the organ pipe cactus grows, and it’s also a great spot to see saguaros, those giant tree-like cacti with multiple arms.
The trail begins at the Estes Canyon picnic area and gradually climbs into the Ajo Mountains, with fantastic views of Organ Pipe National Monument and into Mexico. Organ pipe cactus and saguaros line the trail, and wildflowers like poppies and lupine are plentiful in the spring.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, continue all the way to Bull’s Pasture rather than looping back to the trailhead on the Estes Canyon Trail. This adds a bit of steep and exposed climbing, but you’ll be rewarded with an even more spectacular view of the Ajo Mountains and desert views into Mexico.
5. FLATIRON PEAK (SUPERSTITION WILDERNESS)
- Length: 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers)
- Elevation Gain: 2,745 feet (840 meters)
- Dogs Allowed: Yes
- Reservations Required: No (There’s a $7 day-use fee to enter the park)
- Nearest City: Phoenix
- Trailhead Location: Siphon Draw Trailhead
The top of Flatiron Peak offers some of the most fantastic views in the Phoenix area. Despite its steepness, it’s one of the area’s most popular hikes.
The hike begins at the Siphon Draw Trailhead in Lost Dutchman State Park, forty miles east of downtown Phoenix. The first few miles wind gently through a slickrock basin before climbing steeply up switchbacks to the top of this volcanic plateau.
Getting to the top requires quite a bit of work and the hike is borderline strenuous in spots. Even if you don’t make it to the top, the hike into Siphon Draw is worth the trip.
If the hike to Flatiron Peak sounds a little much, opt for the 2.4-mile Treasure Loop trail which winds around some of the park’s most interesting rock formations. The area is rich in gold-mining history (a lost gold mine brimming with treasures is thought to be hidden near here), and wildflowers are abundant here in March and April.
6. HAVASU FALLS (HAVASUPAI INDIAN RESERVATION)
- Length: 25 miles (40 kilometers) over 4 days
- Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet (762 meters)
- Dogs Allowed: No
- Reservations Required: Yes
- Nearest City: Peach Springs
- Trailhead Location: Havasupai Trailhead
Visiting these glittering turquoise waterfalls on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in northern Arizona is on the bucket list of many adventure travelers.
The Havasupai people have lived in the Grand Canyon for over 800 years and their name means “people of the blue-green waters.” Havasu Falls is definitely among the top spots to photograph in Arizona.
Tourism is the main revenue source for the tribe, and they allow only so many people to hike into their reservation a day. Havasu Falls can only be visited with a 3-day permit and visitors can either camp or stay at the Havasupai Lodge. Permits are available year-round and often sell out on February 1st, when the permit reservation system opens for the year.
The hike to Havasupai is 10 miles in each direction. Many hikers rate the hike as moderate and the hike out as moderately strenuous, but be confident in your ability to hike 20 miles over 3 days before attempting the trip.
To make things easier, you can pay to have a pack mule carry your gear or go by horse or helicopter!
Once in Supai Village, you can hike to several waterfalls including Beaver Falls, Mooney Falls, and Havasu Falls, and even hike down to the Colorado River if you’re feeling energetic.
OUR FAVORITE BEGINNER HIKES IN ARIZONA
If you’re looking for some more mellow or kid-friendly hiking options in Arizona, also check out our recommendations for the best beginner day hikes in Arizona. These hikes can also serve as a good warm-up for one of the more strenuous hikes on this list.