Hiking with Kids: Our 6 Favorite East Valley Trails for a Family Hike

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A family hiking in the Arizona desert. Dad holding the hand of a little girl while carrying a backpack with another child inside.

In 2021 my family challenged ourselves to try to do one new family hike a month for all of 2021.

I won’t lie, we didn’t accomplish it, but we got halfway there, plus a few summer hikes up north.

Of course, we always pack multiple Camelbaks full of water, and always have fun! Hiking with kids is a cheap activity that gets us in a good mood, gets us some vitamin D, and gives us time outdoors. My daughter is 4 and my son is 2. She walks for most of it and we put my son in a backpack carrier as these trails aren’t stroller friendly. 

Next year, in 2022, we are going to try again for 12, here are the places we went (and plan to go again), and I’d love to hear what hike your family does in 2022! 

XO,

Ashley 

Silly Mountain, Apache Junction 

There are several different easy to moderate trails located at Silly Mountain in Apache Junction, varying from 1 mile in length to 2.3 miles. They are short and sweet little hiking trails that are perfect for a family hike. There is a small climb to a “view” for kids/families who want to feel like they accomplished something. It’s a fun area for beginners and pretty empty on most weekdays, however weekends can get a little busy. 

Hawes Trail System, Usery Mountain, Mesa

Little girl sitting on a desert hill overlooking nearby mountains.Hawes Trail system has several hiking and biking trails that vary in length and difficulty. We highly recommend quite a few of them, you really can’t go wrong out near Usery in our opinion. However, the Hawes Ridge loop is an easy 3 mile trail loop perfect for any skill level. Dogs are allowed on this trail, as long as they are on a leash and there are beautiful wildflowers along the trail depending on which season you go. 

San Tan Regional Park, San Tan Valley

San Tan Regional Park offers trails that vary in distance and difficulty, but we recommend the Little leaf, Moonlight, and Stargazer trails for hiking with kids. They are easy trails with great views. It is actually one of my daughter’s favorite hiking spots. 

Papago Park, Tempe 

Almost every hike at Papago Park is rated as “easy” on most hiking websites, and also deemed as “kid-friendly.”

The Hole in the Rock Trail is rated as one of the best and top-rated hikes for kids in the valley and is an amazing choice for a first hike. It is only 0.2 miles and is an out and back trail located right next to the Phoenix Zoo.

Full disclosure: It is more of a walk on an unpaved path then it is an actual hike.

It gets pretty busy during peak photography hours (sunrise and sunset) and also gets busy during school breaks. Make sure you plan accordingly. 

Hayden Butte (“A” Mountain), Tempe

This trail is short and so many families are always running up and down it at any given time. Kids love to see the “city” from above and get to feel like they are truly on top of a mountain. It’s definitely a “must do” as a resident of Arizona.

Just a warning, it is steep at the beginning!

Hieroglyphic Trail, Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction

This trail is almost always crowded as it is considered one of Arizona’s favorite trails.

It is considered “moderate” on most hiking websites, including alltrails.com (one of my favorite websites to find trails on).

It is a 2.8 miles out and back trail that has a waterfall. There is a small amount of climbing over rocks, which in my opinion makes this a better option for parents with older kids.

A few tips for hiking with kids

  1. Research the trail before you head out so you know what to expect. As mentioned above, I like alltrails.com
  2. Bring plenty of water! Amazon has some options for kid-sized Camelbak style hydration packs. If your kid is old enough to wear a backpack and hike, this takes a load off you.
  3. Snacks. Snacks. Snacks…they can carry their own in their fancy new hydration pack! Make sure to keep track of the wrappers so you don’t litter!
  4. Hold hands if the trails seem rough and keep them within an arms reach on steeper trails.
  5. Take lots of breaks. They’re kids and this is a new skill for them. The first couple times be prepared to turn back before the end of the trail and don’t take it too seriously if you do. It’s supposed to be fun and will get easier the more you go!
  6. Check the weather. If you’re new here or new to hiking; hiking in the Valley during the summer months isn’t safe, especially with kids. We can’t stress this enough – head out on the winter and spring before the temps heat up!

Little girl on a desert hike by a large saguaro cactus

 

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