Looking for great hiking near Mesa, Arizona? These five easy trails will take you trekking through the beautiful Sonoran Desert.
I spent my childhood in the dry, hot desert of Mesa, Arizona. If you’re not from the area, you’ve probably never heard of this bedroom-community of half a million people about thirty minutes outside of Phoenix. While Mesa might not have much in terms of city life, it makes up for with the stunning Sonoran Desert landscape. The rocky terrain of nearby Usery Mountain Regional Park and the Superstition Mountains is dotted with thousands of saguaro cacti, ocotillo and palo verde trees. The best way to enjoy the unique scenery is to hit the hiking trails near Mesa, Arizona.
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Growing up, my family did our fair share of hikes through Usery Mountain Pass and up into the Superstition Mountains. I have fond memories of the time we tried to do a full moon night hike through Peralta Canyon, only to realize that it would take the moon awhile to get up above the canyon walls and actually shine some light on the trail. We made it through most of that almost pitch-black trail with only a single flashlight for six people. After jumping at practically every sound, thinking it was either a coyote or a rattlesnake, I swore off night hikes for a while.
While I probably took the cacti-covered landscape for granted while growing up in Arizona, I always look forward to our time back in the desert. We pop over to Arizona several times a year to visit family and almost always squeeze in a hike or two. We’ve hiked all over the state, from the Grand Canyon down to Seven Falls in Tucson, but the trails near my childhood home are still my favorites. If you’re looking for an easy hike (around 3 miles with only a mild incline and a clearly defined trail), then check out these hiking trails near Mesa. While they may be short, they’ll take you through the beautiful desert with great views all around.
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1 Wind Cave Trail
I’ve done this hike more times than I can count, but I love it every time. Wind Cave is a local favorite, so it can get pretty packed. While a lot of people head out in the morning, I think the best time to go is close to sunset. You can catch that golden glow from the top, but it’s a short enough trail that you can still make it down to the bottom before it gets dark (don’t forget to bring a flashlight just in case though). The Wind Cave trail is short but it’s a decent climb, so you can see the Valley of the Sun stretching out for miles and miles ahead once you reach the cave area. There seems to be a beehive up here on and off, so just be careful if you’re allergic.
Distance: 2.6-mile out and back trail
Entrance Fees: $7 for entrance into Usery Mountain Regional Park (or $80 for an annual pass)
2 Maricopa Trail
The trail starts from a small pullout on Usery Pass Road that fits a few cars. Technically, the Maricopa Trail is a 315-mile loop trail that runs through major regional parks around Phoenix, but you can take it about 1.6 miles up from this parking lot and get to a nice viewpoint. See a map for the Maricopa Trail here. After 1.4 miles, the trail splits in two; take the trail to the left which will lead you up to the viewpoint. If you go right, you’ll hike another 1.8 miles and hit the trailhead for Wind Cave.
Distance: A little over 3 miles out and back trail
Entrance Fees: Free Parking in Usery Pass Road pull out
3 Medicine Wheel
A few trails start off from the Medicine Wheel parking lot where Meridian Drive dead ends. The main trail here is the Pass Mountain Trail, a 7.5-mile loop around Pass Mountain (see the bright blue trail on this map here, starting in the middle right side of the page). Several other trails leave from this spot but aren’t listed on a map. After leaving the parking lot, I prefer the trail to the right, which curves around the mountain and opens up into a beautiful view of the Superstitions in the distance. This path is relatively flat, and you can make it as long or short as you like.
Distance: You can make this a short out-and-back hike, or complete the longer loop by coming back via Pass Moutain Trail
Entrance Fees: Free parking in the lot at end of Meridian Road
4 Treasure Loop Trail
My favorite hike in the Superstition Mountains has always been the Siphon Draw Trail up to Flatiron, but when if you don’t have a full day to make that trek, the nearby Treasure Loop Trail will reward you with exceptional views with far less rock climbing and distance. The Treasure Loop Trail has a steep but short incline, where you’ll be up above the surrounding area within a few minutes. This trail is a great place to see the desert wildflowers during spring and the towering Superstition Mountains up close.
Distance: 2.3-mile loop trail
Entrance Fees: $7 for entrance into Lost Dutchman State Park
5 Hieroglyphic Trail
Hieroglyphic Trail is a bit further out from Mesa, near Gold Canyon. This trail in the Superstition Mountains has beautiful views the whole way, and ends with a few rock pools that turn into little waterfalls in early spring. The carvings in the large boulders at the end are technically petroglyphs left by the Hohokam People, so the name is a bit of a misnomer.
Distance: 2.8-mile out and back trail
Entrance Fees: Free Parking in the lot at the end of Cloudview Road. Please note that you will be towed if you park along the road before you reach the parking area.
Planning a trip to Mesa, Arizona
Hotels and Airbnbs in Mesa – While most people typically stay in Phoenix or Scottsdale when spending time in the Valley, it may be worth booking a hotel or Airbnb in Mesa if you’re here to hike. If you’re new to Airbnb, use our referral link here for $40 off your first stay or $15 off your first Airbnb Experience. Many of the hikes listed above are located 15 to 30 minutes from the eastern edge of Mesa, so staying in Phoenix will likely add another 30 minutes to your travel time.
Getting to Mesa – Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is located in central Phoenix, about 30 minutes from Mesa.
Car Rental – Check RentalCars.com to compare prices of the world’s biggest car rental services, including Hertz, Avis, and Budget.
More things to do in Arizona – for a full list of things to do in Arizona, check out our Arizona bucket list with 101 ideas for your trip.
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