Arizona has amazing weather fall through spring which makes for lots of time to get outside with your kids. People travel from all over to enjoy Arizona weather & see the beautiful desert views. While there are tons of hikes in the Phoenix Valley, not all of the most popular ones are kid friendly. Here are a few of the Best East Valley Hikes for Kids in the Phoenix area:
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Hiking has always been something we’ve enjoyed doing. So when we had our first baby, we had to figure out what our limits were when hiking with kids. There are so many trails in the East Valley, and some of them we knew could be our go-to’s with her from the very beginning. I believe that if you get your kids out on the trails from a young age, they will be totally capable of doing the harder ones with time. You will have little besties to go on all your adventures with! And before you know it, they’ll be the ones asking to hike rim to rim at the Grand Canyon!
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Before you head out on any hike with your kids, you will want to be sure you are prepared with the gear they need. Nothing is worse than being underprepared and compromising what would have been a fun family experience.
Hiking Gear for Kids:
Train your kids from the beginning to carry their own water pack. Not only so you’re not carrying the extra weight, but they can get a drink whenever they want and you don’t have to stop to give them a sip out of yours. Also, I suggest getting a bright-colored backpack like this one for them so that you can easily spot them if they wander off the trail, get too far ahead, or lag behind. This one is great too because its just big enough for the water bag and a couple of essentials in the front pouch. They won’t be super weighed down by this little pack but you will be glad they have it!
If you have smaller kids that don’t walk yet or haven’t built the stamina to hike very long yet, you will want to invest in a hiking backpack. The reason I recommend this one is that it has a shade cover for baby and it is very compact. The closer you can keep the pack to your body, the less heavy it will feel. As our daughter got heavier, we realized our previous pack went out too much which was putting strain on our lower back. I was also always worried about her getting burnt on longer hikes, so a shade is a MUST HAVE when picking out a baby carrier hiking backpack.
Even though the weather might feel perfectly cool while you’re out hiking in the East Valley with your kids, they still need protection from the sun! If they are a baby or toddler, I suggest getting this sunhat. It is very lightweight and can be used at the beach as well as on hikes. It is really cute and a great price. For older kids, the other hat is very similar. It has protection for their head, face, and neck. The lightweight fabric won’t make them too hot, which will hopefully encourage them to keep it on the full duration of the hike.
For something more versatile, you can also grab a cute baseball cap and make sure they have sunscreen on the back of their necks! This is my personal favorite Nike brand baseball cap. It is unisex & looks great with a casual outfit or on the trails.
DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go on a hike with kids without bringing lots of SNACKS! For the youngsters, this will keep them entertained while sitting in the hiking backpack. For the older kiddos, this will be what carries them through with the energy they need to make it back to the car. It’s fun to bring yummy hiking snacks too that they will look forward to eating when you reach the halfway mark. Some of our favorite hiking snacks are:
Best East Valley Hikes for Kids
One of the best views and easiest hikes in the east valley is Silly Mountain. Everyone in the family will enjoy getting out and summiting this small mountain just west of the Superstitions.
To get to Silly Mountain, you will take the 60 East towards Globe. As you pass through Apache Junction, right before arriving to Gold Canyon, there will be a turn-off for the trailhead. It’s right at the curve of the freeway, so keep an eye out for that. Here’s a link to the trailhead so you can easily find it on maps as well!
Once you arrive at the dirt lot, find a spot to park and check out the map they have posted. I always suggest using an app like All Trails with the trail already downloaded onto your phone so if you lose service and aren’t sure if you’re still on the trail you can easily check on your phone. We did get off the trail a couple times while doing this hike, so having something to keep you on track is essential so you and your kids stay safe on the trail.
Once you gain some altitude on the small mountain, you immediately have panoramic views of the entire East Valley. You’ll have an intimate view of the beautiful Superstition Mountains and then out into every other direction of the eastern Phoenix Valley. For such a simple, easy hike, this trail offers impeccable views.
Next up on the list is Hieroglyphic Trail. This trailhead is not far from Silly Mountain, tucked away in Gold Canyon. You will drive through the beautiful neighborhoods of homes in Gold Canyon to get to the trailhead to start this hike. It goes straight into one of the canyons of the Superstition Mountains at a slight, steady incline. Once you have made it most of the way up, there will start to be more large boulders to climb over, but it is a fun adventure for everyone in the family.
Once you have reached the top of the trail, you might even get to see the streaming water flowing from pool to pool. If there has been snow or lots of precipitation, these fill up and are a little bonus feature on the hike.
In this same area, you will notice hieroglyphs on the stone walls of the mountains. Your kids will enjoy spotting them and finding meaning in the pictures.
San Tan Mountains
-Rock Peak Wash Trail
Hidden in the back part of San Tan Regional Park is Rock Peak Wash Trail. This is one of the lesser-known spots in San Tan Regional Park with just a small dirt lot for parking and a self-pay station. It’s a very easy walking trail that can be used for horseback riding and mountain biking as well. So you might see others on the trail with you!
Since it is a wash, the first mile of the trail is flat and sandy. You will see the mountains getting closer as you continue walking. After the sandy wash area, the trail takes you up even closer to the mountains and the elevation gain starts to pick up just slightly.
With only a total of 500 ft of elevation change (if you complete the full 7.7 mile loop), it is not extremely taxing. Your kids should be able to keep up on this trail and you can turn back at any point. Since it is a long trail if you complete it, you will just have to decide at what point you are ready to turn back for the car.
As you are on this trail, keep your eyes peeled for the rare crested saguaro just off the path! These unique cacti are considered extraordinary, so it is a special thing to point out to your kids while hiking. It can be identified by its fan-like formation at the top. It is a mutation that very seldom happens in saguaro cactus. Here is a picture of it so you can try and find it!
-Dynamite & Goldmine Trail Loop
A more popular and frequently visited trail in San Tan Regional Park is Dynamite & Goldmine Loop. A quick drive out of Queen Creek off Hunt Hwy, this entrance to the park has changed a lot over the years! It is now a paved parking lot with a Park Ranger who sits in the office at the entrance, checking cars for proof of payment.
Be sure to come prepared with cash if you are visiting this entrance because they do not yet have it set up for card payments. It is a $7 daily fee to use any of the trails in the San Tan Regional Park system. Annual passes are also available if you are interested in frequenting these hikes by foot, mountain bike, or horse.
This is a very family-friendly hike because you can turn around at any point and you will gain some elevation fairly quickly. Benches are placed frequently along the trail so you can stop along the way for snacks and to take pictures of the view. See the whole valley and watch the student pilots fly their planes overhead as you hike. This is a great introductory hike for kids in the east valley, especially if you don’t want to drive very far out of town.
A lot of attention has been put on the Wave Cave in recent years. But this less intense, and similarly interesting hike right across the canyon hasn’t gotten as much traffic yet! The entrance for both the Wave Cave and the Shaka Cave are right near Peralta Trailhead, past Gold Canyon as you’re headed towards Globe. After you exit the 60, you will drive a few miles on a bumpy dirt road to get to this trailhead, so be prepared… probably don’t drive your Corvette out there 😉
The Shaka Cave starts out on the same path as if you were going toward the Wave Cave. And if you are hiking on the weekend, you might see lots of people headed towards the Wave Cave. But the reason I think the Shaka Cave is more kid-friendly is that the elevation gain is not as intense but you still end up in a cool cave with awesome views! It is only 2.5 miles out & back with a measly 416 ft. of elevation gain.
The Peralta area is one of my favorite parts of the Superstition Mountains because the desert is just so expansive and untouched out there. You don’t want to miss this hike! It is absolutely one of the Best East Valley Hikes with Kids.
Now I know that South Mountain isn’t technically the East Valley of Phoenix, but it has so many easy trails that are super easy to access. It isn’t that far of a drive out to South Mountain from the East Valley if there isn’t much traffic, so it might be worth it once you’ve explored the other spots I mentioned above. To get to this entrance of South Mountain Regional Park, you will want to navigate to Mormon Trailhead which is just off Baseline road near the I-10.
-Fat Man’s Pass
To get to Fat Man’s Pass, you will hop on Mormon Trailhead until you see a sign pointing you to the left. It is only about 2.5 miles roundtrip with very slight elevation gain. It’s a perfect hike for kids in the Phoenix area.
This spot gets its name because there are 2 boulders angled so closely together that a fat man might not be able to pass through! The kids will find it fun to squeeze through the rock formations and will probably never forget the name of the trail. There is also a natural slide they can climb up and ride the slick rock down.
This is a popular spot, so just know that there will probably be others there with you and your family as you adventure around this area. It is like a small natural playground, so plan to stick around for a little while once you’ve gotten to the pass. There’s plenty of shade nearby you can eat snacks and relax while they play.
If you are looking for more ideas of Things to do with Kids in Arizona, check out my other post! Or read about other family-friendly travel adventures for some inspiration by visiting our Family Travel page.