Phoenix desert preserves are a world of wonder for kids of all ages. Kids can gaze at ancient petroglyphs, scout for critters and birds of all shapes and sizes, and marvel at cactuses ranging from the teeny to the towering. We've come up with some suggested family hikes that are free of steep climbs and tricky footing. Step out and discover that the Phoenix desert preserves are a great way to engage kids' minds and strengthen their bodies.
South Mountain Park/Preserve
The Pima Canyon area of South Mountain Park/Preserve offers numerous loops and out-and-back hikes with moderate grades. Hikers can gaze at stunning petroglyphs in this area or catch a glimpse of a Great Horned Owl, Roadrunner or hear the yelps of coyotes at dusk. To avoid steep ascents, families should avoid the Ridgeline Trail. The main dirt road is a great option. Hikers can turn around at the junctions of the National and Mormon trails and make a loop by returning via the Pima Wash trail. Both the East and West Loop trails are less-crowded options.
Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area
The entire trail system at the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area provides an excellent opportunity for hiking or biking with kids on either a hard or soft surface. The paved, hard surface trails meet ADA requirements. The area's soft surface dirt trails offer smooth surfaces that can accommodate mountain bikes and jog strollers.
The riparian habitat in Rio Salado is a haven for birds -- more than 200 species of birds (and counting) have been spotted there so far.
This area can give kids a glimpse of the Salt River was like when it flowed year round through Phoenix at the turn of the century.
Trail 40, Penny Howe Barrier Free Trail: This hard-surfaced trail, .3 mile in length, is ideal for toddlers, people with strollers, and anyone looking for an easy walk in an attractive desert setting. Restrooms, drinking water and paved parking are nearby.
The Penny Howe Trail is visible on the North Mountain trail guide as Trail 40 at the trailhead location on 7th Street north of Cave Creek Road.
Piestewa Peak Area
While the summit trail has put this area on the map, the preserve areas around the peak offer great family hiking options free of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds on the summit.
Trail 304, Nature Trail: This 1.52-mile trail has a gradual elevation change of 180 feet during the course of the hike. Paved parking, restrooms and drinking water are nearby. A special feature, most noticeable if you are walking the trail clockwise, is a large meteor-looking rock to the right of the trail, at the very north end of the trail loop. This trail also has several interpretive signs for vegetation along its length. The trailhead is located at the Apache picnic area at the end of the entrance road in Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. Paved parking, drinking water and restrooms are available.
You can find the Nature Trail near the Phoenix Mountains Park trailhead on the Piestewa Peak-area trail guide. The Park is located on Squaw Peak Drive.
With relatively flat terrain and smooth trails, Papago Park is a perfect place for family hikes.
Trails on the east side of Galvin Parkway (Papago Park)
This is the main part of the park. There are restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic ramadas, and fishing ponds.
Copyright 2009 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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