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Family-friendly hikes without climbing a mountain

papago park trail
Posted at 3:00 AM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 09:46:00-04

PHOENIX — David Olson knows the trail system in Phoenix. He's been a park ranger for years.

"We all know about the main popular trails but there is so many other trails that are out there," said Olson.

In the city of Phoenix alone, there are more than 200 miles of designated trails.

"There's no need to go to the top of a mountain to hike," said Olson.

David showed ABC15 the Esplanade Trail at the Sonoran Preserve in North Phoenix.

It's far enough away from Interstate 17 that you'll feel removed from the city, even though you're not.

It's almost 3.5 miles long and the elevation change is only 127 feet. To give you perspective, Piestewa Peak is a steep 1,200 feet.

Lookout Mountain Circumference Trail is considered moderate to difficult. The elevation change is 150 feet.

You'll get views of north Phoenix and east towards Scottsdale. It’s just over a two-mile loop that generally takes people about an hour to finish.

"Because the trail might be five miles long it doesn't mean you have to do the whole thing," said Olson. "If you start it and you say it's going to get tougher - where you feel it's tough, it's maybe a good time to turn around and try it in the next couple of days and just work your way up to do the whole thing at a different time."

Maricopa County Parks and Recreation also has family-friendly trails that are shorter in length.

Even though they're considered easy, you'll still get your fill of nature.

McDowell Mountain Regional Park's Nursery Tank trail in Fountain Hills is only about half a mile long but it's in the county's largest park at 21,000 acres.

It'll take you about 13 minutes to walk and it's popular for bird watching and trail running.

Usery Mountain's Merkle trail near Apache Junction is also family-friendly - no mountain to climb on this one.

It'll take you about 23 minutes to finish the loop. It's also good for bird watching.

Then in the West Valley in White Tank Mountain Regional Park, the Black Rock trail is just over a mile.

It'll take you about 30 minutes to hike. The area is a very popular area so expect to see other people.

And the Waterfall trail is a bit longer, close to two miles but is great for walking and trail running. It'll take about 45 minutes to finish.

The key though on any trail, make sure you're prepared with the proper shoes and of course, plenty of water.

"A lot of the tourists that come here, or people that are not from the desert may not think about that," said Olson. "They just see this big mountain over there and then when I get to the top. Well, you have to be careful."