Five Best Hikes for Kids in Phoenix

One of the perks of Phoenix in the winter is the abundance of well-maintained hiking trails. Some offer a getaway in the middle of town and some are just a short drive away. Here's the top five for hiking with kids in tow.

5. Gateway Trailhead - Located on the east side of Thompson Peak Road between Legacy Boulevard and Bell Road, the Gateway Trailhead is an access point to several trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The Bajada Nature Trail is easily accessible, even for strollers and wheelchairs. Interactive exhibits along this half-mile round trip trail reveal the history of the area. For a longer hike, try the 1.7 mile Horseshoe Loop or the 4.5 mile Gateway Loop. Both offer views of a wide variety of cacti, desert birds and wildflowers along the trail.

4. Lost Dog Wash Trailhead - Located at the north end of 124th Street just beyond Anasazi Elementary School, this trailhead offers extensive parking, restroom access, maps and sometimes volunteer guides to answer questions. The trailhead provides access to four different hiking trails. The 2.4 mile loop Ringtail Trail is great for kids, with gradual ups and downs and very little overall elevation change. The greatest views will be found from the Taliesin Overlook trail. This gentle out-and-back hike looks down into Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West and offers extensive views of the northwest valley.

3. Brown's Ranch - 30301 N Alma School Parkway. Although this hike is a bit longer than the others at 3.1 miles out and back, it offers very little elevation gain, a wide trail, and restroom access. The hike will bring you to Brown's Ranch, with many ranching structures still visible. This area was used for ranching from the later 1800s until the mid 1950s. You'll probably see some horse riders along the trail as well. Watch out for speeding mountain bikers.

2. Dreamy Draw Recreation Area - Right in the heart of Central Phoenix and located just off the I-50 Freeway, this trailhead offers a little bit of nature in the middle of a the sprawling urban area. Piestewa Peak may be too challenging for the little ones with an elevation gain of 1,190 feet, but the park offers access to a few less strenuous trails. The Dreamy Draw Nature Trail is a 1.5 mile loop that is easy for kids, strollers and wheelchairs.

1. Pinnacle Peak Park - The Pinnacle Peak Trail is a more moderate trail, but offers the best views of the Valley. There are a lot of ups and downs, but great views can be had only 1.75 miles from the trailhead. Desert plants are labeled at the beginning of the trail, providing a learning opportunity for the little ones. Restrooms, drinking fountains, four picnic tables and a shade ramada make it easy for family outings. The park opens at 6:15am, so you can hike all summer long if you're willing to get there early enough to beat the brutal sun.

Wherever you hike in Arizona, be sure to pack plenty of water for the trail, no matter the time of year, and watch out for rattlesnakes.

Janet Berry-Johnson has called Scottsdale home for two years. She is a Certified Public
Accountant and a freelance writer, regularly contributing to Scottsdale Moms Blog.