Get out of the Heat :: Hike your way to cooler temperatures

Wednesday 6.26.2013 @ 10:35am | Lynsi Freitag | Lifestyle

Writer Lynsi Freitag


The weather is cranking up and you are interested in getting out – out of the heat, out of the scorching sun, out in the cool, open air.


Thankfully, you don’t have to go far to find what you’re looking for. There are many gems within Arizona that are perfect for enjoying the outdoors without sweating in the triple digits.


Check out some of our reader favorites:


Sedona – Cathedral Rock

The red rock of Sedona’s natural landscape is a must-see in Arizona. It’s an incredibly awe-inspiring and distinctive destination. In addition to the beauty, temperatures are a bit cooler than here in Phoenix, making it an even more attractive destination for hikers.


“I love hiking in Sedona,” says Scottsdale resident Susan West. “Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful and unique, but it’s the perfect place to combine a great workout with a great meal and glass of wine afterward.”


West considers Cathedral Rock one of her favorite hikes in the area.


“It’s pretty short, but it’s a scramble to the top over wacky red rocks, so it’s a great workout,” she says. “Because it’s steep, it gets traffic, but it’s not full of people. When you get to the top, you have an expansive view of Sedona and many of the iconic formations. Off the back, it’s a quiet view to green fields.


The Coconino National Forest website describes the hike as “more of a rock climb than a hike,” and says the trail is “unshaded and steep and difficult in places.” But West has discovered it to be doable by adults and kids alike.


“I know kids as young as three years old who have completed the hike, and older kids can definitely do it,” she says. “It’s short enough to be family-friendly but also fun for all ages.”


The Hiking Facts (from the Coconino National Forest website)

• Usage: heavy

• Best season: spring through fall



Flagstaff – Humphrey’s

Flagstaff is a very popular destination for Arizonans, and Humphrey’s Trail is one of the must-see hiking destinations in the area.


“It is my favorite hike in Arizona,” says Desert Ridge resident Catherine Chisholm. “But it is a challenge.”


What makes the hike so popular is that, at 12,633 feet, the summit of Humphrey’s Peak is the highest elevation in Arizona, showcasing distant views of the Grand Canyon and Oak Creek Canyon. What makes it a challenge is that the trail is steep, with a quick 3,333 foot elevation gain, and becomes very rocky at its higher reaches.


“The last part of the hike is above the treeline,” says Chisholm. “I have been with really fit people who started to feel the altitude in the last 30 minutes and have gotten dizzy. You don’t have to go all the way to the top, the beginning of the hike is in a densely forested area and a lot of hikers go up and back for an hour or so.”


The trail runs approximately 5 to 5.5 miles each way, so if you do plan on hiking the whole trail in a roundtrip day hike, start early and check the forecast.


“If you are going to go to the top, make sure the weather is going to be good - you wouldn’t want to get stuck in a thunderstorm up there,” says Chisholm. “Also, you’ll need plenty of food or water because it will take most of the day.”


Above the treeline, the only plants that can survive are small tundra shrubs and wildflowers that huddle for shelter among the rocks. Some are found nowhere else in the world. Past the tree line, you come to the top.


“It is amazing at the top,” says Chisholm. “It is the highest point in Arizona and you feel like you are above the clouds.”


The Hiking Facts (from the Coconino National Forest website)

• Usage: medium to heavy

• Best season: late spring through fall

• Difficulty: Strenuous

• Hiking Time: 3 hours (one way).


Strawberry – Fossil Creek

Fossil Creek is a true gem. The hike is beautiful and the rewards are great. At the bottom of the 1,600-foot-deep canyon are a series of springs that eject 20,000 gallons of water a minute.


Fossil Creek attracts all sorts of visitors: day hikers, campers, adults and kids alike. It really has something for everyone.


“My husband and I love Fossil Creek,” says Desert Ridge resident Jessica Warren. “We love camping and this is a much easier alternative to the Grand Canyon. It is so much fun to splash around in the water at the bottom of the canyon in the creek.”


The Coconino National Forest claims “over 30 million gallons of water are discharged each day at a constant 70 degrees,” making it a huge draw for those willing to hike all the way to the bottom. The route drops a little more than 1,300 feet over four miles down to the creek, making it an eight-mile roundtrip hike. Plan on camping overnight or going early.


“I recommend bringing plenty of water with you,” adds Warren. “It is still hot in the summer and the hike out is challenging, but it’s worth it. You get to experience desert landscape along with lots of rocks, trees and the amazing springs. It’s just a great place.”


Warren isn’t alone in her sentiment. In fact, Fossil Creek has increased so much in popularity that the trails are often shut down because of too much traffic. Before you make the trip, make sure the trails are open and accepting hikers. Coconino National Forest highly recommends hiking on a weekday if your schedule allows.


The Hiking Facts (from the Coconino National Forest website)

• Usage: heavy

• Best season: year round; summer can be warm