Arizona’s diverse desert landscape endures a wide range of temperatures during winter, when it can simultaneously be 80 degrees in Phoenix and 30 degrees in Flagstaff. While snowflakes fall in the north, hikers wear T-shirts and shorts in the south. Snow or sunshine, winter is a prime time to explore these eight picturesque trails.
Horseshoe Bend Trail, Page
Distance: 1.5 miles, Elevation gain: 140 feet
Even though this is one of the most photographed views in the West, it’s on our winter list for a reason: it's less crowded than during summer, has relatively mild weather, and offers the chance to catch sunrise later and sunset earlier. Walk from the parking lot along a paved path .7 miles to the overlook at the rim of the canyon, where the Colorado River famously bends around the rusty red formations. (This geological wonder was formed about 5 million years ago when the Colorado Plateau abruptly uplifted, forcing water to cut through layers and layers of sandstone.) Visitor parking costs $10 per vehicle, and parking on the side of US89 is strictly prohibited.
Thumb Butte Trail 33, Prescott
Distance: 2.5 miles, Elevation gain: 690 feet
Trek along the northern side of Thumb Butte, a landmark east of Prescott famous for its hiking trails, ponderosa pines, and panoramic views. When snow falls, ranges surrounding the volcanic feature—including the Bradshaw Mountains to the south—are capped in white. For educational purposes, signs along this loop trail identify vegetation and other forest ecology. Because the trail starts above 5,000 feet and quickly climbs nearly 700 feet to a ridge, give yourself plenty of time to ascend. Add to the mileage by connecting to the other trails in the area: Continue on the Cowboy Prayer Trail for a 5.8-mile hike, or walk up 1,900 feet of elevation toward Wolverton Mountain and back for a more than 11-mile journey. Start your hike at Thumb Butte Recreation Area, where there are restrooms and picnic sites.