Arizona is home to some of the most majestic peaks in the country, including Humphreys Peak; with an elevation of 12,633 feet, it is the highest point in the state and a popular hiking destination. If you're more interested in beautiful landscapes than hiking, there are plenty of stunning mountains formed from volcanic lava. Don't hesitate to plan a day or weekend trip – the state's sunny southern location means that there are plenty of mountains to visit all year round.
1. Agassiz Peak
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The majestic 12,360-foot Agassiz Peak is the second-highest in the state, but is often confused for the first because of its lofty appearance. The mountain has the honor of being home to an endangered flower known as the San Francisco Peaks groundsel; because of this, hiking above the treeline is only permitted during the winter months when the ground is covered in snow. The summit offers views all the way to the Grand Canyon, and overnight accommodation is available on the mountain at Agassiz Lodge. Visitors should be aware that they will need to obtain a Kachina Peaks Wilderness Access Permit. Browse our romantic weekend getaways in Arizona guide for more ideas.
2. Agathla Peak
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Also known as El Capitan, Agathla Peak is a sacred place for the Navajo people and was named for the animal hair that accumulated on the rock when it was used to clean animal hides. Consisting of an igneous type of rock known as minette, the mountain is part of the Navajo Volcanic Field and is actually an eroded volcanic plug that rises up quite abruptly from the surrounding flat terrain. Reaching the 7,099-foot peak is possible but requires technical climbing skills, and the best time to attempt it is in April, May, and September through November.
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3. Baboquivari Peak Wilderness
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Only 50 miles away from Tucson, the Baboquivari Peak Wilderness offers some of the best backcountry rock climbing in the state. The wilderness area is 2,065 acres in size, and Baboquivari Peak itself has an elevation of 7,739 feet. There are several different routes to the summit, all of which include both hiking and technical rock climbing. The Forbes Route is often considered to be the easiest; it has a rating of 5.6. The mountain is of great importance in the creation story of the Tohono O’odham people, and climbers often leave trinkets at the summit for the god I'itoi.
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4. Boundary Cone
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Part of the western foothills of the Black Mountains, the Boundary Cone is an easily recognizable landmark located only 12 miles away from the Colorado River. The summit sits at 3,430 feet, and a trip up and down the mountain takes approximately 3-4 hours. Although not technically difficult, the ascent should only be attempted by people with some technical rock climbing skills and experience. The mountain is of great religious and cultural importance to several Native American tribes living in the area, and because of this, it is eligible to be included on the National Register of Historic Places.
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5. Camelback Mountain, Arizona
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Named for its resemblance to the humps of a camel, Camelback Mountain is one of the state's top hiking destinations. There are two main hiking routes: Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail. Both take between 1.5 and 3 hours but are very difficult and should only be attempted by experienced, well-prepared hikers when the weather is appropriate. The mountain gets quite busy, especially on the weekends, and visitors are advised to go early because the entry gates are closed once the park has reached capacity. Limited parking is available, but there are also plenty of bike lock racks. (website link)
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6. Carr Peak
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Located in the Huachuca Mountain range, Carr Peak has an elevation of 9,229 feet. The most popular route up the mountain is the moderately difficult Carr Peak Trail, which can be easily accessed from both the Ramsey Vista Campground and the Reef Townsite Campground. To reach the summit, you'll need to take the short but steep Carr Peak Spur, which is located right off the main trail. In addition to offering excellent hiking, the area is also home to a wide variety of bird species, including 15 species of hummingbird and a number of species unique to the southwest United States.
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7. Cat Mountain, Arizona
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Easily accessible from Tucson, Cat Mountain is a 3,852-foot peak that offers excellent scrambling and hiking opportunities. The mountain's proximity to the city means that many visitors choose to spend the night in one of the many accommodation options there, but 130 sites are available at the nearby Gilbert Ray Campground for anyone wishing to camp. Because of the mountain's relatively low altitude, visitors are advised to come during the cooler weather of the fall, spring, and winter; March and April are great for wildflower-viewing. More ideas: Romantic Weekend Getaways from Phoenix
8. Arizona Mountains: Chiricahua Mountains
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Formed by a tremendous volcanic eruption that occurred approximately 27 million years ago, the Chiricahua Mountains are named after the Chiricahua Apache Indians, who used to inhabit the area. The mountains have a vastly different habitat than the surrounding lowlands, and the range is home to some flora and fauna that cannot be found anywhere else. One of the most notable features is the Chiricahua National Monument, which is full of stunning hoodoos and eroded rock spires that reach heights of more than 100 feet. Plenty of campsites can be found all throughout the mountain range, including the convenient Rustler Park.
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9. Four Peaks
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Visible from Phoenix, the Four Peaks rise up more than 6,000 feet from the desert and are one of the area's most notable landmarks. Only the northernmost peak is named; known as Browns Peak, it is the highest of the four but also the least dangerous to climb. The path to the summit involves easy hiking as well as class 3 scrambling, and once at the top, hikers will be able to see approximately 25% of the state of Arizona. It's also possible to traverse all four peaks, although the class 4 route is 10 miles long and quite exposed.
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10. Fremont Peak
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One of the San Francisco Peaks in the northern part of the state, Fremont Peak is the third highest summit in Arizona. The mountain offers better views of the surrounding area than any of the other San Francisco Peaks, but it is not often climbed because of its long approach. The 11,969-foot summit can be reached via the challenging Arizona Snow Bowl-Humphreys Peak Trail, but other popular routes include a trail that leads into the scenic Inner Basin and the Weatherford Trail, which winds its way to the saddle between Fremont and the neighboring Doyle Peak.
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11. Humphreys Peak
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The highest mountain in Arizona, Humphreys Peak rises to an impressive 12,633 feet and offers views of the White Mountains and the edge of the Grand Canyon. There are two primary routes to the top: the relatively easy Humphreys Peak Trail and the more strenuous Weatherford Trail. The best time to climb the mountain is between June and October, but some people enjoy the challenge of tackling the mountain during the winter, when it's covered in snow. Camping is permitted on the mountain at altitudes below 11,400 feet, and campsites with vault toilets are available in Locket Meadow for a small fee.
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12. Miller Peak
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Situated only a few miles away from the Mexico-Arizona border, Miller Peak is part of the Huachuca mountain range and has a 9,470-foot summit. There are several different routes to the summit, but the most popular is the Crest Trail, which can be accessed from the north, east, and south and leads hikers along the crest of the main range. Because of the mountain's proximity to Mexico, hikers should be aware that they might cross paths with illegal immigrants or with Border Control agents on patrol. The peak can be hiked all year round, and two campgrounds are located near the north trailhead.
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13. Mount Baldy
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Named for its strikingly bare peak, Mount Baldy is the highest mountain in the state outside of the San Francisco Peaks area. Two trails, known as West Baldy and East Baldy, lead up the mountain to a point near the summit; each trail is approximately 7 miles in length, and they can be combined to make a loop. However, the mountain's summit lies inside the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and is off-limits to hikers unless they get special permission. The mountain also produces more rivers and streams than any other in the state, and it offers the best trout fishing streams in Arizona.
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14. Mount Graham
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Home to the Mount Graham International Observatory area, Mount Graham is one of the Pinaleno Mountains in southeastern Arizona. The summit sits at 10,724 feet, but hikers are required to stay under 9,800 feet because of the mountain's sacredness to the Native Americans as well as the presence of an endangered squirrel species.
Some people choose to hike all the way to the summit regardless, but much better views can be had from the summits of nearby mountains such as Heliograph Peak and Ladybug Peak. The access road to the mountain is often closed during the winter due to poor road conditions.
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15. Mount Lemmon
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Located in the Coronado National Forest, Mount Lemmon boasts a summit of 9,157 feet. Plenty of marked and unmarked trails crisscross the mountain, including the 800-mile Arizona Trail, which runs from the Mexican border to northern Arizona. The summit is also accessible by car or bicycle thanks to the beautiful Catalina Highway, which runs right up to the top of the mountain; tolls are charged to anyone wishing to park, camp, or hike in the area. The Mount Lemmon Ski Valley is located on the northeastern side of the mountain, and the small town of Summerhaven sits near the summit.
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16. Picacho Peak
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Conveniently located in between Phoenix and Tucson, Picacho Peak is a challenging 3,374-foot summit formed by volcanic lava. The route to the top of the mountain is quite difficult, but there are cables and catwalks to help hikers along the more treacherous parts of the trail. Gloves are recommended to grip the cables. Because the mountain is part of Picacho Peak State Park, visitors must pay a small access fee and an additional fee if they wish to use the campground. The area gets extremely hot during the summer months, so the best time to visit is from November through March.
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17. Piestewa Peak
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Easily accessible from Phoenix, Piestewa Peak is a 2,610-foot mountain named after the first female soldier to be killed in the Iraq War. Hikers can take the 1.2-mile Piestewa Peak Summit Trail to the top of the mountain, but they should be aware that the hike is more difficult than it appears. This is one of the most popular hikes in the Phoenix area, and parking can be scare at times. It's necessary to bring plenty of water, especially during the hot summer months, and the hike typically takes between 30 and 60 minutes each way.
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18. Rincon Mountains, Arizona
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One of the five mountain ranges that form the Tucson Valley, the Rincon Mountains are mostly located inside the Saguaro National Park. It is the only major mountain range in the state that has never been bladed for roads, and as such, the area is wonderfully wild and pristine. The lack of road access doesn't mean the mountains are inaccessible; the range is crisscrossed with many different hiking trails that begin on the east, north, and west sides. Most of the trails are best suited to multi-day backpacking trips, but some of the lower-elevation hikes can be done in a day.
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19. San Francisco Peaks
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Formed millions of years ago by the eruption of almost 600 volcanoes, the San Francisco Peaks are the highest mountain range in the state. The mountains offer plenty of recreational activities all year round; there are plenty of hiking opportunities during the warm summer months, and the Arizona Snowbowl ski area is a popular destination for both cross-country and downhill skiers. Other spots of interest include the Elden Pueblo archaeological dig site, the hiking trail that passes through a lava tube known as the Lava River Cave, and the Cinder Hills Off Highway Vehicle Area, where off-road vehicles can race around on the designated trails.
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20. Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona
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Usually referred to as just the Catalina Mountains, the Santa Catalina Mountains form the north side of the Tucson Valley. The range is particularly notable for being home to Mount Lemmon, which has a height of 9,147 feet and is the most southern ski destination in America, but there are plenty of other beautiful mountains, canyons, and lakes in the area. Many hiking trails are easily accessible from the city and range in difficulty from very easy to extremely difficult; visitors should note that some areas require hiking permits, which can be obtained from the Coronado National Forest.
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21. Santa Rita Mountains, Arizona
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Known for their incredible biodiversity and excellent hiking, the Santa Rita Mountains are located halfway between Tucson and the USA-Mexico border. The mountains offer something for almost everyone; hiking trails range from handicap-accessible paved walks in the lower part of the Madera Canyon to steep, difficult trails that lead to the summit of the 9,453-foot Mount Wrightson. Madera Canyon is widely recognized as one of the best birding areas in the country, and the mountains are also home to an adult male jaguar known as "El Jefe," who is the only known wild jaguar in the United States.
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22. South Mountain, Arizona
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With almost 17,000 acres of land, South Mountain Park is located inside the city of Phoenix and is one of the largest city parks in the United States. There are 51 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails for visitors to enjoy; the highest point in the park that can be accessed via the trail system is the 2,330-foot Dobbins Lookout, which can also be reached by motor vehicles using Summit Road. Visitors should also be aware that dogs are not permitted on the trails when the temperature is 100°F or hotter.
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23. Superstition Mountains
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Located east of Phoenix, the Superstition Mountains are the best-known mountain range in the state. Many different pieces of folklore surround the rugged mountains, including the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine; visitors can learn more about these tales at the Superstition Mountain Museum on the Apache Trail. The highest peak here is the 5,057-foot Superstition Peak, but other worthwhile destinations include the hiking trail that leads from Peralta Canyon to Fremont Saddle, Miner's Needle, and the well-known landmark known as Weavers Needle. The temperatures during the summers are extremely hot, so the best time to visit is from October through March.
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24. Temple-Hayden (A Mountain)
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The official name of this mountain is Tempe Butte, but it is also sometimes referred to as both Hayden Butte and A Mountain because of the large gold 'A' painted on the top. Visitors may recognize the mountain because of its frequent appearances as a background to games held in the Sun Devil Stadium. The mountain's summit sits at 1,398 feet, and the trail up to the top is just under a mile round-trip with approximately 250 feet of elevation gain. The trail is accessible and suitable for use all throughout the year, and dogs are permitted if kept on a leash.
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25. White Mountains
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Not far from the New Mexico border, the White Mountains are surprisingly similar in climate and appearance to the mountains found in the northwest. The temperatures here are 25°F to 35°F cooler on average than the temperatures in the state's more southern deserts, and the mountains offer everything from fishing and hiking during the summer to skiing in the winter. In addition to the ample hiking trails, campgrounds, and beautiful lakes, plenty of small communities can be found throughout the mountain range, ensuring plenty of accommodation and dining options for visitors looking to enjoy the mountains.
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