Benefits of hiking—and where to explore

There is often a sense of peace that accompanies the arrival at a mountain’s peak. Heart pumping and breathing heavy, you gaze at the view below with a feeling of accomplishment.

It turns out that there is actual scientific data to back these emotions.

In a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that hiking in nature significantly reduces rumination, the process responsible for repetitive and negative thoughts. Similarly, Stanford researchers found that taking a hike in a natural setting reduces anxiety and depression.

Simply immersing yourself in nature helps to clear your mind — and combined with physical exercise, it can lift your mood as well. Physical exercise in fresh air can be a great way to boost your mental health. This is why it is so important to get outside and be active.

With that in mind, here are some great places near Tempe to exercise your body and mind!

  1. Hole-in-the-Rock

    Hole-in-the-Rock is a short distance from campus and offers a brief hike with a beautiful payoff. The path has distinct rock formations and bodies of water, as well as a spectacular view of Tempe at the top. The trail is for all skill levels, so it’s a fun trek even if you’re not an experienced hiker. It’s only 0.3 miles, but it’s not as short as you think—you’re bound to spend a while marveling at the view! Finally, this hike is best at sunset.

  2. LoPiano Bosque Habitat

    This area is alive with coyotes, jack rabbits, snakes and other desert wildlife. It is a 13-acre habitatdesigned to preserve Arizona’s native plants and animals. Take a stop here if you’re looking for a leisurely, lush desert hike. You’ll be greeted with long dirt stretches as well as leafy and spindly plants. You’ll have a better chance of seeing animals in the morning, so plan to go as early as possible!

  3. Camelback

    Though a bit farther than the rest, Camelback Mountain is a great place to go if you’re looking for a challenge. There are two separate trails — Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail. Both trails are rated as extremely difficult, though they are challenging in different ways. Echo Canyon tests endurance, with long uphill stretches and large boulders to scale. Cholla tests fear of heights, requiring you to walk across towering rock formations. This area is pretty heavily trafficked, but it’s typically clearest around noon.

  4. Hidden Valley Trail

    This hike is rated as moderately difficult and usually takes around 2-4 hours to complete. You can often find wildflowers dotting the trail, as well as unique tunnels and rocks. Be prepared to squeeze through a few narrow spaces on this trail! This area can get fairly busy in the middle of the day, so it’s best to go early in the morning.

  5. “A” Mountain

    Get an up-close look at the 60-foot tall “A,” one of Tempe’s most prominent symbols. Climb the wooden stairs or take the tar pathway up to the mountain and ascend even higher from there! This mountain offers amazing views and a hike that is just shy of a mile, but it’s challenging nevertheless. You can even bring your dogs to take the climb with you! This hike is great at any time, but the most stunning views will be found at night when the city is glowing down below.