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Five Marvelous Hikes for Nature Viewing/Photography in Arizona

1. Arizona Trail. This 800-mile National Scenic Trail, which travels the entire north-south length of the state connecting deserts, mountains, forests, canyons, and wilderness, begins at the Coronado National Memorial, near the U.S.-Mexico border, traveling north through the Huachuca, Santa Rita, and Rincon Mountains, and through to the higher elevations of the San Francisco Peaks, in and out of the Grand Canyon, and terminates near the Arizona-Utah border in the Kaibab Plateau region, on the edge of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Gateway communities include Flagstaff, Green Valley, Kanab, Summerhaven, Tonto Basin, Tucson, and several others. The trail is open to hikers, bikers, and horse-back riders. The trail passes through four national forests: Coconino, Coronado, Kabab, and Tonto). Official site: Arizona Trail.

2. Flatiron (aka Siphon Draw) Trail. Located in the western edge of the Superstition Wilderness, with trailhead at Lost Dutchman's State Park, near Apache Junction, in south-central Arizona, about 40 miles east of Phoenix, this moderate-to-difficult (climbing) 5.5-mile (RT) trail takes you to the top of a prominent rock feature -- so named because it looks like an upside down iron. Along the trail in the spring, you'll get to enjoy wildflowers before tackling the rock formation. Many hikers stop about halfway along the trail, right as it starts getting rockier and gaining elevation. Once you make it to the top of the draw, take the trail to the right onto Flatiron. (The trail to the left goes to an airplane crash memorial site.) While in the area, consider also the Hieroglyphic Trail.

3. Keyhole Sink Trail. Located in the Kaibab National Forest, about 10 miles east of Williams, in north-central Arizona, this easy 2.6-mile (RT) hiking trail takes you through a wonderful Ponderosa pine and aspen forest while also providing entry into a scenic box canyon where prehistoric residents left their mark, carving images (petroglyphs) in the canyon's gray volcanic walls. Also along the trail are wildflowers (in season) and a waterfall, as well as a pond that fills from snowmelt into the canyon. Once at the canyon, you'll find trails around the canyon, as well as one to the top of the basalt cliffs, from which you can survey the entire canyon. The trailhead is on Historic Route 66, across from the Oak Hill Snowplay Area.

4. Pinnacle Peak Trail. Located in Scottsdale, in south-central Arizona, this 3.5-mile (RT) moderate trail offers wonderful views of the surrounding area, including wildflower viewing in the spring, but be prepared to find the trail crowded with hikers, runners, and even horses during peak uses. Composition of the trail is decomposed granite from Pinnacle Peak Mountain. While the trail does NOT go up to the peak, experienced rock climbers are allowed under certain conditions. Along the trail, at stops such as Grandview and Owls rest, hikers get views of the valley, as well as McDowell and Camelback Mountains. Water and restrooms are at the trailhead. Access the trail from the 150-acre Pinnacle Peak Park, located on N. 102nd Way.

5. West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon. Located between Flagstaff and Sedona in the Coconino National Forest in central Arizona, this 6-mile moderate trail is best hiked between spring and fall, though accessible year-round, and offers wonderful scenery. The trailhead, which has limited (fee) parking and fills quickly, is located off of Hwy 89A, at the Call of the Canyon day-use area, just south of the Cave Springs Campground. Once on the trail, you'll follow the creek upstream, taking 13 fairly easy crossings (so make sure you are wearing waterproof hiking or water shoes), with imposing views of the canyon walls.

Bonus: Rail-Trails Highlights: Arizona has 13 Rail-Trails totaling about 72 miles. Take a hike or bike ride on the Prescott Peavine National Recreation Trail (also known as the Peavine Trail), located just north of Prescott, in central Arizona, along the railbed originally built in 1893 by the Santa Fe Railway. This 5.2-mile trail starts off of just south of Watson Lake (which the trail passes) at a parking lot by Watson Woods Riparian Preserve, off Prescott Lakes Parkway and Sundog Ranch Road (fee for parking), but you can also access from Prescott Valley Iron King trailhead (Glassford Hill Road) or the north end of the trail at Side Road and 89A trailhead. The trail is a mix of ballast, cinder, crushed stone, and dirt. If you seek a longer walk/ride, you can connect directly with the Iron King Trail for another 4 miles of rail-trail. While in the area, consider checking out the Prescott National Forest, a vast wilderness area (1.25 million acres) with nearly 450 miles of trails, as well as campgrounds.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.



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