Deem Hills Recreation Area: Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding

Deem Hills Recreation Area: Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding

This nearly 1,000-acre park, smack in the middle of the North Phoenix metro area, is a great nearby location for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, all just west of I-17. Two hills are crisscrossed by five well maintained trails totaling some 14.5 miles in length. Two trailheads — east and west — provide access. A large community park at the West Trailhead offers a children’s playground, a soccer field and a dog park.

deem hills dog park
It’s not every hiking preserve that sports a dog park, as Deem Hills Recreation Area does. Photo by Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher

Why You Should Go

This nearby recreational site is suitable for the entire family. The hillsides are covered with a large stand of saguaro cacti and typical Sonoran Desert vegetation, with an extensive trail system that is ideal for hikers, mountain bikers, birders and photographers. The large, two-section dog park offers a welcoming environment for your four-legged friend.

When to Go

October through late May are the best months to visit. Extreme heat of the summer months can make anything but early morning outings potentially dangerous.

Trails (Trail Map)

From West Deems Hills Trailhead:
  • Deem Hills Circumference Trail – 5.73 miles
  • Palisade/Water Tank Road Trail – 1.53 miles
  • Basalt Trail – 0.64 miles
  • Deem Hills Ridgeline Trail – 1.45 miles

Be Safe

Good shoes, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and a signaling device are always always recommended when visiting any desert area. Be sure to take an adequate supply of water and tell someone where you are going before beginning any outing into the Sonoran Desert.

deem hills mountains
The Deem Hills area was formed by 1.6-million-year-old lava flows from volcanos some 140 miles north. Photos by Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher


The mountains that make up the Deem Hills Recreational Area are composed of Precambrian Era granite and Tertiary Period basalt.

The black boulders of basalt are actually the remains of 1.6-million-year-old lava flows from volcanos in the Flagstaff area that broke through the earth’s surface here. Many other mountains of black basalt are found along the I-17 corridor today, all created by ancient volcanos of northern Arizona.

The name for the recreational area comes from Dennis and Carl Deem, who in 1922 began homesteading 160 acres of desert land just to the southwest of the hills that now carry their family name.

Distance from I-17/Carefree Highway: 12 miles

Cost:  Free

Hours: See park website for details.

27500 N. 39th Ave., Phoenix, AZ (East Trailhead); 5050 W. Andrea Lane near 51st Avenue and Deem Hills Parkway (West Trailhead)
Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher
Linda & Dr. Dick Buscher are retired Arizona public school educators who brought their wealth of Arizona knowledge to the In&Out Publications team in 2007. Together they have been teaching and writing about the state since the 1970s. The Buschers co-authored an Arizona history program titled “Ali-Shonak: The Story of Arizona,” which is still used in many of the 4th grade classrooms in Anthem and around the state. The Arizona history portion of this program is available in the iTunes bookstore under the title “Arizona: The Grand Adventure.” The Buschers are also authors of “Historic Photos of Arizona,” available at local bookstores.
Linda and Dr. Dick Buscher on Email
  • Deem Hills Recreation Area: Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding
  • Deem Hills Recreation Area: Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding
  • Deem Hills Recreation Area: Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding
  • Deem Hills Recreation Area: Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding

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