Best Bike Trails for Kids in Phoenix
There are so many bike trails in Phoenix, and finding kid friendly ones (especially those for younger cyclists) can be a bit daunting. We started bike riding as a family about three years ago. It has been one of the best ways to get exercise, see familiar places from a new perspective, and spend time together!
If you’re interested in exploring the trails this fall and winter with your family, read on! We will be sharing a bit about what has worked for us, as well as our favorite spots around the Valley.
This is so important! If you don’t have a properly working bike, or bike trailer, it will not only slow you down, but DEmotivate you to get out and ride. We originally had mountain bikes, which worked great; but in August 2014 we rented beach cruisers in Ocean City, NJ and fell in love. So that’s what we purchased in October 2014 from Bicycles of Phoenix, an awesome local business that is helpful and friendly and offered great deals on bicycles for all ages. We still use these beach cruisers, but in retrospect, a bike with even a few gears is very helpful when pulling a bike trailer.
There are two options for biking with children who are unable to go long distances (around 6 and under). For ages one and up, we have used and loved the single and double Burley bike trailers! We bought the Burley Bee from REI in November 2015, loving the features that the wheels easily pop on and off and it folds on itself for transporting or storage. For little ones 6-12 months, consider using a seat that attaches to your bike directly behind the parent’s seat. We don’t have any recommendations for this particular kind, as we started biking with both our kids once they turned one. Bike riding with children under 6 months is not recommended.
Of course, properly fitted helmets are a must, and we added flashing lights to the front and back of our bikes since we sometimes ride at dusk. Otherwise, an handy extra item are cases that attach to the front. Great for storing snacks, phones, wallet, keys, etc! You’ll also need a bike rack for your car if you plan to try a trail beyond biking distance.
On a side note, it can be helpful to bring along some entertainment for young children, especially on longer rides. We’ve relied on the trusty iPad in some cases, along with snacks, books, small toys/stuffed animals – and nap time! Our son especially had a tendency to fall asleep during bike rides when younger. (For other travel friendly ideas, check out our article On the Go Toddler Activity Ideas.)
Our Favorite Trails
Stay Local – One of the easiest ways to start bike riding as a family is to pick a local destination, like a park, neighborhood restaurant, or snack place like ice cream. What’s your closest park? Get on Goggle Maps and check the distance. Anything from 1-3 miles round trip is a good start! This is a fun way for little legs to build distance, plus breaks up a potentially long trip. And often you’ll have full bike lanes for safety and quieter neighborhoods vs busy streets to cross.
We like to take a bike ride on Saturday mornings to get breakfast or coffee. Or combine it with a park, and everyone is happy! Maybe check ahead if your restaurant destination has a bike rack, or an out of the way place to park for an hour or so. We don’t always lock up our bikes, just depends on how busy a place gets.
Scottsdale Greenbelt – The Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt (more commonly called the Scottsdale Greenbelt, or The Greenbelt) is the closest bike path to our home. We haven’t biked all 11 miles, but have done portions, usually those near parks (Chaparrel Park) or coffee shops (Lakeview Coffee). It’s a two lane path that meanders by golf courses and lakes, and is pretty scenic. The starting point is near the Scottsdale Mustang Library, at 90th and Shea, and it runs south almost to the 101/202 intersection! You can access the Arizona Canal Trail and the Rio Salado Path for further exploring.
Probably one of our favorite adventures on this trail started at Indian School Park. We left the car in the parking lot and bikes west into Old Town Scottsdale. We had a lovely breakfast at the Breakfast Club, then continued a bit more west to Arizona Canal Trail. We took that north, all the way to MacDonald Drive, headed east almost to Scottsdale Road where we connected to the Scottsdale Greenbelt to head south and back to our car. Total was almost 10 miles.
The city of Scottsdale has a handy interactive map that may be useful for determining what access point is closest for your family. (It is best viewed on a laptop.)
Arizona Canal Trail – The Arizona Canal Trail is the longest trail in Phoenix at almost 70 miles! Per its name, it follows the canal from Peoria to Scottsdale and has many access points. Most of it is paved, some portions have small gravel bits but it’s perfectly fine for bike trailers. Paths alternate between being one sided or two sided of the canal.
What we love most about this trail is how flat it is! It’s great for beginners, leisurely rides, and you can go further without the stress of inclines.
Our favorite access point for the canal trail is Granada Park. You can easily head east or west as long as you like, with some fun tunnel underpasses that kids will love. And as mentioned before, we’ve biked on the canal path near Old Town Scottsdale. Arcadia Park to the west is a good place to break for little ones.
New River Trail – The New River Trail is a great option for bike riding in the West Valley! It follows the usually dry creek bed (New River), with uninterrupted crossing points of main roads in Peoria and Glendale. Total length is roughly 16 miles.
Our favorite access point is at Rio Vista Community Park in Peoria. There is plenty of parking (and a large playground!), and the option to head north or south. We went south on our 7 mile adventure and found it nicely paved and fairly easy. The scenery isn’t exciting, but the kids loved shouting in the underpasses. The Skunk Creek Trail branches off from New River at Rio Vista Park as well, for more bike riding option.
Rio Salado Path – This path is probably one of our favorites. It follows Tempe Town Lake, ventures under the 101/202 intersection to the east, and continues on into Mesa. (You can access Riverview Park as well!) The path is smooth and paved, with some hills that might be tough for little legs. But staying along the lake yields some beautiful views of downtown Tempe, including the Tempe Center for the Arts, and Hayden’s Butte. We stopped often for photos.
There are a couple options for unloading bikes along the Rio Salado Path. We parked at Tempe Beach Park, but that lot gets full quickly on weekends. Parking in the north lots of Tempe Marketplace also works (look for the huge sign advertising the shops); you should be able to access the path easily via ramps. Or consider parking at Riverview Park, and heading north to connect with the path. The best parking lot is located at 2100 W Rio Salado Parkway Parking in Mesa.
Paseo Trail – this bike path follows a East Valley canal from the Gilbert Riparian Preserve to Chandler!
Bonus: here is a map of all the bike trails in Phoenix! It can be a little overwhelming, but zoom in on your specific location (or where you’d like to go) and you should find plenty of options. Happy bike riding!