Suppose you wonder where to watch the best Scottsdale sunset. In that case, there are plenty of places to enjoy fantastic sunset in Scottsdale, whether you are up for a challenging hike or prefer relaxing spots to sit and watch the sky transform from a brilliant blue to a rainbow of bright yellows, hot pinks, and fiery reds and oranges.

There is nothing better than a magical sunset to end a day exploring Scottsdale, surrounded by stunning Sonoran desert landscapes dotted with saguaro and many other types of cacti bathing and glowing with the warm tones of sunset.

From quick or adventurous hikes to watch Scottsdale sunset to an easy-to-access drive-through spot, below is the list of the best sunset spots in Scottsdale that should be on your itinerary.

WHERE TO WATCH THE BEST SCOTTSDALE SUNSET

MCDOWELL SONORAN PRESERVE

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 16 miles
  • Driving duration – 21 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 3 to 8 miles one way(depending on the trail)
  • Hiking duration – 3 to 6 hours
  • Difficulty level – Easy to Moderate
  • Parking – Available

One of the top spots to watch epic Scottsdale sunset and sunrise is the massive McDowell Sonoran Preserve, spanning 30,580 acres of Sonoran Desert, featuring over 225 miles of trails to explore, loved by outdoor lovers, hiking enthusiasts and mountain bikers.

Open every day from sunrise to sunset. You will be treated to gorgeous landscapes of the true Sonoran Desert wilderness packed with deep canyons, high mountain peaks, hundreds of varieties of cacti, and rich wildlife along its many trails. 

If you are here during spring, the most popular season, you will also come across the magical, vibrant wildflowers standing out distinctly in the arid landscapes.

sunset in Scottsdale

There are many trails to choose from, depending on your preference. To make it easy, pick a route or viewpoint that faces east for one of the best sunrise hikes in the McDowell Sonoran Reserve.

Here are our top picks for where to watch the sunrise in McDowell Sonoran Preserve when in Scottsdale.

Gateway Loop Trail

One of the most popular trails in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the Gateway Loop Trail, a beautiful 4.4 miles loop hike ideal for watching a stunning sunrise in Scottsdale and a sunset. 

This is a relatively more leisurely hike where you can take your dogs on a leash well. You’ll find plenty of giant saguaro cacti everywhere and vibrant desert wildflowers in spring, glowing as the rising sun touch the wilderness.

TOM’S THUMB TRAIL

One of the popular hikes to watch sunrise in Scottsdale and over Phoenix, as well as the fantastic Scottsdale sunset, is Tom’s Thumb, a very challenging trail, harder than Pinnacle Peak, offering spectacular views of the Phoenix valley.

You will pass through many switchbacks on a steep hike, and best tackled with hiking poles as it can get slippery navigating loose gravel. It is best to wear good hiking shoes with grip.

sunset Scottsdale October

On the way, you have plenty of opportunities to stop, relax and take photos. The landscapes look more surreal as you climb up on this well-maintained route.

The trail climbs at a low steady grade to the ridgeline along a smooth gravel trail. After two miles on this marked trail, you will reach the signed junction for the East End Trail and the base of Tom’s Thumb. Here make a right and head towards the summit. 

You will require scrambling during the last stretch, but the trail is easy to follow. Once at the top, you are greeted by the giant granite tower that is Tom’s Thumb at 1000 feet high, surrounded by alcoves to explore.

Restrooms are available, but there is no drinking water. Carry sufficient water, snacks, a jacket, a hat, and sunglasses. Watch out for rattlesnakes and scorpions. Bring a headlamp.

RINGTAIL TRAIL 

Although it is one of the famous sunset trails, one of the top spots for watching an epic sunset in Scottsdale in the Sonoran Reserve is Ringtail Trail, a 2.4-mile loop which offers spectacular 360-degree views of the rugged Sonoran Desert.

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 17 miles
  • Driving duration – 25 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 0.85 miles one way
  • Hiking duration – 1 to 2 hours
  • Difficulty level – Easy
  • Parking – Available

One of the short and steep sunset hikes in Scottsdale suitable for beginners and intermediate-level hikers is the Lookout Mountain trail in the Lookout Mountain Preserve, a municipal park in the northern part of Phoenix, Arizona. 

Although it is under a mile out-and-back trail, it is generally considered a moderately challenging route as it involves climbing over scattered loose rocks patches. 

Best Scottsdale Sunset spots

Take it slow, carry a headlamp, and wear good hiking shoes. You can even bring your dogs on a leash.

At the end of the climb, you will be rewarded with glorious views of the setting sun against the desert vegetation carpeted mountains, the skyline of Scottsdale and Phoenix valley.

PINNACLE PEAK PARK

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 21 miles
  • Driving duration – 30 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 2 miles one way
  • Hiking duration – 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty level – Easy
  • Parking – Available

One of the most popular places to watch epic Scottsdale sunset is Pinnacle Peak Park, which attracts thousands of visitors for the sunrise hike thanks to the genuinely spectacular panoramas overlooking the city and the valley beyond, surrounded by rocky desert mountains.

The 2 miles out and back trail is well-maintained, and since it is relatively easy, the hike is widespread, and you can expect a lot of crowds on the weekends and holidays during peak season. The hike to the top has an elevation gain of 1,300 feet two miles, which is gradual. 

sunset Scottsdale October

During the last stretch, you will descend many stairs, which you have to climb back up, which can feel a bit difficult due to the elevation and the stairs up.

From the summit, you will be rewarded with a gorgeous sunrise over the unique granite formations of Pinnacle Peak in north Scottsdale alongside the towering saguaros, abundant wildlife, and spectacular views of Scottsdale and Phoenix.

There are plenty of places where you can stop by, relax and capture the stunning views.

Unlike the many trails for watching Scottsdale sunset, Pinnacle Peak Park has better amenities, including a welcome booth where you can collect the maps, a sitting area(shaded), restrooms, a large parking area and a small shopping centre nearby selling snacks.

DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 3.5 miles
  • Driving duration – 15 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 0.3 miles one way
  • Difficulty level – Easy
  • Parking – Available

One of the most accessible locations to enjoy Scottsdale sunset is the Desert Botanical Garden, located 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix. 

Home to thousands of varieties of desert plants native to the American Southwest, it is also one of the top Phoenix sunrise spots to enjoy stunning views of colourful skies against the garden’s saguaros, chollas, and cacti. It is one of the best places to watch a sunset in Phoenix.

Scottsdale sunset December

There are five trails based on different themes that will offer glimpses of the people of the Sonoran Desert, along with introducing you to a plethora of beautiful desert wildflowers. Watch the giant iconic saguaro transforming into a beautiful silhouette against the changing backdrop of colours and light.

Although the park may not be open for accessing the trails until 8 AM, you can watch the sunrise around the park and capture pictures before heading inside.

SUNSET LOOKOUT

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 36 miles
  • Driving duration – 45 minutes
  • Parking – Available

If you are out of Phoenix on Interstate 17, you will come across one of the easy stopovers to catch a stunning Scottsdale sunset, overlooking the gorgeous Bradshaw Mountains at Sunset Lookout and the surrounding desert. 

You can also see a giant sundial. It is a perfect spot for a quick sunset getaway as you have many areas to picnic in, restrooms, and you can even bring your dogs on a leash.

PAPAGO PARK(HOLE-IN-THE-ROCK)

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 3 miles
  • Driving duration – 10 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance –0.3 miles one way
  • Hiking duration – 1 to 2 hours
  • Difficulty level – Easy
  • Parking – Available

One of the popular spots for watching a beautiful sunset in Scottsdale is Hole in the Rock, a natural geological formation in Papago Park, a municipal state park of Phoenix and Tempe. 

If you are looking for a quick getaway for an afternoon sunset hike in Scottsdale, Papago Park should be your first pick. 

Hole-in-the-Rock is a series of holes carved out by millions of years of erosion by the wind into the sandstone hills.

Scottsdale sunset time

Due to its location, this 1,500-acre park, also only 15 minutes east of downtown Phoenix, is also one of the best Phoenix sunrise spots as well. 

So you can watch either or both. Before heading for the hike, you can visit Phoenix Zoo nearby.

Plenty of trails are categorized into the West Side Trails and the East Side Trails. One of the most popular routes for enjoying a quiet Phoenix sunrise is the trail to Hole-in-the-Rock.

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Scottsdale sunset November

The trail, about 0.3 miles one way, is easy, and you can enjoy a quick hike with your family and friends to admire the gorgeous views during the golden hour.  

From the parking lot, you will pass a series of unique red sandstone rocks to get to the viewpoint accessed via stone steps rising 200 feet high.

You can climb inside the formations and watch one of the best sunsets in Scottsdale, casting brilliant hues over downtown and the desert oasis beyond.

MORE EPIC SCOTTSDALE SUNSET SPOTS

PIESTEWA PEAK

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 9.5 miles
  • Driving duration – 20 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 2.2 miles one way
  • Hiking duration – 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty level – Easy to Moderate
  • Parking – Available

One of the popular spots to watch both a sunrise and an epic Scottsdale sunset is Piestewa Peak, one of the most prominent mountains in the Phoenix Valley located in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.

Named in honour of Lori Ann Piestewa, the first Native American woman in the U.S. military to lose her life in combat, Piestewa Peak, close to Camelback, is one of the few places to watch Scottsdale sunrise where you can admire the magnificent 360-degree views.

You can access the peak on the Summit Trail, a 2.1-mile one-way path, which involves a few switchbacks and a steady incline that can be managed due to the sizeable well-placed step sections.

At the top, you will be treated to sweeping views of the valley. Look for the Superstitions Mountains, White Tanks, the McDowells and South Mountain to the south. 

Start the hike early for the best sunset views. Carry a jacket and a headlamp. Note that pets aren’t allowed on this trail.

SOUTH MOUNTAIN PARK(DOBBINS LOOKOUT)

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 18 miles
  • Driving duration – 30 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 2.3 miles one way
  • Hiking duration – 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty level – Moderate
  • Parking – Available

Among the top attractions of Scottsdale, South Mountain Park is also one of the best places to watch an epic Scottsdale sunset.

You can spend a few hours or many days in this massive 16000 acres plus park offering tons of activities, from over 60 miles of hiking and biking trails to camping, rock climbing and much more.

South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the United States and one of the largest urban parks in North America. 

The best part is it is only about 30 minutes south of downtown Scottsdale, so the best spot to start your day is by going on one of the many sunset hikes in Scottsdale at Dobbins Lookout.

The trek to Dobbins Lookout is the most famous sunrise trail within South Mountain Park and Preserve. At over 2300 feet, Dobbins Lookout is the highest accessible point within South Mountain Park and Preserve, the perfect spot for watching the skies painted with yellow, red, golden, and orange as the sun goes down over the downtown skyline, the Greater Phoenix area, surrounded by majestic mountains in the valley.

There are two ways to reach Dobbins Lookout. You can hike the 4.6-mile round trip out and down Holbert Trail or take the easy route by car if you are not in the mood for a hike in the afternoon.

best sunset hikes in Scottsdale

The views on the trail are far more rewarding, though, so it is the better choice if you are willing to sweat it a bit. The trail has only short stretches of incline at the start and the end but almost flats out in the middle.

Throughout the trail, you will be treated to the rustic wilderness of the Sonoran Desert landscapes are dotted with beautiful wildflowers if you are here in spring.

GRANADA PARK

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 9 miles
  • Driving duration – 15 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 0.5 miles one way
  • Difficulty level – Easy
  • Hiking duration – 1 to 2 hours
  • Parking – Available

One of the popular spots among locals is Granada Park, an excellent recreation area and one of the top spots to watch a beautiful Scottsdale sunset.

Only about 15 minutes from downtown, it is one of the best places to enjoy a picnic lunch with your kids and pets before getting ready to admire the glowing sunset across the desert areas.

There are two large ponds with ducks and fish, which is one of the best places to relax and admire the sunset views and the views of the skyline of Scottsdale, the beautiful Phoenix Mountains, including Piestewa Peak and the desert valley. 

You can also enjoy fishing in the ponds. There are many hiking and bike trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, and plenty of green spaces to relax or stroll in the evening.

RIVERVIEW PARK

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 13.3 miles
  • Driving duration – 15 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 1.2 miles one way
  • Difficulty level – Easy
  • Hiking duration – 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Parking – Available

One of the favourite parks among the locals, it is among the most convenient to get to Scottsdale sunset spots where you can enjoy the evening doing many activities apart from enjoying the sunset in Scottsdale at Riverview Park along the beautiful lake on the premises.

Open to visitors until 10 PM, this massive park has plenty of green spaces to play soccer, shaded picnic areas, a children’s play area, and a colourful water fountain. You can also enjoy fishing on the waterfront and stroll along many paved paths. 

CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN(ECHO CANYON RECREATION AREA)

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 5 miles
  • Driving duration – 10 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 1.2 miles one way
  • Difficulty level – Easy to Moderate
  • Hiking duration – 1 to 2 hours
  • Parking – Available

If you are looking for one of the quick-to-reach spots to watch a beautiful Scottsdale sunset, head to Echo Canyon Recreation Area, located only a 10-minute drive away from Scottsdale. 

One of the trails leads you to the top of Camelback Mountain, one of the best spots to view a golden sunset in Scottsdale and spectacular 360-degree views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

This mountain gets its name from its two rock formations resembling the head and back of a kneeling camel.

Considered one of the best sunset hikes in Scottsdale, the 1.2-mile Echo Canyon Trail to Camelback Mountain offers magnificent sunrise views apart from featuring many landmarks and iconic attractions near the city, including Praying Monk, Superstition Mountain ranges, CamelBack, Piestewa Peak and others.

The hike begins on the Echo Canyon trail, with the trailhead located close to the parking lot. There is an easy incline at the start, which will offer amazing views. 

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A few more climbs can be managed well with the help of well-placed handrails. Pause to take in the pictures of the surrounding attractions on the horizon, including the views of Piestewa Peak behind.

The last mile gets steeper with more steps and boulder hopping between the wash on a marked trail. Since there is little light, it is best to scramble rather than hop if you are not very confident. Around the bend at the top, you are rewarded with splendid panoramic views.

Enjoy the beautiful Scottsdale sunset from the summit cast in the backdrop of the skyline of Phoenix, South Mountain Park and Preserve, the Superstitions Mountains and Four Peaks off in the distance. 

Start the hike early. Carry a jacket as the temperatures get cold, a headlamp, water and snacks.

SPOOK HILL MOUNTAIN PRESERVE

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 13.3 miles
  • Driving duration – 15 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 1.2 miles one way
  • Difficulty level – Easy
  • Hiking duration – 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Parking – Available

One of the short hikes to enjoy beautiful views of Scottsdale sunset and sunrise in the East Valley is Spook Hill Mountain Preserve, which takes only about 30 minutes to 1 hour to make it to the top.

You can make this sunset hike in Scottsdale conveniently with your kids and dogs as well, but do watch out for some loose rocks. Free parking is also available, but due to its easy access and trail, it can get very crowded during weekends and holidays. So plan accordingly and expect more visitors at the summit.

MAP OF THE BEST SCOTTSDALE SUNSET SPOTS

USEFUL TIPS TO WATCH SUNSET IN SCOTTSDALE

  • Check the timings – Look for Scottsdale sunset time before you plan your sunrise hike, as the time slightly varies depending on the season you are visiting Scottsdale.
  • Calculate time for hiking – Depending on your fitness levels and your speed, you may take more time than the average estimates provided. It is best to have an idea of how long you may need, which allows you to time your sunset hike in Scottsdale correctly.
  • Carry essentials – Great hiking shoes with a good grip, headlamps, jackets, water, and snacks are a must, irrespective of the hike.
  • Watch out for snakes and lizards – Although the Rattlesnake season runs from May through October, you may run into snakes at any time of year. Gila Monster Lizards and scorpions can also be seen, but if you stick to the trails and never put your feet where you can’t see them, you should be okay. If you do come across one, move very slowly backwards and alert the staff.
  • Stay hydrated – Although temperatures can be low if you’re heading out before sunrise, once the sun is up, it quickly gets hot no matter which time of the year. Drink sufficient water to stay hydrated.
  • Protecting from the sun – Going back, you will be exposed to the heat likely, as most of the trails have minimal or no shaded areas. Carry sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.

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