Where are the best areas for hiking in or around Phoenix? Willing to drive a few hours out if there's a place thats worth it.
Well, it depends on what time of year you plan to visit. Right now, nearly everything within a 60-mile radius of Phoenix is brutally hot ... but will be very nice in the winter. So let's start around Phoenix, assuming winter:
-Tom's Thumb Trailhead is great. Steep climb up, lots of desert scenery, great view at the top. Watch for the Ogre's Den.
-Superstition Mountains are the remains of a volcanic caldera. They are not a place to be unwary. People get lost here all the time ... and some stay lost. Be careful here. Incredible scenery full of legends.
Picketpost Mountain gets really steep toward the end. Not quite technical enough for ropes, but it's difficult in spots.
-Trail 100 is one of the great urban hikes. Pick a trail, any trail. It's in an urban area, so it will be more crowded than others I've mentioned. Most of the old mines in the area are sealed ... but a few have escaped The Man's attention. Bring a flashlight!
OK, now let's get out of central Arizona.
-Horton Creek Trail is one of my favorite hikes. It'll take you to a natural spring, so fill up (but still disinfect) here if you're out of water. You have the option to continue on, or just go back to the trailhead. About 8 miles.
-S P Crater is an old cinder cone volcano. You can hike to the rim into 40 minutes and look into the crater. Then hike back down and check out the 5-mile-long lava flow. Barely anyone goes here because they don't know about it.
-Humphreys Peak is the highest point in the state. Collapsed remains of a stratovolcano. You can see the Grand Canyon from the summit.
And I can't emphasize this enough: Be prepared. Water, snacks, anything you would need to survive overnight if things go pear-shaped. My daypack has at least two light sources, a knife, flint/striker, space blanket, cordage, tincture of iodine, medical kit, electrolyte tabs and lots and lots and lots of water (120-ounce bladder, two 32-ounce bottles).
Mentioned in this answer:
Just a quick note on Justin's answer. There is no water available at Tom's Thumb Trailhead. Some other trailheads in Scottsdale's McDowell Mountain Preserve do have water but not Tom's Thumb. Note: Preserve is open sunrise to sunset. Visit Scottsdaleaz.gov and search Preserve for lots more details.
City of Scottsdale