7 Great Outdoor Activities in Phoenix

Snowbirds from the Midwest, northern states and Canada have long flocked to the Valley of the Sun to escape the brutally cold winters back home. With its unique landscape in the Sonoran Desert, its many attractions, great restaurants and 300 days of sunshine a year, Phoenix is ​​full of things to do outdoors all year round. Yes, the summer months can be quite hot, with temperatures hitting the triple digits, but it’s dry heat (or so the locals say), and the sun sets around 7:30 p.m., quickly bringing a relief to this low humidity desert town. .

While the city of Phoenix is ​​at its heart, the metropolitan area stretches out to Scottsdale, Tempe, and other towns in Maricopa and Pinal counties with the ease of a tumbleweed in the wind. This article on the best things to do outdoors in Phoenix therefore includes recommendations beyond the Phoenix city limits and throughout the metro area.

Sage Scott

1. Walk the trails

Although Phoenix is ​​called the Valley of the Sun, the city is not completely surrounded by mountains like Salt Lake City or Albuquerque. But there are certainly plenty of wonderful mountain hiking trails to explore.

For a relatively easy hike with amazing views (especially at sunset) just minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, I highly recommend the Hole in the Rock Trail at Papago Park. This 0.2 mile hike has an elevation gain of 200 feet and rewards hikers with beautiful views from a wind-eroded hole in the red rocks.

In Phoenix’s southeast suburb of Queen Creek, San Tan Mountain Regional Park offers a variety of hikes ranging from easy to difficult and short (about a mile) to long (over 5 miles). If you visit Phoenix in the spring, it’s also one of my favorite places to see Arizona wildflowers in bloom.

Petroglyphs along the Hieroglyphic Trail in Phoenix, Arizona.

Wise Scott

Another scenic hike is the Hieroglyphic Trail in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains in the southern part of the Tonto National Forest. On a clear day, you can see Camelback Mountain to the west as you climb a moderately difficult trail past hundreds of tall saguaro cacti along this 2.8 mile round trip trail. Don’t miss the petroglyphs carved into the rock at the end of the trail!

Pro Tip: For a day trip full of outdoor adventure, you’ll find a variety of hikes and more at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, about 2 hours northeast of downtown Phoenix. And for other great hikes in the Grand Canyon State, check out this article.

A quail in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

2. Watch for wildlife

Although you’re likely to see hummingbirds hovering around orange blossoms and roadrunners crossing the desert landscape at many places in the Phoenix metro area, one of my favorite places to bird watch is the Riverfront Preserve. Water Ranch in the eastern suburbs of Phoenix. de Gilbert. With seven water recharge pools incorporated into the 110-acre reserve, it’s an oasis in the arid desert that attracts nearly 300 species of birds.

In addition to a variety of birds, keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, bobcats, and prairie dogs as you explore Phoenix’s wilderness areas. At night, you might even hear the chilling howl of a coyote in the distance! Hike the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area at the base of Piestewa Peak or board the Dolly Steamboat for a scenic nature cruise on Canyon Lake.

For guaranteed animal encounters, visit Liberty Wildlife, a nonprofit Arizona wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center just south of the airport. And there’s always the Phoenix Zoo. I can’t visit without feeding the giraffe meet the giraffes!

3. Enjoy an interactive treasure hunt

A perfect way to experience the terrain while enjoying the outdoors is to explore via an interactive scavenger hunt. The Let’s Roam app is my favorite, and their hunts in Arizona’s capital city range from under a mile to nearly 3 miles in length. Discover downtown Phoenix, visit the Arizona State University campus, and admire art in Scottsdale with these scavenger hunts.

The writer next to a mural in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

4. Appreciate public art

Speaking of public art, it abounds in the Valley of the Sun. Driving on Highways 10 and 17, you’ll see desert patterns on the rocky slopes near the shoulder and animal-inspired petroglyphs carved into the walls that line the highway and overpasses.

In Scottsdale, about 30 minutes northeast of downtown Phoenix, you’ll find more public art installations than you can shake a brush from, from spouting fountains to contemporary sculptures. Listen to the water calm as the Copper Falls facility flows through the channel. Or take refuge in the Hummingbird Sanctuary, featuring five 16-foot-tall steel flowers with vines cascading down the sides. And no trip to Scottsdale would be complete without a selfie at the iconic Robert Indiana. To like statue.

You can easily browse Scottsdale’s permanent public artwork through this online resource. Or dive deeper into Scottsdale’s art scene on the ArtWalk. Offered eight times a year, the walk includes live music, wine tastings and other special activities designed to showcase local artists and galleries.

Vibrant murals all around the Phoenix area reflect its history and culture with large, broad strokes and short bursts of spray paint. In the college town of Tempe, experience postcard style Gather yourself Tempe greeting painted on the west wall of Social Hall, a bar and restaurant on the corner of South McClintock and East University. Or pose next to the giant saguaro cactus at the boutique Tempest Hotel within walking distance of ASU. Let Artsline 2020 featured artist Jayarr remind you that you’re amazing outside of his studio at Laird and Beck, and celebrate the musical legends who left us too soon at Tempe Marketplace.

The Kansas City Royals during spring training in Surprise, Arizona.

Sage Scott

5. Cheer on the home team

Arizona is one of my favorite places to escape the brutally cold winters of the Midwest, especially in March, when I can encourage the royals of Kansas City during surprise spring training in Arizona. But there are plenty of other options if you haven’t been “raised Royal”. The MLB Cactus League also includes the Brewers, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Padres and 10 other teams that welcome you to the ballpark.

Pro tip: Whether you’re cheering on the Grapefruit League or the Cactus League, read this before planning an MLB spring training trip.

A poppy at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

6. Discover local flora at the Desert Botanical Garden

If you haven’t spent much time in the American Southwest, it can be hard to imagine a botanical garden in such a barren place. Unlike the lush gardens of other climates, the greenery of the 55 -acre desert botanical garden consists of a variety of cacti and trees in the desert, and colored shards are supplied by their flowers as well as other plants native. Bright blooms on yucca plants and delicate pink balls adorning fairy feather dusters attract hummingbirds. In spring you will also find the delicate blooms of wild poppies lining the crushed stone paths.

Eating out at Queen Creek Olive Mill in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sage Scott

7. Dine alfresco

Whether eaten on a sunny patio or by a crackling fire when temperatures drop, food always tastes better outside. And one of the many wonderful things about Phoenix is ​​that you can dine al fresco almost year-round. While nearly every park and restaurant has an outdoor dining option in Phoenix, these favorites stand out from the pack.

For picnic tables overlooking the water, head to Riverview Park in Mesa. You can even pack a rod and reel and catch your own trout, bass or panfish for your meal. Built around a large fishing lagoon, Encanto Park is another great destination for a picnic.

If you prefer to leave the cooking to someone else, San Tan Flat offers the pleasure of camping without having to sleep on the ground. Enjoy a beautiful Phoenix evening under the stars while roasting marshmallows over a campfire and enjoying live music and dancing. There’s also an extensive dinner menu with juicy burgers, filling steaks, and scrumptious desserts.

One of my favorite places to eat outdoors in Phoenix is ​​the Queen Creek Olive Mill in the southeast suburb of Queen Creek. During the day, the large outdoor area is shaded by olive trees. At night, twinkling lights provide an elegant ambiance that perfectly complements antipasto boards, bruschetta, fire-roasted pizzas and stuffed pasta dishes.

From scenic hiking trails to delicious al fresco dining, there are plenty of wonderful things to do outdoors in the vast Phoenix metro area!

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