Phoenix is famous for picturesque erosion-sculpted landscapes, and the beauty of the desert beckons to be explored in Arizona. Here are five of the best places for outdoor activities in Phoenix.
1. Lake Pleasant
This awesome reservoir is the largest lake in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area and offers almost unlimited opportunities for aquatic fun. Recreational boaters can take advantage of 10,000 acres of water surface and 116 miles of shoreline. The average depth of Lake Pleasant is 70 feet deep. Its deepest point is at the dam, 260 feet.
Water enthusiasts will have ample opportunity to get pulled behind a boat on water skis, wakeboarding or go to the extreme during an exhilarating personal watercraft adventure. If you’re on vacation with the family, rent a houseboat and go for a cruise.
Be sure to look for wild burros wandering the shoreline—and for majestic bald eagles up above.
Those in search of physical activity can hike or bike along marked trails. There’s even a Desert Education Center to help introduce you to a world of outdoor wonder in Arizona.
2. Papago Park
Humongous sandstone formations that look like they came from another world dominate Papago Park—and make it stand out in a state known for natural attractions.
Hikers can always explore new areas thanks to the park’s vast network of trails through the Sonoran Desert.
Those who like to reel in prize catches can fish (Arizona urban fishing license required) 7.8 acres of lagoons stocked with catfish during the summer and trout during the winter.
Visitors can also explore two major family-friendly attractions located in Papago Park: Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden. The Tomb of Governor George Wiley Paul Hunt, visible from virtually everywhere in the park, is another great stop inside this immense playground.
3. Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake is a wondrous playground with cactus-lined shores, spectacular rock formations and amazing sunsets that will take your breath away. There are also many species of animals roaming around, like Big Horn sheep and deer.
Take part in a myriad of watersports including swimming, waterskiing, windsailing and personal watercraft experiences. With more than 950 surface acres of water to play on, you’ll never run out of things to do.
Anglers can boat into hidden coves for an afternoon of bass and trout fishing.
Sparkling water and pleasant year-round temperatures make Canyon Lake the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely boat ride surrounded by beautiful scenery.
4. Camelback Mountain
With an elevation of 2,704 feet, Camelback Mountain is an exceptional destination to take a hike. This local landmark gets its name because it resembles a resting camel.
Located in the center of the Phoenix Valley, this paradise offers two summit trails: Echo Canyon (steeper) and Cholla (longer). Be sure to keep your eyes open for critters like cottontail rabbits, lizards, antelope squirrels and snakes. If you spot one, always give the animal time to move along and never try to touch it.
Do you have a competitive nature? Then post the time it took you to reach the top of the summit—and see how long it took others to get there.
5. Dreamy Draw Recreation Area
Inside the diverse desert landscape of the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area is its magnificent focal point: Piestewa Peak. Hikers will be tempted to ascend the 1,190-foot trail to the summit. Others less adventuresome can just take out their cameras and snap awe-inspiring pictures.
As far as geology goes, the rock formations here are relatively young—just 14 million years old, when the earth was stretching across the land from the northeast to the southwest. The area’s indigenous rock is a metamorphic type of granite known as schist. Long before the location became a tourist attraction, it was used as a mercury mine.
As you might expect, cactus thrive in this part of the Sonoran Desert. In fact, you’ll just about every variety found in Arizona. They include saguaro, barrel, hedgehog, pincushion, jumping cholla and prickly pear.
You’ll also see colorful flora standing against the painted-desert landscape. Palo Verde, mesquite, ironwood trees, brittle bush and desert lavender all call Dreamy Draw Recreation Area home.