1. Hike Camelback Mountain
4925 E. McDonald Drive, , 85018
The most popular hiking destination in Phoenix also happens to be one of the most challenging and rewarding. The intense journey up one of 2 trails (take your pick amongst the slightly longer Cholla versus the slightly harder Echo) is a day well spent exploring the diverse Sonoran Desert.
With panoramic views of the city and mountains, endless views of gorgeous Saguaros, and the occasional wildlife sighting, you really can't go wrong with a morning out at Camelback.
Be aware that this is a very challenging hike. Do not attempt unless you are in peak physical condition. Also avoid hiking on overcrowded weekends and during extreme heat conditions at all costs!
2. Learn about the gorgeous Sonoran Desert via a cruise aboard Desert Belle
14011 N. Bush Highway, , 85215
Desert Belle, an amazing company just 20 minutes from Mesa in the beautiful Tonto National Forest, offers visitors a chance to both enjoy the beauty of the desert and also learn some unique facts about this unique area of the country.
Those visiting Southern Arizona for the first time will be in awe of the stunning Saguaro Lake: who knew such a gorgeous body of water would be found in Arizona out of all places? Bring your camera and binoculars and be on the lookout for random mountain lion and bighorn sheep sightings.
Desert Belle is a surprising and delightful way for 1st time Arizona visitors to explore the natural beauty of the area, which unfortunately is all too often missed as it is hidden beyond all the congestion.
3. Stroll around the beautifully landscaped Phoenix Zoo
455 N. Galvin Parkway, , 85008
The Phoenix Zoo surely wins the award for one of the most nicely landscaped zoos in America. Featuring an attractive combination of lush desert plant life, serene water views, and a stunning desert backdrop, the zoo is an ideal place to stroll around for an hour or 2.
The diversity of animals here is great, and even better, most animals seem happy with their larger, more natural settings.
The Phoenix Zoo is easily walkable in an hour or 2 due to the great layout, making it a great morning activity before heading off to other attractions.
4. Challenge your endurance at Pinnacle Peak Park
26802 N. 102nd Way, , 85262
It's no surprise that Scottsdale's Pinnacle Peak Park is one of the favorite hiking destinations in the region. There's not a single things to dislike about this fabulous trail: it's a fantastic full body workout, the views are extraordinary, and the trail is well-maintained and super easy to follow.
For a great uphill climb with stunning desert panoramas in every direction, you really cannot do much better than Pinnacle Peak.
5. Enjoy some old-fashioned fun in the sun with a summer afternoon at a waterpark
155 W. Hampton Avenue, , 85210
During the uber hot hot Phoenix summer season, there really isn't a whole lot of opportunity for outdoor fun. Let's face it - unless you hit the trails before 7am, you are pretty much out of luck. Unless you want to spend the whole day inside shopping or surfing the net, your next best bet is a waterpark.
Fortunately, Phoenix has its' fair share of waterparks and many of them are fantastic. One great option, both for its' affordability and amenities, is Sunsplash in Mesa, featuring more than 10 water slides (including a fun water coaster), a massive wave pool, and a relaxing lazy river. Now you can have fun-in-the-sun for as long as your heart desires. Really, nothing beats a summer day at the waterpark!
6. Explore diverse desert scenery along the quiet trails of Usery Mountain Park
3939 N. Usery Pass Rd., , 85207
Mesa's most underrated attraction is gorgeous Usery Mountain Park. The trail network here is extensive, with various distances and terrain for everyone. It's so quiet here: you literally feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere. Stop for a second and listen to the sweet sound of silence.
For a fantastic solitary hiking experience on your choice of 29 trails, amazing mountain views, and never ending views of the beautiful cacti, add a workout at Usery Mountain to your Phoenix to-do list!
7. Take advantage of the mild winter climate with a stroll around an open air mall
200 E. Rio Salado Parkway, , 85281
Phoenix has no shortage of beautiful open air shopping centers. In fact, it probably is home to some of the nicest in the country. A true shopping mecca, even the pickiest shopper will appreciate the diversity of options, from high end to bargain outlets.
The beautifully landscaped outdoor malls seem to go on forever. Take your pick: Tempe Marketplace, Desert Ridge Marketplace, and Biltmore Fashion Park are all great options.
8. Take a scenic drive & then enjoy a memorable hike at South Mountain Park
10919 S. Central Avenue, , 85042
South Mountain, the largest urban park in the US, is home to 50+ miles of diverse hiking trails. Some, like the 2 mile Kiwanis Trail, provide a bit of everything: skyline views, gorgeous mountain views, and the opportunity to get an up close look at a variety of desert plant life.
Get out there early in the morning (before the heat becomes unbearable) and escape the congestion of the city for a quiet retreat into the desert. The desert truly is a wonderful place to take your mind off everything, even if just for an hour or 2.
9. Stroll through unending cacti at the Scottsdale McDowell Preserve
18333 N. Thompson Peak Parkway, , 85255
One of the best outdoor recreational areas in the metro area, especially for those who are obsessed with the beautiful Saguaro cactus, is peaceful Scottsdale McDowell Preserve. With over 100 miles of trails to choose amongst, you will never run out of options no matter how many times you visit.
The preserve also offers some of the best mountain biking and birdwatching opportunities in the area.
Scottsdale's hiking oasis is a wonderful place to get out in nature, enjoy a leisurely workout, and most importantly, take a much needed break from it all. Even on the most difficult of trails, you cannot help feeling an overwhelming sense of relaxation as you take in the natural wonder of the Sonoran.
10. Spend the afternoon at Papago Park
625 N. Galvin Parkway, , 85008
Papago Park, home to several of Phoenix's most popular attractions including the Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Gardens, is a nice little place to relax for a few hours. Check out the quiet nature trails, test your fitness level on the 1.7 mile exercise trail, or just relax and enjoy the mountain views. Also be sure to check out Hole-in-the-Rock, a natural rock formation which was once used by ancient people to mark solstices.