Outdoor Activities in Phoenix: Explore the Beauty of the Desert Landscape

Laura Williams

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Photo by Charles Black on Unsplash

Phoenix is known for its warm climate and abundance of outdoor activities. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s no surprise that the city is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking and biking to golfing and rock climbing, Phoenix offers a wide range of outdoor activities to suit all ages and skill levels. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in this vibrant city. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best outdoor activities in Phoenix and show you how to make the most of your time in the great outdoors.

Phoenix’s outdoor activities are not just limited to the desert landscape, as the city has numerous parks, lakes, and golf courses to explore as well. In addition to the traditional outdoor activities like hiking and biking, visitors can enjoy water sports like fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding at one of the many lakes and rivers in the area. With such a diverse range of options, it’s no wonder that Phoenix has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. So whether you’re looking for a peaceful stroll in a park or an adrenaline-fueled adventure, Phoenix has something for everyone.

Hiking and Trail Running

Hiking - <a href="https://unsplash.com/photos/_r19nfvS3wY?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink">Photo Source</a>
Hiking – Photo Source

Phoenix is home to some of the most stunning hiking and trail running spots in the country, with options for every skill level. Here are some of the best places to hit the trails:

  1. Camelback Mountain: This iconic peak offers two challenging trails – Echo Canyon and Cholla – that lead to panoramic views of the city. Both trails are steep and rocky, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear and bring plenty of water.
  2. South Mountain Park: With over 50 miles of trails, South Mountain Park is a hiker’s paradise. Choose from a variety of trails that wind through the park’s scenic desert landscape, and keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls the park home.
  3. Piestewa Peak: Formerly known as Squaw Peak, Piestewa Peak offers a strenuous hike to the summit that rewards hikers with breathtaking views of the city. The trail can be crowded, so arrive early to beat the crowds.
  4. Papago Park: Located in the heart of the city, Papago Park offers several short, easy hikes that are perfect for families and beginners. Don’t miss the park’s iconic Hole-in-the-Rock Formation, which offers stunning views of the city skyline.

Before hitting the trails, be sure to check the weather conditions and bring plenty of water and snacks. Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes and dress in layers to accommodate for temperature changes. Additionally, it’s important to stay on designated trails to protect the delicate desert ecosystem. With these tips in mind, you’ll be ready to explore the breathtaking hiking and trail running opportunities in Phoenix.


Biking - <a href="https://unsplash.com/photos/Ep7llSmzHmQ?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink">Photo Source</a>
Biking – Photo Source

Phoenix offers a variety of biking opportunities for riders of all skill levels, from leisurely rides through city parks to challenging mountain bike trails. Here are some of the best places to ride:

  1. Arizona Canal Trail: This scenic, paved trail runs for over 20 miles along the Arizona Canal, passing through several Phoenix neighborhoods and parks. The trail is mostly flat and is suitable for riders of all skill levels.
  2. Papago Park: In addition to hiking trails, Papago Park offers several bike paths that wind through the park’s unique rock formations and desert landscape. The park’s paved roads and paths are ideal for families and beginners.
  3. South Mountain Park: South Mountain Park also offers several bike trails that range from easy to difficult. The trails wind through the park’s scenic desert landscape and offer stunning views of the city.
  4. McDowell Mountain Regional Park: Located just east of Phoenix, McDowell Mountain Regional Park offers over 40 miles of mountain bike trails for riders of all skill levels. The trails wind through the park’s rugged terrain and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
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Before heading out on a bike ride, be sure to wear appropriate safety gear, such as a helmet and reflective clothing. Additionally, it’s important to follow traffic laws and bike on designated paths and roads. With these precautions in mind, you’ll be ready to explore the scenic biking opportunities in Phoenix.

Water Activities

Photo by Taryn Manning on Unsplash
Photo by Taryn Manning on Unsplash

Phoenix may be located in the middle of the desert, but there are still plenty of opportunities to cool off and enjoy the water. From fishing and kayaking to paddleboarding and jet skiing, there are many water activities to choose from.

One of the most popular spots for water activities in Phoenix is Tempe Town Lake. This man-made lake spans 220 acres and offers a variety of water sports, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and fishing. Visitors can rent equipment on-site or bring their own.

Another great spot for water activities is Lake Pleasant Regional Park, located just 35 miles north of Phoenix. This scenic lake spans over 10,000 acres and offers a variety of water sports, including boating, fishing, and water skiing. The park also has several hiking trails and camping sites for those who want to extend their stay.

For more relaxing water activity, consider visiting one of the many pools located throughout the city. The F.L. Bobby McFarland Memorial Pool and the Pecos Pool are just two examples of the many public pools available for a refreshing swim on a hot day.

No matter what your water activity preference may be, Phoenix has plenty of options to choose from. So grab your swimsuit and sunscreen, and get ready to make a splash in the desert heat.


Grayhawk Golf Club
Grayhawk Golf Club – Photo Source

Phoenix is home to some of the best golf courses in the world, making it a top destination for golf enthusiasts. With over 200 courses in the area, there’s no shortage of options for golfers of all skill levels.

One of the most popular golf courses in Phoenix is the TPC Scottsdale, which hosts the Waste Management Phoenix Open, one of the most attended events on the PGA Tour. The course is open to the public and offers stunning views of the McDowell Mountains.

Another popular golf course in Phoenix is the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club, which has two 18-hole courses designed by golf legends Bill Johnston and William P. Bell. The club also offers a state-of-the-art practice facility and a pro shop for all your golfing needs.

For those looking for a unique golfing experience, the Papago Golf Course is a must-visit. This course was designed by famous golf course architect William Francis Bell and features stunning views of the desert landscape and Camelback Mountain.

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Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, Phoenix has a golf course to suit your needs. So grab your clubs and hit the greens for an unforgettable golfing experience.

Bird Watching

Phoenix is home to a diverse array of bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers. With its mild climate and numerous parks and nature reserves, the city offers plenty of opportunities to spot some of the most beautiful and unique birds in the world.

One of the best places for bird watching in Phoenix is the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area. This 600-acre wetland area is home to over 200 species of birds, including Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Cinnamon Teals. Visitors can take a self-guided tour or join a guided tour led by experienced birders.

Another great spot for bird watching is the Desert Botanical Garden, which features over 140 acres of desert landscape and is home to several bird species, including Gambel’s Quails and Gila Woodpeckers. The garden also offers several bird watching tours led by knowledgeable guides.

For those interested in bird photography, the Gilbert Riparian Preserve is a must-visit. This 110-acre wetland area is home to over 200 species of birds, including Black-Crowned Night Herons and Common Moorhens. The preserve also has several bird blinds for photographers to capture the perfect shot.

Whether you’re an experienced birder or just starting out, Phoenix has plenty of bird watching opportunities to offer. So grab your binoculars and head out into the great outdoors to experience the beauty of these feathered creatures.

Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding - Photo Source
Horseback Riding – Photo Source

Exploring the beautiful Sonoran Desert on horseback is an experience like no other, and Phoenix offers plenty of opportunities for horseback riding enthusiasts. With its vast open spaces and scenic trails, the city is the perfect place to saddle up and explore the stunning natural beauty of the area.

One of the most popular horseback riding destinations in Phoenix is the Cave Creek Regional Park. The park offers several horse-friendly trails of varying difficulty levels, offering riders of all skill levels an opportunity to explore the stunning desert landscape on horseback.

For a more unique horseback riding experience, check out the Ponderosa Stables, which offers guided horseback riding tours of South Mountain Park. The park is the largest municipal park in the country, covering over 16,000 acres, and offers breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding landscape.

For those looking for a more intimate horseback riding experience, the MacDonald’s Ranch is a must-visit. This family-owned ranch offers guided horseback rides through the stunning desert landscape, as well as cowboy cookouts and other western-themed activities.

Whether you’re an experienced rider or just starting out, Phoenix has a horseback riding experience to suit your needs. So saddle up and get ready to explore the beauty of the Sonoran Desert on horseback.

Rock Climbing

Phoenix is a hub for outdoor adventurers, and rock climbing is one of the most thrilling and challenging activities the city has to offer. With its abundance of rocky terrain and challenging cliffs, the area offers a variety of options for both experienced and beginner climbers.

One of the most popular rock climbing destinations in Phoenix is Camelback Mountain. This iconic landmark offers several challenging routes for experienced climbers, as well as easier options for those just starting out. Climbers can take in the breathtaking views of the city from the summit, making it a must-visit spot for any rock climbing enthusiast.

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For a more unique rock climbing experience, check out the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. The preserve offers over 120 miles of trails and several challenging rock climbing routes, including the popular Sven Slab and Windgate Wall. The stunning desert landscape and breathtaking views make this preserve a must-visit destination for any rock climber.

For those just starting out or looking for guided instruction, the Phoenix Rock Gym is a great option. The gym offers indoor rock climbing and bouldering, as well as outdoor guided climbs in nearby areas such as McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Pinnacle Peak.

Whether you’re an experienced climber or just starting out, Phoenix offers a variety of rock climbing options to suit your needs. So grab your gear and get ready to climb some of the most challenging and stunning rock formations in the country.

Hunting and Fishing

Photo by Brady Rogers on Unsplash
Photo by Brady Rogers on Unsplash

Phoenix may be known for its bustling city life, but it’s also a haven for hunting and fishing enthusiasts. With its many lakes, rivers, and parks, the area offers a variety of options for those looking to cast a line or head out into the wilderness for some hunting.

One of the most popular fishing destinations in Phoenix is Lake Pleasant. The lake offers several species of fish, including bass, catfish, and trout, making it a great spot for both experienced and novice anglers. The lake is also surrounded by stunning desert landscapes and hiking trails, making it a great spot for a full day of outdoor activities.

For those looking to hunt, the Tonto National Forest offers a variety of options for both big and small game. The forest covers over 2.8 million acres and is home to several species of wildlife, including elk, deer, and javelina. Hunting permits and licenses are required, and it’s important to check with the forest service for specific regulations and restrictions.

For a more unique hunting and fishing experience, check out the Ben Avery Shooting Facility. The facility offers several shooting ranges and is also home to several fishing lakes stocked with trout, catfish, and bass.

Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or a beginner angler, Phoenix offers plenty of options for those looking to enjoy the great outdoors. So grab your gear and get ready to cast a line or head out into the wilderness for some hunting.


Phoenix truly offers an abundance of outdoor activities for visitors and residents alike. From hiking and biking to golfing and rock climbing, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city. And with its sunny weather and stunning natural landscapes, it’s no wonder that Phoenix is a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike with breathtaking views or a relaxing day of fishing on a quiet lake, Phoenix has it all. So pack your bags, grab your gear, and get ready to experience the best of what this city has to offer.

From the stunning desert landscapes to the lush green golf courses, Phoenix is a unique and exciting destination for outdoor enthusiasts. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner looking to try something new, there’s no better place to explore the great outdoors than in Phoenix.

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