The Hot Sheet | The blog about what to do and where to go in Phoenix, AZ The blog about what to do and where to go in Phoenix, AZ

7Feb/142

Unexpected Phoenix Attractions

Tovrea Castle

Tovrea Castle Photo courtesy of PBS Eight

Who knew you could find water sports, bats, a castle, a Japanese garden and more in the greater Phoenix area? Check out these unexpected attractions that just may surprise you.

Tovrea Castle

Perched atop a cactus-covered hill in east-central Phoenix, Tovrea (pronounced TOE-vree) Castle at Carraro Heights has intrigued generations of Valley residents. The castle and surrounding cactus garden have recently been restored and are currently open for tours.

Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area and Rio Salado Audubon Center

The Rio Salado Audubon Center is a nature center in the heart of the City of Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, a 600-acre park along the Salt River. Located less than two miles from downtown Phoenix, this unexpected Phoenix attraction is a gateway to a lush riparian habitat used by more than 200 species of birds. Other wildlife you might spot on a visit to the restoration area includes beavers, muskrats, coyotes, jackrabbits, cottontails and javelinas.

Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden

The Japanese Friendship Garden—Ro Ho En—features more than 1,500 tons of handpicked rock, more than 50 varieties of plants, flowing streams, a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond. The garden is the product and shared cultural vision of the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji, Japan. This unexpected Phoenix attraction is a great way to spend a sunny day.

Phoenix Bat Cave

Did you know Phoenix has a great urban bat-watching spot? Each summer several thousand Mexican free-tailed bats and western pipistrelle bats use the Maricopa County Flood Control Tunnel near 40th Street and Camelback Road as a day roost.

Papago Park

Papago Park

Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park

Enjoy the beautiful sandstone buttes that define Papago Park and climb to the park’s most popular spot, Hole-in-the-Rock, to enjoy sweeping views of Phoenix.

Watersports on Lake Pleasant

Located about 45 minutes northwest of downtown Phoenix, Lake Pleasant is always bustling with water sports and outdoor enthusiasts. The 10,000-acre lake is enjoyed by windsurfers, boaters, sailors, jet skiers and fisherman.

The Hall of Flame

The Hall of Flame Fire Museum has almost an acre of fire history exhibits with more than 90 fully restored pieces of fire apparatus on display dating from 1725 to 1969. The Hall of Flame sponsors the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, which honors firefighters who have died in the line of duty or have been decorated for heroism.

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12Nov/132

Outdoors in Phoenix with Arizona Outback Adventures: Chris

Greater Phoenix is an outdoor adventurer's dream. We have year-round sunshine and blue skies, a seemingly endless array of mountain trails, desert terrain adorned with iconic saguaro cactuses, and six lakes and a flowing river within a 75-minute drive of the city. With all these options, where does someone start their exploration?

The guides at Arizona Outback Adventures are here to help. Over the coming weeks we'll be featuring tips from AOA guides about everything from paddling to hiking to mountain biking in Phoenix and the surrounding region. They'll show us where to go, what to do, and maybe divulge a few of their insider secrets, too.

This week we feature Chris Jolley, an expert outdoor guide with over 20 years of experience. Chris is now an independent business owner in the Phoenix area, but he still makes time to guide with AOA as much as his schedule allows. Chris has worked as a river rafting guide for many years on some of the most famous waterways in the West. He has worked as a hiking, backpacking and biking guide across Arizona and is an avid hiker in the Phoenix area in his free time.

Chris Jolley on the Flat Iron/Siphon Draw Trail

Chris Jolley on Flat Iron in the Superstition Mountains

What's the best way to explore the desert around Phoenix?
It varies by season, but from about October through April I’d say hiking the Superstition Mountains – Flat Iron and Siphon Draw Trail – or mountain biking out at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

What's the best family-friendly outdoor adventure in Phoenix?
Again, it depends on the season. In summer, I think the best way to spend a day is kayaking the Salt River in the morning, enjoying a resort in the afternoon by playing in the pool or lazy river - then hitting up a Diamondbacks game that night. In the spring, enjoy a sunrise hike up Camelback Mountain, a spring training game in the afternoon, and end the day with happy hour at Los Sombreros for some margaritas and Mexican food.

What's one spot around Phoenix that’s a good representation of the Sonoran Desert?
Hiking the Superstition Mountains or rafting on the lower Salt River. Depending on the time of year, there is the opportunity to really see a little bit of everything. Rafting is the best way to see the desert - especially in the summer -  because so many plants and animals live right at the water’s edge.

Just get out and explore. The desert is not dangerous. Be smart and pick an activity where you can keep cool. There’s so much to see, just get out there and do it!

Siphon Draw Trail in the Superstition Mountains

Siphon Draw Trail in the Superstition Mountains (Photo credit: hikearizona.com)

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5Nov/130

Outdoors in Phoenix with Arizona Outback Adventures: Megan

Greater Phoenix is an outdoor adventurer's dream. We have year-round sunshine and blue skies, a seemingly endless array of mountain trails, desert terrain adorned with iconic saguaro cactuses, and six lakes and a flowing river within a 75-minute drive of the city. With all these options, where does someone start their exploration? 

The guides at Arizona Outback Adventures are here to help. Over the coming weeks we'll be featuring tips from AOA guides about everything from paddling to hiking to mountain biking in Phoenix and the surrounding region. They'll show us where to go, what to do, and maybe divulge a few of their insider secrets, too.

This week we feature Megan Anderson. Megan is a native to the Phoenix area and has been exploring the Sonoran Desert her whole life. She's been working as an outdoor guide for 10 years.

Megan Anderson, while guiding a trip through the Grand Canyon

Megan Anderson, while guiding a trip through the Grand Canyon

What's the best way to explore the desert around Phoenix?
Hiking, of course. It’s the classic, never-fail way to see all the Sonoran has to offer. You can enjoy this sport basically anywhere and it slows you down so your experience is enhanced by things like blooming flowers, cloud formations and wildlife encounters.

What's a good family-friendly adventure in Phoenix?
Rafting and kayaking trips on the Lower Salt River are super fun and enjoyable for everyone. There are some great indoor adventures around too, though – rock climbing at AZ on the Rocks or the Phoenix Rock Gym, or trampoline gyms like SkyPark and AZ Air Time are my favorites!

Rafting on the Salt River

Rafting on the Salt River

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31Oct/130

Video: Outdoor Recreation in Phoenix

Take a moment to enjoy this tour through a few of the many beautiful areas to enjoy outdoor recreation in Phoenix:

View on YouTube.

Featured in this video are Desert Dog Hummer Adventures, Phoenix Mountains Recreation Area/Piestewa Peak, The Phoenician Golf Club, South Mountain Park and Rainbow Ryders.

More about outdoor recreation in Phoenix

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29Oct/130

Outdoors in Phoenix with Arizona Outback Adventures: Maryanne

Greater Phoenix is an outdoor adventurer's dream. We have year-round sunshine and blue skies, a seemingly endless array of mountain trails, desert terrain adorned with iconic saguaro cactuses, and six lakes and a flowing river within a 75-minute drive of the city. With all these options, where does someone start their exploration? 

The guides at Arizona Outback Adventures are here to help. Over the coming weeks we'll be featuring tips from AOA guides about everything from paddling to hiking to mountain biking in Phoenix and the surrounding region. They'll show us where to go, what to do, and maybe divulge a few of their insider secrets, too. 

This week we feature Maryanne Heald, an EMT-certified guide who’s been here in Phoenix for five years. Maryanne is originally from the Pacific Northwest and spent time backpacking, hiking, and rock climbing across the United States before settling in Phoenix to work as an outdoor guide. Maryanne is an avid mountain biker, road cyclist, and hiker who, even when she's not on the clock as a guide, is probably outdoors anyway just enjoying all the desert has to offer.

Maryanne Heald

Maryanne Heald

Where is the one spot around Phoenix that you think is a good representation of the Sonoran Desert?
The Cave Creek Regional Park. It is a beautiful place to hike, mountain bike or horseback ride and it always feels like you have the trails to yourself. The Saguaro cactus grow so thick there it’s like a cactus forest. Depending on which trail you’re on, there are views in every direction. It’s also a popular site for hot air balloon tours.

What's the best way to explore the desert around Phoenix?

One of my favorite ways to explore is on foot because I like to look for interesting plants and animals. Hiking allows you to notice things you might miss otherwise and I am always trying to spot cool lizards, tortoises, and snakes. I love riding my bike, though, whether on the road or mountain biking the great trails around Phoenix.

What's your favorite trail near Phoenix?
There are so many trails around Phoenix that lead to amazing views, but my favorite is the Sunrise trail on the south side of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. It really is unbeatable if you go early enough to see the sun come up behind Four Peaks.

The view of Four Peaks from the Sunrise trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The view of Four Peaks from the Sunrise trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve

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23Apr/131

Hiking in Phoenix

Hiking in Phoenix

You've probably heard of Camelback Mountain, but there are plenty of other trails in Greater Phoenix that are perfect for any outdoor enthusiast. Here's a list of a few of our staff members' favorite hiking trails in the metro area.

Nature Trail at Piestawa Peak

Don't mistake this hike for a nature stroll. Even though it's located in the middle of the city, it can be a little rugged. This is a great hike for learning about the desert, thanks to the informational plaques placed along the trail.

The trailhead is located at the Apache picnic area at the end of the entrance road in Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area. Paved parking, drinking water and restrooms are available. This hike is about 1.5 miles.

Fat Man's Pass

Located within the 17,000 acres of desert in South Mountain Park, Fat Man's Pass is a great hike for families. This trail gets its name from the 20-foot-long passage between smooth granite boulders that are only a foot apart in some places. (Claustrophobes, don't worry: You can go around the boulders if you want.)

This hike begins at the Buena Vista Lookout, which is approximately 6.5 miles from the park entrance. Follow road signs along Summit Road to the "Buena Vista/Hidden Valley Lookout". The parking area for this trailhead has limited spaces and is usually full during peak seasons. The trail, which is initially paved, provides direct access to the National Trail. At that junction, head east on the National Trail. You'll reach Fat Man's Pass in about 1.8 miles.

Sunrise Trail at McDowell Mountains

When you reach the high point of this hike, you'll likely forget that you're on the edge of the sixth-largest city in the U.S. The Sunrise Trail is located McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a 21,400-acre desert jewel in the northeast Valley. This isn't an easy hike, but it pays off in the end with sweeping views of the desert floor.

The Sunrise Access Area is located at 144th Street and Via Linda. There is an upper parking lot and a lower parking lot. The one-way trek to Sunrise Peak is a little less than 2 miles; from there you can turn around or hike another 3 miles or so to Lost Dog Overlook.

Coach Whip to Sunrise Pass

This dog-friendly hike is located within Thunderbird Conservation Park, a 1,185-acre park in the Hedgepeth Hills. From the top you'll look down on homes and golf courses with views of mountains to the north. This is also a great trail to run.

This trail originates at the 67th Avenue parking lot at Patrick Lane and intersects with the Sunrise Trail on the west side of the park. The distance varies from 2 to 5 miles depending on your return route; there are several options for looping back to the trailhead.

Hieroglyphics Trail in the Superstitions

This is easy hike to ancient petroglyphs that resemble Egyptian hieroglyphics. Start at the Hieroglyphic Canyon Trailhead in the southwest corner of the Superstition Wilderness Area. You'll soon reach a spring where clear water pools in the rocks. In the stone cliffs next to these pools are several petroglyphs carved by the Hohokam.

To reach the Hieroglyphic Canyon Trailhead, take U.S. 60 to Kings Ranch Road, between mile markers 202 and 203, and turn north. Proceed 2.8 miles, then turn east on Baseline Road. This round-trip hike is about 2 miles.

For these trails and more consult our Phoenix hiking map, and to arrange a guided hike check out these outfitters and tour companies.

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