10 Best Outdoor Activities in Phoenix: Exploring the City's Great Oudoors

Phoenix offers many outdoor escapes, including the Camelback Mountain Echo Canyon Recreation Area, a local landmark and hiking destination. There are two primary trails, the Echo Canyon Trail and the Cholla Trail, with the former being more challenging. Both trails offer spectacular city and desert views, however. 

For an urban escape, head to Tempe Beach Park and Town Lake in downtown Tempe. Whether you're looking for a picnic spot, a nice place to go on an urban bike ride, or a place for a paddle-boating adventure, head to this sprawling city park. 

Another popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts is South Mountain Park, which is the largest municipal park in the United States, and one of the largest urban parks in North America. Don't let the word "urban" throw you off, though. The park is a genuine escape from the concrete and freeways of the city, while still remaining thoroughly accessible. There are 51 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking for all ability levels, as well as scenic roads full of steep curves and sweeping views. 

In the northwest Valley, Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a haven for lovers of the outdoors, offering covered picnic areas, boating, swimming, hiking and fishing. There is a marina available for boat rentals, and a restaurant and bar overlooking the water. 



The Japanese Friendship Garden (Ro Ho En, in Japanese) is a traditional Japanese strolling garden and tea house. The garden is tucked away on 3.5-acres in downtown Phoenix. The garden features stone footbridges, hand-picked rocks, traditional...  Read More



Less than an hour's drive east of Phoenix, this refreshing lake is a favorite with locals. An oasis in the desert, it's a great place to cruise, ski, sail, swim or picnic. An onsite restaurant serves up food when you're hungry, and camping areas...  Read More



McDowell Mountain Regional Park, part of the Maricopa County parks system, offers spectacular views of the Sonoran Desert. The park is tucked away in the lower Verde River basin and features more than 21,000 acres of pristine desert to enjoy in...  Read More

Usery Mountain Regional Park


Easily accessible from Mesa, this 3400-acre urban park is quite popular with outdoor enthusiasts, who enjoy everything from bicycling and hiking to archery and camping. There are 29 miles of trails of varying distances (from about 0.2 to 7.1...  Read More



Lake Pleasant Regional Park is tucked away in the far northwest valley. The park, which is part of the Maricopa County parks system, is a dream for recreation lovers. The park offers numerous outdoor activities, including boating, fishing,...  Read More



This desert park, dotted with red rock and weather-sculpted buttes, is located near the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Gardens on the border between Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale. A network of trails runs through the grounds, and fishing...  Read More



The Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, located in north Phoenix at the side of Piestewa Peak, is a scenic city park with hiking trails and picnic areas. This is the place to go to get away from city traffic, without having to leave the city. The...  Read More



A maze of well-maintained hiking trails crisscrosses one of the largest municipal parks in the world. For a spectacular view, drive to Dobbins Lookout Point and gaze at the city from 1200 feet. Then, trek to Happy Valley via a trail through...  Read More

Tempe Beach Park and Town Lake


A reclamation of the waters of the Salt River, this manmade lake was officially opened in November, 1999. The two-mile long body of water is confined by means of inflatable rubber dams and offers plenty of opportunities for recreation in the...  Read More



One of the most popular hiking trails in the valley is the Echo Canyon trail at Camelback Mountain. The Echo Canyon Recreation Area is made up of layered sandstone and comprises the "head" of Camelback Mountain. Prepare to catch of glimpse at...  Read More


Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.

She received her MFA in Creative...  More About Patricia