Best Parks in Scottsdale

10 Best Scottsdale Parks: Explore the City's Open Spaces

Scottsdale is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, and the city's roster of well-maintained parks and recreation destinations is more than impressive.

One of the city's biggest municipal parks is Chaparral Park and Community Center, boasting 100 acres of open space. This popular neighborhood park features a 10 acre lake, perfect for boating and fishing in the desert.

For families, nothing beats the history and adventure of McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, located north of Scottsdale's busy city center. Kids and their parents will delight in the traditional carousel, train exhibitions and museum, gift shop and ice cream counter, and of course, the one-mile train ride around the park.

If your visit to Scottsdale coincides with the blazing heat of summer, head to one of the region's popular public aquatic centers. For sheer excitement and amenities, nothing beats  McDowell Mountain Ranch Park and Aquatic Center. This megapark features an eight lane lap pool, 600-foot lazy river, and a large tube water slide. Interactive water features keep the kiddies entertained, while a comfortable veranda provides great views of the pool.

For a true taste of natural Southwestern beauty, head to Pinnacle Peak Park, an iconic 150 acre desert sanctuary that offers stunning views of the Valley.


This specialty park is a mega oasis for Scottsdale residents and visitors, featuring 35 acres of recreational amenities. The park is home to an aquatic center, skate park, soccer fields, ball fields, and even a 600-foot lazy river. McDowell Mountain Ranch Park and Aquatic Center is also home to one of the Valley's best public lap pools, featuring eight lanes and four diving boards. The aquatic center features a large tube water slide, lazy river, water play features (including an interactive spray pad), and a zero-depth entry into a large play pool. Beyond the aquatic center, McDowell Mountain Ranch Park features large grassy sections with shaded picnic areas, veranda seating with a view of the pool, and even a party island at the lazy river, perfect for birthday parties.

Recommended for Parks because: The McDowell Mountain Ranch Park and Aquatic Center provides a modern, family-friendly place to cool down during the hot Scottsdale summers.

Patricia's expert tip: Don't miss the public art created for the park by acclaimed artist Norie Sato.

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When you want an up-close experience with the majestic beauty of the desert, head to Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale. Pinnacle Peak is one of the Valley's most iconic natural landmarks and a popular destination for local hikers and visitors. The 150 acre park is rated as a moderate hike by The Sierra Club, with an approximate elevation gain of 1,300 feet. Hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts of all activity levels can enjoy the 1.75 mile trail, which features smooth tread. If you can make it to the trail summit, you will be rewarded by stunning views of the Valley. Experienced rock climbers with the appropriate gear can enjoy climbing in three designated ares of the park. Other park amenities include four picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking fountains.

Recommended for Parks because: Pinnacle Peak Park is one of Scottsdale's most challenging but beautiful hiking destinations.

Patricia's expert tip: Stay safe! Rattlesnakes, bobcats, and gila monsters have all been spotted here.

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George "Doc" Cavalliere Park is an award-winning nature lover's oasis in Scottsdale. The 34 acre park features a shaded playground, two lighted full basketball courts, picnic areas, two drop-in ramadas, and a one-mile looping hiking trail. This is a popular destination for spring wildflower viewing. The park has a designated wildflower viewing area and desert-inspired design that seeks to preserve and celebrate the natural desert ecosystem. The park has earned acclaim for preserving open spaces and minimizing site disturbances while still maintaining traditional park amenities. The artificial open turf area is another popular feature. The park also offers great wildflower viewing areas.

Recommended for Parks because: Cavalliere Park blends urban and desert park amenities, with plenty of recreation and hiking trail options.

Patricia's expert tip: With designated wildflower viewing areas, Cavalliere Park makes a great springtime destination for nature-lovers.

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Vistal del Camino Park and Recreational Center offers 71 acres of recreational space in the heart of Scottsdale. The park features two lakes, a sand volleyball court, full basketball court, two playgrounds, three softball fields, horse shoes, and a spray pad to keep cool during the summer. The off leash area is the perfect place to spend an afternoon with your pet, and the park is also home to a popular frisbee disc golf area. The park also has a reservable meeting room and kitchen for local groups and events. Whether you're looking for a place to unwind or be active, Vista del Camino is a welcome oasis in the city.

Recommended for Parks because: Vista del Camino is connected to Scottsdale's urban greenbelt and offers visitors lakeside walking trails, a disc golf course and some wildlife sightings.

Patricia's expert tip: Fishing and boating are permitted--and quite popular--at the park's two lakes.

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Walking, running, biking and rollerblading are the activities of choice at Chaparral Park and Community Center, one of Scottsdale's largest and most popular community parks. The 100 acre park features a range of recreational opportunities and amenities. The heart of the park is the 10 acre lake for boating and fishing, complete with wheelchair accessible fishing pier. There is an off-leash area where you let your favorite four-legged friend explore, as well as a playground and swimming pool with diving area. This is a popular destination for local organized sports teams, with six lighted ballfields, three lighted soccer fields, a full basketball court, two grass volleyball courts, and a multi-use court. If you're trying to get in shape, Chaparral offers a ten-station exercise course. A community center with one classroom hosts classes and meetings. As a part of the greenbelt, Chaparral shares a recreation path system that is ideal for running, walking, biking, and rollerblading.

Recommended for Parks because: Chaparral Park is one of the biggest and most popular of Scottdale's urban parks, offering access to the rest of the city's urban greenbelt.

Patricia's expert tip: Chaparral Park is connected to the Scottsdale greenbelt, the city's popular recreation path system.

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El Dorado Park is one of the biggest municipal parks in Scottsdale, featuring 60 acres of green space and two lakes. This is a popular weekend destination, with four reservable ramadas, seven drop-in ramadas, three reservable picnic areas, and two drop-in picnic areas. There are two playgrounds for the kids, three lighted softball fields, a soccer field, full basketball court, and lighted sand volleyball court. The swimming pool is a popular destination point during the summer, and the 5K course is the perfect place to train or simply enjoy a run. El Dorado Park is also home to the popular Wedge Skate Park, and there is a community center on site with a reservable meeting room.

Recommended for Parks because: El Dorado Park is an urban oasis with fishing, recreation and even a skate park.

Patricia's expert tip: Fishing is offered at El Dorado Park as part of the city's urban fishing program.

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Scottsdale Sports Complex is a jock's paradise. But thankfully, you don't have to be a seasoned athlete to enjoy this public sport field complex. The 71-acre facility offers state of the art amenities to the public, all designed to offer tournament level playing conditions. Scottsdale Sports Complex attracts both national and regional tournament play and offers the public a quality facility for training and competition. The complex is home to 10 fields, including four international-sized field with lights, two international-sized fields with no lights, and four regulation-sized fields with no lights. The Scottsdale Sports Complex accommodates almost all flat field sports, including football, lacrosse, soccer, and rugby. Reservations are required for organized play. Other amenities include lighted basketball courts, a shaded play area, paths, open green space, and restrooms.

Recommended for Parks because: The Scottsdale Sports Complex is the city's most popular park for recreation and sports.

Patricia's expert tip: Don't forget to check out the sculpture garden!

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McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a train-lover's haven located in the heart of Scottsdale, Arizona. The park offers train and carousel rides for all ages, open green space for family picnics, historic Arizona railroad artifacts, model railroad displays in a new 10,000 square foot building, a train museum, and popular events throughout the year. Hartley's General Store offers hand dipped ice cream, food and drinks, and Thomas the Tank toys, while Snackstop offers a variety of snack food and drinks. Whether you're looking for a perfect picnic destination or simply take the kids on a one-mile train ride around the park, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a great family-friendly attraction located just north of the city center.

Recommended for Parks because: McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a family-friendly urban oasis featuring train rides, playground equipment and even a train museum.

Patricia's expert tip: Don't miss the two playgrounds at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, voted some of the best in the Valley of the Sun.

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The McDowell Sonoran Preserve protects more than 30,000 acres of pristine desert in north Scottsdale. This is a hiker's paradise, with more than 115 miles of trails, including more than 60 miles of shared-use trails. Trailhead gates are open from sunrise to sunset. There's no charge for parking or access. Start your desert adventure at The Gateway, the central trailhead that offers access to most of the preserve's popular trails. To get started, try the Bajada Nature Trail, which includes intepretive exhibits and is also ADA accessible. During the months of October, November, January, February, and March, the preserve offers Family Fridays Sunset Series programs.

Recommended for Parks because: The McDowell Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the best places in Scottsdale to explore the open desert.

Patricia's expert tip: Trails are dog-friendly, so bring along your favorite four-legged friend. Dogs must be a on a leash.

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Scottsdale Civic Center Mall features almost three acres of pristine open public space. The park is located in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, running eastward from Brown Avenue to 75th Street, and then southward from 1st Avenue to 2nd Street. Locals and Scottsdale visitors stroll through this area to enjoy the gardens and easy access to a host of downtown amenities, including shops, restaurants, clubs, and museums. The Scottsdale Convention & Visitor's Bureau, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, City Hall, One Civic Center, Civic Center library and Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts are all within the vicinity. This popular downtown mall features an outdoor public amphitheater and small lagoon with swans.

Recommended for Parks because: The Civic Center Mall in Scottsdale is a pedestrian-friendly urban oasis filled with gorgeous statuary and excellent people-watching.

Patricia's expert tip: Don't forget to snap your picture beside the popular and iconic LOVE sculpture.

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Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega works as a writer and editor in Phoenix.