Lovers of the great outdoors typically thrive in Arizona’s diverse microclimates. In a state filled with national and regional parks that attract tourists from all over the world, it’s no surprise that the city of Phoenix is also surrounded by some pretty great park options. From city parks to mountain peaks, all are easily accessible and provide some much needed outdoors time—that is, when the summer heat has disappeared.
Looking for great outdoor recreation just minutes from downtown and the airport? Take a hike around the red butte formations in Papago Park, including the iconic Hole-in-the-Rock; cast a line in seven acres of stocked fishing lagoons; enjoy a round at Papago Golf Course. The park offers exceptional hiking and a wide array of recreational facilities. It’s also home to two of the regions most visited attractions, the Phoenix Zoo, and the stunning Desert Botanical Garden.
Located just a few blocks from Phoenix’s busy central corridor, this park serves as an oasis. Featuring picnic areas, a lagoon, boat house, swimming pool, nature trail, urban fishing and two golf courses, there’s pretty much something for everyone here. The municipal golf courses offer modest fees and are busy all year long. The lagoon offers paddle-boats and canoes as well as fishing and an opportunity to observe ducks and other waterfowl. The facility also features a softball diamond, and basketball and tennis courts, and is home to a host of rides for children ages 2 to 10 at Enchanted Island Amusement Park.
Tempe Beach Park
A historical central park for Tempe since the 1920’s, this 25-acre park plays host to 5K and 10K runs, music festivals and community festivals throughout the year. The park features a splash playground for kids, hiking and biking paths, volleyball courts, and water recreation activities on Tempe Town Lake including kayak, stand-up paddle board, and boat rentals.
Civic Space Park
Civic Space Park offers residents, workers, ASU students and downtown visitors a park with unique urban design, sustainable construction and operational features and a landmark public sculpture by artist Janet Echelman. It’s also home to the A.E. England Building Gallery; a local art space named for the business formerly housed there, which offers space for meetings, presentations, art events and classes.
Pinnacle Peak Park
Pinnacle Peak Park features a moderate out-and-back trail with a total distance of 3.5 miles through 150-acres of pristine Sonoran Desert environment. It makes for an easy morning or early evening hike, when the sun is at its least bright. The highest point on the peak is 2,889 feet. The park also features rock climbing routes, picnic tables, an informative trailhead office and interpretive displays along the trails.
South Mountain Park and Preserve
With over 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the country. Folks coming to the preserve can begin their visit at the South Mountain Environmental Education Center. The park also offers 51 miles of trails for hiking and biking. Epic views are guaranteed at the top of the mountain at Dobbins Lookout (2,330 feet). It’s the highest point in the park available to the public and can be accessed by both hiking trail and by Summit Road. The lookout is popular with tourists as it provides an unobstructed panoramic view of the valley.
Estrella Mountain Regional Park
Located southwest of Phoenix, Estrella Mountain Regional Park boasts 20,000 acres of pristine desert, mountains and even a large wetland. Amenities are available to visitors, including baseball fields, the only grass picnic area (65-acres) in the Maricopa County Park System, a golf course, fishing from the Gila River, and over 33 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Short hikes include the 2.4-mile Baseline Trail and all day hikes include the Pedersen Trail which encompasses 8.7 miles.
North Mountain Park
At 2,104 feet and 2,149 feet in elevation, respectively, North Mountain and Shaw Butte are landmark Phoenix peaks in their own right. This area offers summit climbs and an array of trails of all levels of difficulty. Additionally, the North Mountain Visitor Center gives guests an up-close and personal tour of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve and the plants and animals that make up the area surrounding the center.
Steele Indian School Park
The American Indian Veterans Memorial Organization honors American Indian veterans and has established Steele Indian School Park as a location to pay tribute these great American Indian heroes, making it the premiere special event park in central Phoenix. It features acres of green grass, mature shade trees and a historic setting. The performance/stage area of the outdoor amphitheater is 60 feet in diameter and is large enough for a full symphony orchestra. There is a waterfall on the north side of the amphitheater, which is directly off of the 2.5-acre bird shaped lake.
White Tank Mountain Regional Park
With nearly 30,000 acres, White Tank Mountain Regional Park is the largest regional park in Maricopa County. The majority of the park is made up of the rugged and majestic White Tank Mountains, a range deeply serrated with ridges and canyons that rises sharply from its base to the peak at over 4,000 feet. The park is located to the west of Phoenix and offers approximately 25 miles of excellent shared-use trails, including the popular and short Waterfall Trail and more strenuous Ford Canyon/Mesquite Canyon Trail Loop.
San Tan Mountain Regional Park
Made up of more than 10,000 acres, this regional park, located just southeast of Phoenix is a stunning example of what the Sonoran Desert can offer. The trails within the San Tan Mountain Regional Park are very popular because they offer a unique perspective of wonderful wildlife, plant-life and scenic mountain views. Trails are open for horseback riders, biking and hiking. For those looking for easier trails, the Moonlight Trail is a great choice as it provides a scenic and rather mild hike for everyone to enjoy. If you are looking for a longer more difficult hike, try the 5.1-mile San Tan Trail. This trail winds you through the Broken Lands and Central Valley portions of the park to the top of the Goldmine Mountains.