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5 outdoor things to do in Phoenix

things to do in Phoenix desert sunset

One of my favorite things to do in Phoenix? A desert sunset

Is Phoenix just a winter oasis?  With the desert heat of summer, Phoenix can be a brutal outside.  However, this area offers a number of outdoor activities that you can enjoy most of the year.

After spending a week in Phoenix during the winter, I spent most of my time outdoors.  While I’m not a local expert, here are a few of my favorite outdoor experiences which will give you a different perspective on life and beauty in the desert.

5 outdoor things to do in Phoenix

Whether you are on a golf course, a mountain, or a trail, there is more to this area than just cactus and red dirt.  If you’ve never appreciated the beauty of the desert, watch the sunset from a rock or see a 360 degree view of Phoenix and beyond from the top of a mountain.

Enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise as you experience a different side of Phoenix.

Play a round of golf

Hitting the links may not be an activity everyone would enjoy but the views are pretty nice.  I drove the cart, took lots of photos, and looked like a golfer as I butchered the course at Troon North.  If I had more time, I would have also played the TPC Scottsdale – home to the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open.

While these courses offer desert scenery, they are a bit pricey.  However, Phoenix has a number of public and municipal golf courses where you can hit a few balls and still enjoy the views (especially if you get to wander a bit looking for your ball).  Just be aware of rattlesnakes (and golfers like me- FORE!!).

Jeremy Branham Troon North Golf Course

Finishing up a round of golf at Troon North

things to do in Phoenix golf Troon North

My golf game wasn’t on par with the views

Become one with the desert

OK, so maybe you don’t want to be a cactus baking in the desert sun.  However, you can learn about the geography, climate, and life in the desert at Desert Botanical Gardens.  Get up close and personal with the Sonoran Desert as you walk through the numerous trails and gardens, enjoy the views, and discover what desert life is really like for people, plants, and animals.

things to do in Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden

A walk in the Desert Botanical Garden

Take a hike

If you want to really understand the landscape in Phoenix and the surrounding area, go for a hike.  I hiked Camelback Mountain to the top.  Read more about my journey and see the photos to understand why the views were worth it.  You will see a side of the desert, the city, and the region you cannot see from the ground.  The desert really is beautiful.

If Camelback Mountain is too crowded, hike South Mountain to get many of the same views just a short drive outside of the city.

For a different perspective on winter hiking, check out these photos from Yosemite in Winter.

things to do in Phoenix Camelback Mountain

Views from the top of Camelback Mountain

Take me out to the ballgame

If you’re visiting Phoenix in the Spring, enjoy a little Spring Training baseball.  After playing a round of golf, learning about desert life, and hiking to the top of a mountain, it’s time to grab some peanuts, crackerjacks, and a beverage while enjoying the sunshine and our national past time.

Baseball is different out here and you can watch the Oakland A’s, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or 12 other MLB teams right here in the desert.  Our national pastime takes on a different look and feel in the Arizona sunshine.

If you miss out on Spring Training, the Arizona Diamondbacks play baseball all summer long downtown at Chase Field.  Enjoy a bit of cool relief in the hot summer sun with the roof closed in a beautiful baseball stadium that even has a pool in the outfield.

If you love baseball stadiums, check out my Coors Field Stadium Tour – possibly the fan-friendliest baseball stadium in the country!

things to do in Phoenix Spring Training Oakland A's

Oakland A’s Spring Training ballpark

Enjoy the sunset

Cap off your visit to Phoenix with a different sort of view.  As the sun sets, take the easy short climb to the top of Hole-in-the-Rock in Papago Park near Desert Botanical Gardens.  Grab your seat on the rock and watch the sun set over the city.  You’ll see the desert in a different light.

things to do in Phoenix Hole in the Rock sunset

A desert sunset from a hole in the rock

The beauty of the desert

For many people, the desert may be a hot, dusty dry place suitable for a cactus and a rattlesnake.  However, experiencing the many outdoor opportunities that Phoenix will give you a greater appreciation for life.  You can find beauty in the red rocks and rugged landscape.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, these suggestions of things to do in Phoenix will give you a new perspective on desert life.

Have you visited the desert?  What are your tips for sightseeing in hot, dry places?  What are your recommendations for things to do in Phoenix?

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Filed Under: DestinationsUSA


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  1. I’d love to hike Camelback and see the Desert Botanical Gardens but I could look at that sunset all day. Those are some fabulous shots, Jeremy!

    • Thanks Marcia. I just happened to discover Hole in the Rock while I was over there by Desert Botanical Gardens. Very easy hike to the top and wasn’t that crowded. I sat up there for an hour just watching the sun. That isn’t the best view of the sunset but I liked that angle.

  2. I didn’t have much time in Phoenix, but the sunset a little to the south, in Tucson, was gorgeous. I was there in the fall and it was very hot – can’t imagine being there in summer. Something else to do in winter in southern Arizona – if you’re lucky – is to catch a little bit of snow. The Tucson photos I saw from this past February made me wish I was back there.

    • Summer is not a great time to be outdoors in Phoenix. However, the rest of the year it is nice. I can deal with 100 degrees and lower. Since I live in California, I get those days here as well.

      I haven’t spent any time in Tucson but would love to visit one day. Arizona gets LOTS of snow in the Flagstaff and Grand Canyon areas. If you ever get a chance to visit then, go. There is some good skiing up there as well.

  3. I spent a couple of days in Phoenix in between the Grand Canyon and Zion. I spent part of one day at the Desert Botanical Gardens. I really enjoyed it.

    • This was my fourth trip to Phoenix. However, I had never spent more than one or two days here before this trip. It was nice to be able to explore the city and the things it had to offer. Was even nicer to do it during the winter when it wasn’t so hot. I spent half a day at Desert Botanical Gardens. Nice walk and learned a bit about the desert.

  4. S.S. says:

    If you really want to enjoy some of the best desert views around Phoenix, next time you should go for a hike to the Hyrogliphics Canyon Trail in the Superstition Mountain – the views are spectacular:)

    • Thanks for the suggestions! I wish I had more time to hike in the area. Unfortunately, Camelback was the only hiking I could do. I read about Supersition Mountain but hadn’t heard about Hyrogliphics Canyon Trail. Next time I am in Phoenix, I will check these out!

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