Thankfully some friends were visiting the Arizona and wanted some suggestions. So I got all my thoughts written down and thought I’d get it out here as well! Warning: This is long and descriptive. Feel free to scroll down and read about the area you are visiting! Blessings to all! Phoenix is central to a lot of things but everything is very spread out. LA / San Diego areas are about 5-6 hours from PHX. Joshua Tree National Park in CA is about 4 hours from PHX. If you need any suggestions on this let me know! We mostly like to get outdoors so most of my knowledge is about hiking and viewpoints. If you need more suggestions on restaurants, I do know some great favorites around PHX/Scottsdale areas so let me know and I can share this too! If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out the ‘downtown’ strip in Gilbert. Very fun!
Near PHX area: Camelback Mountain Trails: Almost right in PHX (technically Scottsdale). Moderate to difficult hike. Depending on which trail you take, you are hiking 2 or 2 1/2 miles one way. Restroom at one of the trailheads. Right in the middle of town this hike is very accessible, but a lot of foot traffic. http://dayslikeneverbefore.blogspot.com/2014/01/camelback-mountain.html
Canyon Lake – About 50 min from PHX area. Viewpoints are incredible. There are a lot of picnic areas and boat docks. There is a large marina where you can purchase tickets for a day-cruise, or rent small boats or kayaks. So fun! The drive is very beautiful and windy.
Lost Dutchman Trail – About 35 min from PHX. Small fee for parking. Restrooms. Trail is easy to hard depending how far you go and which trail. Would be on your way to Canyon Lake above. http://dayslikeneverbefore.blogspot.com/2014/06/lost-dutchman.html
Lost Dutchman Ghost Town- Very fun for the kids! There are ice cream shops, $3 dollar museum to see snakes/spiders/etc. Cheap souvenir shops and fun photo ops. There are also “mining” rides on a mini train. On the way to Canyon Lake above. Make sure and try the “prickly pear ice cream” or Apple dumplings from the Saloon!
Saguaro Lake: About 45 min outside of PHX area. Bathrooms. Parking is free depending on what you are doing. You can just check out the views from the dock area and also take boat tours and see beautiful Four Peaks views!
Butcher Jones Trail (Part of the Saguaro Lake area): About 45 min outside of PHX area. Bathrooms.
IMPORTANT PARKING: You have to get your pass BEFORE you go (unless you are riding the fairy, free parking for this). Make sure you stop at the gas station off of Highway 87 and get a pass. They are about $6.00 and very picky if you don’t have one in your car! This hike is 4 miles round trip. You get to see some cool views of the lake that are just gorgeous. Easy to moderate hike. Kids love this one! Highly recommend. http://dayslikeneverbefore.blogspot.com/2015/04/easter-weekend.html
Payson, AZ — hour and a half from PHX area: There are no towns for about an hour until you hit Payson. Once in Payson there are a lot of fast food places/gas/etc. Tonto State Park Natural Bridge: 20 min outside of Payson. $10.00 for one car. Bathrooms. A BEAUTIFUL place! There are about 4 viewpoints and a 2 1/2 mile hike if you are feeling adventurous. Otherwise just take the .50 mile hike down to see. There is a waterfall and you can climb on the rocks (Most of the time. At times the water level is too high and you can only go to the view points). Love this park! http://dayslikeneverbefore.blogspot.com/2014/01/creation-of-love.html
Waterwheel Hike: about 15 min outside of Payson (on the way to Tonto above). Free Parking. No bathrooms. 4 mile round trip easy to moderate hike. A bunch of water falls and a FUN hike! When water levels are high you may get wet. Done it twice, one time I had to wade in water up to my stomach and the other time I didn’t even get wet at all! http://dayslikeneverbefore.blogspot.com/2016/04/roaches-wont-get-us-down.html
Horton Creek Trail: 6 miles roundtrip — easy to hard. Free parking. Bathrooms at the beginning. Very beautiful hike but only a few viewpoints of the creek even though you can hear it the whole time!
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The Mogollon Rim: 35 min outside of Payson. Gorgeous drive! Free Parking. You can hike “The Rim” which is mostly paved walkway and there are a bunch of viewpoints from the rim. Or you can just drive and stop at each viewpoint. Very gorgeous views! http://dayslikeneverbefore.blogspot.com/2015/07/7-fourth.html
Painted Desert: 3 1/2 hours from PHX area… Another 2 hours past Payson. You’d drive through Mogollon Rim, but once you get past that, there’s not much to see or do until you get to the Painted Desert. Check out their info here: https://www.nps.gov/pefo/index.htm
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Lets take another highway!