Located close to the city of Scottsdale, the Camelback Mountain watches over Phoenix, Arizona's sweeping semi-arid plains from a spectacular elevation of nearly 1,400 feet (426.72 meters). The mountain gets its name from the resemblance it bears to the unmistakable shape of a camel's hump. The north trailhead offers views of red cliffs rising 200 feet (61 meters) in some areas, beckoning rock climbers with its challenges. Antelope squirrels, lizards, and snakes are the landscape's most widely-spread inhabitants. The Praying Monk red sandstone formation is arguably the site's most noticeable sight.
The Desert Botanical Garden was opened in 1939 to preserve the area's pristine desert environment. Today, the garden helps save endangered plants, with the focus still on native flora and special emphasis on succulents. The cactus collection is world-renowned and between the months of March through May, the seasonal blooms are spectacular. The garden hosts several events throughout the year, some of which include the popular 'Butterfly Habitat' during the spring and the 'Luminarias' during the holiday season. If you come during the summer months, don't forget your hat and sunscreen!
If you are in Phoenix and enjoy going on easy treks, then Papago Park is the place for you. With its sandstone buttes, marked paths and slight elevation, it is perfect for family hiking trips and there are plenty of easy mountain bike paths. The most notable attraction of the park is the hole in the rock formation, which formed over thousands of years most likely from water erosion. For the more adventurous, visitors can climb the face of the rock for an unparalleled view of Phoenix. Additionally, the park is close to famous attractions such as the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo.
Drive through one of the largest parks in the United States that covers over 16,000 acres (6474 hectares). With many lookout points, South Mountain Park, offers fantastic views of Phoenix and the surrounding valley. Summit Lookout is at 2,330 feet (710.18 meters) and highlights the enormity of this sprawling desert area. For visitors, the Interpretive Center takes you through the heritage of the area including mining and botanical history. If you prefer an experience out of the car, hike by the marked trails and study the preserved petroglyphs. Carry lunch and enjoy the park's picnic areas with kids in tow. Remember your sunscreen, hat and drinking water when visiting Arizona's best park.
Amidst the buzzing cityscape of Phoenix lies a serene retreat that is known as the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. From soaring peaks to plunging valleys, the park displays a varied topography with multiple trails cutting through. Amidst a craggy landscape of steep ascents and rugged terrain, a generous population of succulent plants are scattered throughout, with a few flowering shrubs, typical of the desert climes reign here. Most of its area is accessible to civilians and is hence a common choice for family picnics and hikes. A few of the most prominent parks enclosed by the preserve are the Piestewa Peak Recreation Area, the Camelback Mountain Park and the Lookout Mountain Preserve. Although surrounded by the city, the Phoenix Mountain Preserve is a slice of wilderness that evokes a sense of isolation that is a welcome reprieve from the bustling city.
The Phoenix Zoo offers a plethora of activities for family recreation. Sprawling over 125 acres (50 hectares), this privately-owned leisure facility is a must-visit when in the Valley. It is home to over 1,300 exotic species including lions, giraffes, baboons and meerkats, making it one of the country's largest zoos. Explore the verdant labyrinth of the Forest of Uco, take a hike along the African Trail and enjoy a tractor ride at the Harmony Farm. Also, the interactive programs on offer are both educational and entertaining.
Phoenix is the capital city of Arizona, the one-time site of an act of ingenious engineering and civic rebirth. Before its annexation into Mexico, the Hohokam people transformed the desert into arable land over 135 miles (217 kilometers). Drought made the area untenable, however, and it was not until the land was ceded to the United States after the Mexican American war did the area become populated once more. Named for the rebirth of a new city on top of the ruins of another, Phoenix has once again become a major hub for outdoor activities such as hiking and golf, as well as sports training facilities.
In Japanese, Ro Ho En roughly translates into 'Good News Garden', and when you arrive at the tranquil park hidden behind the Irish Cultural Center, you will see, hear and feel the good news. Along the peaceful strolling trail, the garden has more than 50 different plant varieties surrounded by streams and Koi ponds. Throughout the year, the garden hosts local events like the Tea Ceremony held every third Saturday of the month or Matsuri Festival in late February. The garden also welcomes volunteers looking to contribute towards the welfare of the environment and learn more about developing their green thumb.
This no-fee inner-city park offers a grassy area for picnics, a playground area, restrooms, sand volleyball pits and a full lighting system. This facility is frequently used for a variety of activities and events such as festivals and fairs.
The South Mountain Environmental Education Center aims to acquaint and educate visitors to the South Mountain Park about its ecology, flora and fauna, and history. An ideal first stop before beginning your excursion of the park, the center features an impressive collection of exhibits and interpretive boards that explore the natural, environmental, and cultural history of this municipal park that sprawls across 17,000 acres (6879.65 hectares). The entrance to the visitor center is the starting point of the picturesque Judith Tunell Trail, which winds past water fountains, ramadas, a beautiful bridge, and interpretive signs.
Centrally located, Piestewa Peak is a part of the Phoenix Mountains. There are over a dozen trails which one can hike and enjoy a panoramic view of the Sonora Desert. For those who wish to simply observe nature, the park affords that opportunity as well. Covered areas in a well-maintained picnic area allow visitors to observe the local wildlife and plants. Remember your sunscreen, hat, and plenty of water when visiting the park.