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.
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.
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!
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.
This 70-acre (28.32 hectare) park in South Scottsdale has recreation facilities as well as meeting spaces that can accommodate up to 1000 guests. Facilities include five ramadas, one spray pool, two fishing lakes, two playgrounds and one basketball court. If taking a walk with your pooch is on the agenda, Vista Del Camino Park has the only dog run in Scottsdale. The 18-hole disc golf course is a fun place to spend an afternoon with friends or family.
This park houses a museum about the railroad history of the United States, thanks in part to the Arizona Model Railroading Society. Here, you will see train layouts of all scales in a trail around a whimsical little city full of details. It is a great location for birthdays parties and picnics - they have two party areas. Admission is free but they accept donations to help pay for operational costs. The Adobe Mountain Desert Railroad Park offers free rides in a miniature train through a trail around the desert outside the small museum. It is a great place for family fun.