The Best Outdoor Activities in Phoenix, Arizona

With a desert climate and average summer temperatures well in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, Phoenix, Arizona, can sometimes make even the most hardcore outdoors enthusiasts want to spend a little time indoors.

But with a little effort, you can find fun and safe ways to get some exercise and sunshine while avoiding the heat. From rafting to rock climbing, these are some of the best outdoor activities in Phoenix and the surrounding area.

Outdoor Activities in Phoenix: Here are Several Great Options

Make sure to pace yourself and take note of the weather when planning your activities! During the summer, it’s best to schedule your adventures early in the morning or later in the evening.

outdoor activities in phoenix
Mountain biking is one of the coolest outdoor activities in Phoenix!

Hike or Bike at McDowell Mountain

See deer and coyotes while hiking or mountain biking on the trails at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills. There’s a 15-mile horseback riding trail and a campground with 76 tent and RV sites.

McDowell is a terrific place to get some exercise — just be sure to arrive early! The park opens at 6 a.m. so that visitors can get their fill of nature before the midday heat sets in.

Take a Balloon or Helicopter Ride

For a day of relaxation in the sun, soar over the mountains with a hot air balloon ride. At least six companies offer balloon trips in the Phoenix area, so you have plenty of different options for taking in the beautiful desert scenery from above.

To crank up the intensity just a bit, consider one of the multiple helicopter companies that provide tours of the desert and Grand Canyon National Park.

Go Whitewater Rafting on the River

You may not picture Phoenix as a hotbed for whitewater rafting, but in the spring, when the snow melts in the White Mountains a couple hours east of the city, the Salt River becomes the best place for aquatic adventure in Arizona.

Beginners beware — these are intense rapids that require expertise and experience. Newcomers should take a private tour with one of the guided rafting companies in the region.

Climb Camelback Mountain

How many cities have great rock climbing just 20 minutes from downtown? Camelback Mountain in Echo Canyon Recreation Area has a few dozen solid climbing routes and some smaller bouldering options as well.

If you’re not a climber, you’ll find plenty of good hiking trails here. Not surprisingly, due to its location, this is a very popular outdoor destination, so get here early to avoid finding a full parking lot.

Cool Off at the Waterpark

Sometimes you want to bypass the strenuous workout and cool down at the pool. For family fun during the sultry days of summer, check out one of the Phoenix area’s multiple waterparks.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Phoenix (formerly Wet ‘n Wild) is the largest waterpark in the state, offering more than 20 slides, raft rivers, and thrill rides. Several resorts and amusement parks have their own water ride sections.

Whichever option you choose, remember to apply sunscreen, bring plenty of water, and pace yourself!

Getting Here

The city is easily accessible from major U.S. airports and there are plenty of hotel accommodations in Phoenix to choose from. Determine the outdoor activities on your list and choose a Phoenix hotel close by. Make sure to get outdoors during your trip and try a couple of these great activities.

Phoenix is an ideal stop if you’re traveling from Austin, Texas to Los Angeles, California on a road trip! I also consider Phoenix one of the top Christmas vacations in the USA.

Outdoor Activities Outside the Phoenix Area

Willing to travel a bit further? When you’re in Arizona, consider seeing one of the iconic sites of the state, the Grand Canyon! I have a special affinity for the North Rim, where you can hike the North Kaibab Trail and see lots of interesting wildlife.

Also don’t overlook Saguaro National Park near Tucson. This park is split into two separate units. I like the underrated East Unit, which has scenic drives, desert hiking, and thousands of the famous saguaro cactus.

What are your favorite outdoor activities in Phoenix?

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