Football fans (and fans of multi-million dollar commercials) rejoice because the 57th installation of the Big Game is upon us. In the spirit of its return to Arizona, here’s an introduction to the Valley of the Sun. So whether you’re looking for a home base away from the tailgate or just an excuse to take in the beauty of the desert, I’ve got you covered with a list of activities and campgrounds, and RV parks to explore in the Valley of the Sun.
When it comes to gorgeously painted landscapes and outdoor excursions, Phoenix is pretty tough to beat. Here are a few reasons why.
Desert Botanical Garden
Founded by the Arizona Cactus and Native Flora Society, this 140-acre botanical garden has preserved the beauty of more than 50,000 plants for over 85 years. Come for the vegetation, stay for a cocktail, and leave with some prickly pear jelly. Just what the doctor ordered.
If the adrenaline of a football game isn’t enough, consider an extra 2,704 feet of elevated soul-searching via Camelback Mountain. With two challenging trails and plenty of distinct desert flora, this is a must for any avid hiker.
A round of golf almost feels like a right of passage in Phoenix and if you can also throw in some fishing and hiking, you’re all the better for it. Fortunately, Papago Park has you covered with all of the above as well as archery, a zoo, and the previously mentioned Desert Botanical Garden.
Usery Mountain Regional Park
Usery Mountain, one of 13 Maricopa County Regional Parks, is a 3,648-acre preserve at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains, adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. Located on the Valley’s east side near Mesa the park offers over 29 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
South Mountain Park and Preserve
Whether you’re looking for adventurous trails or just want to soak in a gorgeous desert sunset, South Mountain Park has it all with some breathtaking views along the way. Be sure to check the trails rating guide on the website to find a route best suited to your preferred difficulty level.
Lost Dutchman State Park
Located near the Superstition Mountains and about 40 miles east of Phoenix is Arizona’s Lost Dutchman State Park. As you might suspect, the park is full of towering red rock formations, cacti, and enough hiking trails to keep you occupied for days.
Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park, Litchfield Park
Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park has Arizona’s largest collection of exotic and endangered animals with more than 600 separate species, rides, a petting zoo, and daily shows.
Meet amazing animals from North and South America like the tapirs, mountain lions, and red fox. The aquarium offers guests a glimpse into the wild underwater world of many aquatic animals including sharks, rays and more.
A quirky, mysterious mansion randomly built in the desert? Say no more. Created by a loving father to dote upon his daughter long ago, Mystery Castle is a one-of-a-kind mansion made of stone and located in the Foothills of South Mountain Park.
Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch
There are several good reasons for paying a visit to the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, a 110-acre park in Gilbert. The astounding variety of cacti, probably varieties than you ever knew existed, is itself worth stopping by for. But there are also many other species of plant and animal life in and around this artificial wetland created with reclaimed water. You can view fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals of many different kinds on a pleasant little hiking trail. It’s an especially excellent place for bird watching.
Packing for the desert
As you gear up for a weekend in the Southwest, you’ll want to make sure to pack appropriately. In addition to your team’s colors, consider bringing a few extra seasonal items.
While there are plenty of reasons a snowbird might flock to Arizona, winter seems to be the chief among them with clear and sunny temps in the 70s. That said, with the dry air it gets chilly in the evenings so bring an extra layer for early morning and late day activities.
Maybe this goes without saying, but heat exhaustion is no joke. Stay hydrated with a trusty water bottle in tow.
Phoenix boasts impressive landscapes and city-scapes meaning its best to bring more than one pair of shoes to make the most of the hikes and nightlife.
When you’re in the heat of the afternoon and that sun’s beating down, you’ll want to be covered. Sunscreen, lip balm, long sleeves, and a broad-brimmed hat will serve you well.
Campgrounds and RV Parks
Between the pigskin, hiking, golf, and fishing, you’ll need some R&R. Here are a few great places to lay your head.
Leaf Verde RV Resort, Buckeye
Leaf Verde RV Resort offers spacious back-in and pull-through RV sites with full hookups including 20/30/50-amp electric service. Enjoy gravel pads with concrete patios, complimentary Wi-Fi to keep you connected, and a picnic table for your outdoor enjoyment. Other amenities include a swimming pool, shuffleboard, game room, clubhouse, pet area, laundry facilities, restroom, and shower facilities. Located in the West Valley off Interstate 10 at Exit 114.
Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa
The previously mentioned Usery Mountain Regional Park offers 73 camping sites. All sites are paved and have water and 50/30-amp electric service, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, fire ring, and can accommodate up to 45-foot RVs. Other facilities include modern washrooms with flush toilets and hot showers and a dump station.
Destiny RV Resort, Goodyear
A walled and gated community, Phoenix Destiny RV Resort offers 20/30/50-amp service on every site, a heated pool and spa, fitness center, laundry facility, shuffleboard courts, horseshoe pits, pickleball courts, putting green, billiard room, and fenced-in pet areas and a shaded turf dog run. Destiny offers a quiet, peaceful, and friendly atmosphere with easy access to I-10 (Exit 123; Citrus Road).
Lost Dutchman State Park, Apache Junction
The aforementioned Lost Dutchman State Park has 135 sites for camping: 68 sites with electric (20/30/50 amp service) and water and the remainder of non-hookup sites on paved roads for tents or RVs. Every site has a picnic table and a fire pit with an adjustable grill gate. There are no size restrictions on RVs.
Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever. Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area. Early symptoms include a burning desire to make plans for the next trip south. There is no apparent cure for snowbirds.