The outdoors:Scottsdale's Sonoran Desert
Hiking trails that span not only mountain ridges, but history itself.
Hot air balloon rides that soar over saguaros, desert
washes and scurrying coyotes. Jeep tours that plunge into rugged backcountry,
proving the Wild West is still alive and well. If these attractions sound like experiences
that would take hours to reach from some distant way station…think again.
They are all located right in Scottsdale's scenic backyard, the storied Sonoran Desert.
Scottsdale possesses a natural advantage over other destinations because
this sophisticated oasis is surrounded by a rich legacy of mountains, parks
and wildlife, providing opportunities for urban adventure second to none.
The result is that everyone from seasoned thrill-seeker to absolute novice can kick their
adrenaline into overdrive with high-octane adventures as accessible as they are inviting.
Following are just a few opportunities to experience Scottsdale's wild side.
Progress in Preservation
Scottsdale’s growth spurt in the ‘70s and ‘80s prompted a citizen initiated
preservation effort which has resulted in a plan to protect nearly one-third
of Scottsdale as the natural McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Today, this Preserve
plays host to hikers, horseback riders and outdoor enthusiasts who delight in
the region’s ancient Indian artifacts and wildlife like coyotes, Gila monsters,
desert tortoises, chuckawallas, javelinas, deer and mountain lions.
The Preserve will be managed to provide a sustainable habitat for the
flora and fauna it contains for the enjoyment of this and all future generations.
When complete, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve eventually will become one of the largest
city-owned parks in the country, rivaled only by the desert parks that surround Phoenix.
Trails and Tours
With almost 100 miles of trails dedicated to horseback riding, biking and
hiking, the path to adventure in Scottsdale is as simple as choosing your
preferred form of transportation. Particular favorites include the McDowell
Sonoran Preserve with more than 12,000 protected acres, Camelback Mountain,
Pinnacle Peak Park and the Superstition Mountains. And when it comes to gear
and guides, whether you are a hard-core backpacker seeking a peak experience or
a casual mountain biker looking for a quick escape, you will find an abundance of
qualified area outfitters, guides and experts to get you rolling on a group tour or
going solo. Yet another advantage of having a guide in Scottsdale is their deep
knowledge of area lore and natural history, giving visitors a complete Southwest
Popular guided hikes and bike rides include Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain resort's
treks up scenic Camelback Mountain and escorted hikes in the Tonto National Forest,
and desert-style mountain bike rides offered by The Golden Door Spa at The Boulders
Resort. For up-close vistas of soaring Pinnacle Peak, the Four Season Resort Scottsdale
at Troon North offers hiking excursions, as does the City of Scottsdale, which has recently
undertaken extensive trail enhancements. The park also features interpretive programs and trail
signs describing the flora, fauna, geology, and cultural history of the area.
And lest we forget those who don't want to break a sweat, Jeep and Hummer tours are another
option that puts guests right into the heart of Scottsdale’s deserts and mountains without getting
their boots dusty. Guests can try their hand at Western ways, including gold panning, pistol shooting,
chuck-wagon cookouts and more. The drivers are experts at pointing out the finer points of the desert's
abundant plants and wildlife, including amazing facts about the towering saguaro cactus (they can absorb
up to 200 gallons during a strong rain!) and plants with medicinal uses, such as snake broom.