GET OUT[SIDE]!
enjoy springtime in the desert

Now is the time to take advantage of our beautiful desert weather. Here are some suggestions to get outside and take in the splendor of springtime in the Valley of the Sun.

McDOWELL MOUNTAINS AT SUNRISE, SOUTH MOUNTAIN AT SUNSET

There’s nothing quite like an Arizona sunrise and sunset, especially when both natural events unfold before your eyes. The view from Sunrise Peak  in the McDowell Mountains is stunning. Sweeping south, on a clear day, it offers a sightline all the to Mount Lemmon. The view to the west is of Scottsdale just beginning to awake with Camelback in perfect form, Papago peeking out an South Mountain in the distance with the Estrellas towering behind. Conversely, one of the best vantage points as the light changes in that witching hour is from South Mountain. Simply drive south on Central Avenue and you’re there. Hiking in South Mountain allows incredible views at dusk. Facing northwest towards the Phoenix Mountain Preserve the mountains appear to turn a unique purple hue. https://www.mcdowellsonoran.org and https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/south-mountain

THE STABLES AT MacDONALD’S RANCH

Take a step back in time and experience the Old West at MacDonald’s Ranch. Located in Scottsdale, this horseback riding stable has been  owned and operated by the Richardson family for over 60 years. All the horses are home-bred, extensively trained and well maintained, assuring guests a safe experience. Just saddle up and let your inner cowboy and cowgirl take charge. First-timers, beginners and children will be taught the basics of riding before beginning a guided tour over easy terrain. Along the relaxing ride your guide will share info on the desert flora and wildlife, as well as the ranch’s history. Intermediate and experienced riders may book a private horseback ride for a faster paced experience. For those romantically inclined, moonlight rides are offered several days before each full moon. www.macdonaldsranch.com 

BOYCE THOMPSON ARBORETUM

Just a one-hour drive from downtown Phoenix, in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, is Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Three miles of garden paths and trails wind through 392 acres of plant exhibits and striking landscapes. Over 2,600 different types of plants from the deserts of Australia, North and South America, southern Africa and other arid-land regions of the world blend seamlessly into an incomparable natural setting. It’s a haven for plant lovers, photographers, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts of all ages. Meander at your own pace or join one of the many guided tours that feature wildflowers, edible and medicinal plants, geology and photography. For those so inclined, participate in Tai-chi, yoga and meditation session led by professional experts. www.btarboretum.org

GOLFLAND SUNSPLASH

Okay…so you’re never going to compete at the Masters’ Tournament. But miniature golf is just plain fun for everyone. At Golfland in Mesa you can putt into a replica of the Alamo on the Flying Dutchman course, nab a hole-in-one along King’s Arthur’s Quest or chip some dimples into a castle on the Princess Path. Each of the three 18-hole courses at Golfland is nestled within a moat of water slides from the adjacent Sunsplash Water Park, allowing for waterfalls, fountains and mature foliage to help keep things cool and shady. Obstacles such as loop-the-loops, windmills and fountains make for classic miniature golf staples with wheelchair-accessible options along each course. Ranked by difficulty, each course boasts distinct themes with corresponding hazards and traps. Whether you foozle or bag the clutch putt, the classic courses at Golfland make the perfect game plan for family fun. https://www.golfland.com/mesa

PERALTA TRAIL TO FREMONT SADDLE 

Phoenix has no shortage of glorious hiking trails, but all of those paths have views that reinforce the fact that you’re within the city limits. Luckily, to get an immersive outdoor experience, you need only travel to the Superstitions. Travel east on Route 60, just beyond Apache Junction, and the changing landscape signals that you’ve crossed into Pinal County, From there, you probably won’t find the Lost Dutchman but,  you will find the Peralta Trailhead to Fremont Saddle. Isolated from city views, the roundtrip hike is five miles in length. A course best suited for intermediates and the more experienced, the reward is amazing: panoramic vistas of endless rock formations and saguaros as far as of the eye can see covering the floor of one of the most majestic ranges in Arizona. As an added treat, there’s a spectacular view of Weaver’s Needle. www.protrails.com/trail/593/phoenix-scottsdale-mesa-peralta-trail

HOT AIR BALLOON

A hot air balloon ride is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the desert below. There are a slew of companies that offer rides at all times of the day, in different parts of the Valley. Many offer champagne, light bites and even meals. For example, Float Balloon Tours will schedule  a sunrise or sunset flight. As your FAA certified and fully licensed pilot inflates the balloon you can nibble on cookies and enjoy freshly roasted hot or iced tea. After you climb into the roomy basket, you will hear the burners roar to take-off, and then silence. Now floating in the air take in the 360-degree unobstructed views of the Bradshaw Mountains and Lake Pleasant, and the saguaros and buttes just beyond the city as you float over the tops of palo verde trees and desert. Upon landing, enjoy a sparkling wine toast and a gourmet meal prepared by a local chef. www.floatballoontours.com