Hikers, bikers and climbers in Greater Phoenix have come to the same conclusion as coyotes, roadrunners and jackrabbits: The Sonoran Desert is a great place to play.
Three major mountains buttress Phoenix, providing visitors an outlet for every grade of high-desert pursuit. Hikers can traverse 50 miles of trail at South Mountain Park and Preserve, one of the largest municipal parks in the United States; mountain bikers can climb to the top of McDowell Mountain (then hurtle back down again); and climbers can leave their chalky handprints on the granite “hump” of Camelback Mountain.
The Sonoran Desert is also home to the kind of cactus most people only see in cartoons. The majestic saguaro, found in no other desert in the world, can grow as tall as 50 feet and live as long as 200 years. And you don’t necessarily need hiking boots or a mountain bike to see one: Professional outfitters are happy put adventurous sightseers in the saddle of a horse, the seat of a Jeep, the basket of a hot-air balloon or the harness of a glider.
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