Summer outdoor activities abound if you know where to look: Hike at dawn, float a river midday or pedal through the desert at night.
Some people balk at the idea that the outdoors can be enjoyed during a Phoenix summer. But locals know it can be done; you just need to consider when during the day you choose to get outside, and how you are planning to stay cool during your outdoor adventure.
Below are some of our favorite cool things to do outdoors in summer in Greater Phoenix:
Arizona has several lakes within a short drive of metro Phoenix. They're perfect summer spots for water sports enthusiasts to get out and enjoy a different side of the desert. Rent a kayak or pontoon boat for a day on the water, fish, or just play on the beach.
Get an early start and fit a hike in before the day heats up. There’s something incredibly tranquil about the trails in summer; fewer hikers around makes it easy for the mind to wander and relax.
Shorter hikes are recommended to ensure you are back at the trailhead before the sun gets intense. Start no later than 6 a.m., bring plenty of water (plan for 1 liter for every hour hiking) and tell someone where you’ll be.
Trail suggestions: North Mountain Park's summit hike from the North Mountain Visitor Center, Sidewinder/Apache Wash Loop in the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve, Holbert Trail to Dobbins Lookout at South Mountain.
Nighttime mountain biking
Phoenix boasts hundreds of miles of rideable singletrack and there’s no reason to put your bike away in the summer. Just ride at night! A number of local bike shops and ride groups organize regular group rides after dark to beat the summer temperatures. Riding at night is not for the faint of heart but it is a great way for intermediate riders to improve their skills and see a different side of the desert.
McDowell Mountain and San Tan regional parks offers popular summer night ride series where hundreds of riders turn out to enjoy the trails together. Details can be found on the Maricopa County Parks events calendar. Shadetree Bike Shop in north Phoenix hosts a weekly Thursday night ride in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve with updates shared on their Facebook page.
The lower Salt River just east of the Phoenix metro area is a favorite place to escape when the temperatures heat up. There are options all summer long for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, mild rafting on Class 1 rapids, or tubing with friends. Plan your own outing, join a guided trip with a local outfitter, or hit the river with the crew at Salt River Tubing.
Get out of town (just a bit) to the slightly higher elevation north Carefree. You’ll leave the desert behind as you head into Tonto National Forest's Seven Springs Recreation area. Plan a short overnight stay to relax beneath the shady cottonwood trees and enjoy cooling off in the refreshing creek along the Seven Springs trail.
Remember, there’s no reason to stay inside all summer long. Plan wisely, be safe, wear sunscreen and always be sure to stay well-hydrated. Get more safety tips from the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.