Looking for great outdoor recreation just minutes from downtown and the airport? Take a hike around the red butte formations in Papago Park, including the iconic Hole-in-the-Rock Trail; cast a line in seven acres of stocked fishing lagoons; enjoy a round at Papago Golf Course; or access the nearby Phoenix Zoo and Desert Botanical Garden.
Papago Park has been home to many different pieces of Phoenix history: it was a reservation for indigenous tribes, a fish hatchery during the Great Depression, a POW camp during World War II, and a VA hospital. Today, the park is home to a The Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Garden, golf courses, various museums, baseball fields, lakes, and Sonoran Desert plants and animals.
The trails in Papago Park are typically smooth with little elevation gain, providing easy access for walking, hiking, mountain biking or trail running. The park is split into east and west sides by Galvin Parkway.
You can take an accessible, paved pathway as well as a series of trails and loops around a big butte and small butte. Try the 2.3-mile Double Butte Loop for a full experience of the park. The parking lot on Papago Park Drive has a drinking fountain, bike rack and picnic ramada, and no restrooms.
Hours: Gated roadways and parking areas are open from sunrise to sunset or 7 p.m., whichever comes first, but trails are open until 11 p.m.
Trails include an interpretive nature trail to learn about Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, as well as a short hike inside Hole-in-the-Rock, the park's most popular scenic viewpoint and one of Phoenix's best hikes. Restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic ramadas are available on this side.
Hours: Gated roadways and parking areas are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m, but trails are open until 11 p.m.
This intriguing formation on the park's east side features a main chamber that looks out over nearby lagoons and the distant downtown skyline, and is great for views (especially at sunset). The trail to the chamber consists of steps that rise 200 feet in just a short 1/10 of a mile. The formation is thought to have been used by the ancient Hohokam civilization to track the position of the sun through a hole in the rock "ceiling."
Distance: 0.3 miles
Trailhead: 625 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix, parking lot directing you to the formation. If parking is unavailable, there are plenty of other parking lots within easy walking distance.
What to expect: Crowds, magnificent views of downtown Phoenix and Tempe, and incredible sandstone formations. Dogs are allowed on the trail.
Standing tall on a hill and visible throughout the park is a white pyramid that serves as a tomb for Arizona's first governor, George W.P. Hunt. Hunt had the tomb built in 1931 for his wife, and he was buried there as well upon his death in 1934.Other family members are buried there as a well. Take a short walk to the top for views of the surrounding area, including Hole-in-the-Rock, inside the Phoenix Zoo, and the eastern part of Greater Phoenix.
Make it a day with a visit to top attractions located within the park boundaries. Check out the Sonoran Desert's vast variety of plants at the Desert Botanical Garden; visit all sorts of animals at the Phoenix Zoo; learn more about the state's history at the Arizona Heritage Center; tee off at the Papago Golf Club; or enjoy some family fun at the Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting.