Back to Things to Do


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.

The Sonoran Desert is 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.

How you experience the desert is up to you. Explore the different ways below and visit our outdoor recreation media gallery for more inspiration. 


Brian Jump shares how the mystique of the desert turned an intended short stay in Phoenix into a career as an outdoor guide.


Take an 80-second tour of the Sonoran Desert, which is a paradise for lovers of the outdoors.

Summer Safety Tips 

Just because summer has arrived doesn't mean Phoenix's desert preserves can't be enjoyed. But outdoor enthusiasts need to be smart and plan ahead. Remember these summertime tips:

  • Enjoy the outdoors early in the morning. Not only will it be about 20 degrees cooler in the early morning, but it's the best time to view desert critters that are most active at sunrise.

  • Hit the trails at night. Some of the City of Phoenix preserves stay open until 11 p.m. Just be sure to pack a flashlight or headlamp and watch your step. Some Maricopa County parks offer guided moonlight hikes throughout the summer. 

  • Drink water and lots of it. A good rule of thumb is to bring at least one liter of water for each hour you'll be outside. Backpacks equipped with water bladders are ideal when hiking and biking. 

  • Protect yourself from the sun. Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are all necessities. Make sure to apply plenty of sunscreen before you head outside, and reapply every few hours.

Get more helpful tips from the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department.


Explore the listings below for professional tour guides, equipment rental, activities and more.