Based in the Sonoran Desert and bordering the McDowell Mountains, this destination puts thrill seekers and nature lovers in close proximity to trails, peaks and even overhead views. Whether for easy pacers or experienced trekkers, are active suggestions for discovering more of Scottsdale's natural beauty.
Trail along McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The massive nature preserve provides a great introduction to the desert's distinctive geology and wildlife. The Marcus Landslide Trail is a gentle route following along unique cacti (such as the tree-like saguaro and the fuzzy-looking but best-avoided cholla). Better book an excursion with AOA Adventures, which provides expert guided tours through the preserve.
Hike through Pinnacle Peak Park
The park offers a moderate hike leading up, down and through part of the Sonoran Desert. The overall scenery is rewarding, with a stunning variety of flora and fauna extending to saguaro and cholla cactuses, and ocotillos, a red-flowering plant.
Get challenged at Camelback Mountain
For high-level hikers, this mountain - named for its silhouette of the animal's hump - will provide quite the physical challenge. Its two summit trails - Echo Canyon and Cholla - are strenuous, with steep grades in your reach the top.
Sprawl out in McDowell Mountain Regional Park
The park in the lower Verde River basin is noted for its 50-plus miles of multi-use trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, plus various camping sites and a three-loop biking track.
Take a hot air balloon ride
Excursion companies such as Phoenix's Hot Air Expeditions cast off on daily sunrise and seasonal sunset flights (weather-permitting) that float along an 8- to 10-mile trek, at heights between 1,000 to 5,000 feet, along the Sonoran Desert. Watch your balloon get ready to go and then climb into its wicker basket to start your upward journey.