Category Archives: hiking

Hiking Black Mountain

When people come to Phoenix, they are always amazed at how close our hiking is to the city, or rather – in the city – with Camelback Mountain squarely in the middle of central Phoenix, neighboring Piestawa Peak and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the McDowell Mountains to the northeast, and South Mountain (you guessed it – to the south).

Heading north straight through Phoenix, you will be graced immediately by the quaint town of Cave Creek, and to your right will be Black Mountain looking so innocent and serene.

But it’s a difficult hike – there’s no two ways about it.  Beginners should aspire to this, the intermediate hiker will be out of breath, and the advanced hiker will be challenged. (I hike all the time and I was out of breath.) It’s an immediate get-out-of-the-car-and-go hike (read: no warm-up little hills), so get your game face on. You’ll head up a wide road, then it’ll fork – go left for the actual trail, go right for a road fit for a Jeep. They meet back up about 2/3 of the way up, and I recommend the trail. It has some of the most beautiful cacti variations in the state. (Note: It’s a narrow trail. Leave your pup at home.)

View from the top of Black Mountain

And Black Mountain has a dark sense of humor. You’re hiking along, to what you think is the summit. Then you get there, and realize you’ve gotta another third of the mountain to go. Get a sense of the views, and your breath, and push on up. You will see the most amazing views of the Valley, including Elephant Mountain to the north, as far down as South Mountain. You can even spot University of Phoenix Stadium.

View of the McDowell Mountains

To get there – take the 51 North to 101 West. Exit at Cave Creek Road, and take that about 11 miles north (it’ll curve east when you get into the town of Cave Creek). Take a right at School House Road, then left on Military Road and park off the street. Then it’s time to get up that hill!

See the map.

Hiking Phoenix Mountain Preserve

I should really call this post, “Hiking, Biking, Walking, Horseback Riding Phoenix Mountain Preserve.” On the “Dreamy Draw,” there are acres and acres of desert au naturel, with trails winding through boulders, saguaros, all under the great open sky.  There are numerous starting points, and starting on one trail opens up many more to you.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve sign

Some days I take my dogs on a trail walk (occasionally break into a run), some days I bike, but mostly, I hike. I see that peak and I head straight up, which is just north of Piestawa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak). It’s literally a stone’s throw away. 

On the way up, though, the feeling of the open desert is all encompassing. With all the trails and space, it’s never crowded, even in the middle of Phoenix. The palo verde trees, barrel cacti, cresotes, all look absolutely untouched beside the trails. 

009-resized  Phx Mtn Preserve


My favorite way to enter Phoenix Mountain Preserve is go to 40th Street and Shea Boulevard, head south on 40th Street until it ends, park and head on up. You’ll cross Trail 100, which is what a lot of mountain bikers, trail runners, and horseback riders use. I go straight and head for the peak, which is pretty easy to see. (Okay, so the peak might not look huge there – but it’s not small!)

mountain trail

At a moderate pace it will take about 30-40 min to get to the top of the mountain, so it’s a quick way to get your heart rate up! It’s so worth  it – the views from the top are some of the best in the city!


Four Peaks

View of Four Peaks and McDowell Mountains


Looking at the "head" of Camelback Mountain

view from the top

Other peaks in Phx Mountain Preserve


And when you go, say hello to my friends, for whom I still trying to think of a name. They look like brothers. Any ideas?

Saguaro brothers

If you’d like to see more photos, check out our hiking set on Flickr.  

For more info on Phoenix Mountain Preserve, see

Mark Tarbell’s Dream Day in Phoenix

Mark Tarbell at Camelback Mountain


Mark Tarbell. Who can help themselves from loving him? Not I. Maybe it’s his energy, his crazy sense of humor, or the care and overall deliciousness he puts into every dish at his restaurant, Tarbell’s. But it was his love of Phoenix, and his knowledge of all-things-hip to do here, that inspired this “Dream Day” video. 

Mark gave us a list of all his favorite places, and we filmed the cream of the crop – places he returns to again and again. We think you’ll find something to suit your fancy as well. Even if you’re a local, I guarantee you haven’t been everywhere Mark takes you!

Click Mark’s pic at Camelback Mountain above, or go to to see a few minutes of Mark. And just try not to fall in love with him. I dare you. 



Free Phoenix

You know the story – times are tough, spring fever has hit, and you want to know what to do on the cheap, both outdoors and indoors. Well, just see whatcha think about this!  


Phoenix Art Museum- This museum, largest in the Southwest, features an extensive collection of American, European, Asian, Latin American, Contemporary and Western art. 1625 N. Central Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85004. (602) 257-1222. Admission is free every Tuesday from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. & the Frist Friday of every month 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. There is also free movie day on Sundays @ at 1:00p.m. Visit there website at for information on free lectures, workshops and Family Fun Day. Regular Hours: Tues-Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.


Shemer Art CenterThe Shemer Art Center and Museum is a historical site operated since 1984 by the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. It is a family-oriented art education center and museum, offering artists and community members a unique and inviting atmosphere to enjoy and learn about the visual arts. Shemer offers a variety of fine art classes for all ages, as well as a monthly professional development lecture series for artists and art lovers. Shemer’s galleries host changing exhibitions by contemporary Arizona artists. Admission is free. Hours: Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. Wed. – Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Sunday & Monday Closed.


Heard MuseumThe internationally acclaimed Heard Museum is one of the best places to experience the myriad cultures and art of Native Americans of the Southwest. With a commanding presence on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix, the museum hosts nearly 250,000 visitors a year and ” provides Indian artists with a wonderful home that will excite and inspire visitors from around the world.” according to Arizona Highways, October 1999. The museum’s 10 spacious exhibit galleries and beautiful outdoor courtyards feature outstanding traditional and contemporary Native American art. Free Admission the second Sunday of every month. HOURS: Open Daily 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


First Fridays– Open studios tours are a good way to experience art and artists. Every first Friday evening of each month you can take a free self-guided tour of downtown Phoenix galleries, studios and art spaces. It’s called First Friday. First Friday is organized by Artlink, a nonprofit organization”…dedicated to bringing together artists, the public, and businesses for a greater understanding, appreciation, and promotion of the arts and the development of a strong and vital downtown Phoenix art community”. The First Friday art walk in downtown Phoenix is held on the first Friday of every month, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.


The Arizona Historical Society– Arizona’s oldest cultural organization, founded by the territorial legislature on Nov. 7, 1864 and charged with preserving Arizona history for the present and future. Hours: Tues. – Sat. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sun. noon – 4 p.m. Free admission the first Saturday of the month.


Scottsdale Museum of Comteporary ArtFounded in 1999, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is the only museum in Arizona devoted to the art, architecture and design of our time. Global in its focus, SMoCA is a unique and vital cultural resource for the Southwest, serving local audiences as well as visitors from all over the United States and abroad. Designed by award-winning architect Will Bruder, SMoCA’s building has five galleries for showcasing changing exhibitions and works from the Museum’s growing permanent collection. SMoCA presents a variety of educational programs and special events for adults and families, including lectures, docent-led tours, workshops and classes. The Store @ SMoCA offers classic design objects and furnishings, contemporary jewelry, art and architecture books and imaginative gifts. Closed Mondays Tuesday, Wednesday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Free Thursday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm (free admission on Thursdays) Friday, Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Sunday 12:00 noon – 5:00 pm.


Downtown Phoenix Public MarketThe Downtown Phoenix Public Market features Arizona-grown foods, flowers, fresh baked bread, local arts and crafts, tasty meals and live music, in the heart of the city. The Market is open from Wednesday 4p.m. – 8p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.–12 p.m., May–September; 8 a.m.–1 p.m. October–April and is located on Central Avenue and McKinley.


Wells Fargo History MuseumFeaturing a Western art gallery depicting the history of Wells Fargo in Arizona with an authentic 1868 stagecoach, gold collection and original artifacts. Real hands on experiences include the use of a telegraph, candlestick phone and a check protector where you may cut a check. Take a ride on our replica of a stagecoach. Participate in a Treasure hunt and win a prize! Tours available with advance notice. M-F 9am-5pm, Free admission. Closed bank holidays.


St. Mary’s BasilicaPhoenix’s oldest Catholic Church, dedicated in 1915 and designated America’s 32nd basilica in 1985, is noted for its Munich-style stained glass and Mission Revival exterior. Daily mass 12:05pm; Saturday Vigil Mass 5pm; Sunday Masses 9am & 11am. Rectory hours T-F 9am-4pm. Basilica open M-F 10am-2pm.


Arizona Capitol Museum- 1700 W. Washington St. (602) 716-2000.

Artifacts & documents from early development, political memorabilia, Guided tours. The Arizona Capitol Museum brings history to life every day through exhibitions, special events, and tours. More than 20 exhibits tell Arizona’s story from territorial days to the present. Park free at Wesley Bolin Plaza east of 17th Avenue and top off your day with a visit to the award winning museum store. Open Monday – Friday 9am – 4pm. Closed Saturdays. Free Admission.



South Mountain Preserve

10919 S. Central Ave.; Phoenix, AZ 85042-8302;


At over 16,000 acres, South Mountain Park/Preserve often is referred to as the largest municipal park in the country. With so much space it’s no wonder that thousands of tourists and locals visit the park each year. The area boasts 51 miles of primary trails for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking for all ability levels skills. See flora and fauna distinct to the Sonoran Desert, or drive to the top for breathe-taking views of the Greater Phoenix skyline.

Camelback Mountain

E. McDonald Drive at Tatum Blvd.

 (602) 261-8318

Climb the city’s most famous landmark, the mountain resembling a crouching dromedary, for superb views of the Valley. Or visit Echo Canyon Recreation Area, where sheer red cliffs and hiking paths attract outdoor enthusiasts.


Papago Park

Galvin Pkwy and Van Buren St

(602) 256-3220

More than 1,200-acres of desert hills and rugged mountains feature a golf course, museums, picnic areas, fishing lagoons (urban fishing license required), hiking trails and the famous peek-through Hole-in-the-Rock landmark. Visitors to Papago Park can make it a day excursion by visiting the nearby Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Garden, or shops on Mill Ave.


Japanese Friendship Garden/Margaret T Hance Park

1125 N. 3rd Ave. Phoenix, AZ

(602) 256-3204

The Japanese Friendship Garden – Ro Ho En features more than 1,500 tons of handpicked rock, more than 50 varieties of plants, flowing streams, a 12-foot waterfall and a Koi pond. The Garden is the product and shared cultural vision of the Sister Cities of Phoenix and Himeji, Japan. Regular Public Hours at the Garden are Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Closed on Monday. The garden closes each summer due to the heat. Regular season starts in September and ends in May


Splash Playground at Tempe Beach ParkCox Splash Playground at Tempe Beach Park lets children cool off and have fun at Tempe Town Lake. This one-acre park teaches how a drop of rain ends up either in the ocean or becomes part of the city water supply.  Open mid-April – Sept, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Free admission.


Also remember about the Culture Pass – your favorite attractions free!

Hiking Camelback Mountain


Every time someone new comes to town, they’re usually very surprised that our mountains are actually in the city, adn that it doesn’t take a long drive to get there. One of the most frequented mountains is Camelback Mountain, the backdrop for so many resorts and multi-million dollar homes. You can hike Camelback from opposite areas on two different trails: Echo Canyon and Cholla trails. Now, there are a couple paths at the base of CM if you just want a little stroll, but Echo and Cholla trails are the real deal. Jeans, loafers, khakis should all stay at home. This is the time to break out hiking shoes or good athletic shoes, a hat, sunglasses, athletic gear, etc. It’s a good idea to wear extra sunblock and extra deodorant too. 

Both trails are extremely rewarding with viewpoints throughout and the extraordinary perspective from the top.  Echo Canyon is more out-right difficult, with boulders acting as a natural StairMaster, poles to let your arms help out on steep parts, and some narrow passes. Going up and back on Echo could take about 3-4 hours; less if you’re in great shape. You’ll see people running up and down in a half hour, but don’t be intimidated. 

Cholla trail is a more traditional path, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The final quarter is steep narrow passes through huge slabs of boulders, making you work for the visual reward at the pinnacle. Cholla takes about 1.5-3 hours, depending on your condition. 

If you have two cars, I’d recommend hiking up Echo Canyon and down Cholla, as Cholla is easier on the descent because there aren’t as many boulders to step down. Or, try both of them on different days. If you can’t get to the top the first time, the reward of both the viewpoints and the experience is just as great. One thing – make sure to bring a lot of water. It’s not uncommon for first-timers to run out and have to use the water of other people on the trail, which nobody likes to do. Make sure to bring a couple bottles or something to wear on your back with a water bladder. 

The link below has a map and more description for the trails. Happy hiking!


camelback view