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Scottsdale, Arizona, a desert oasis, offers a plethora of outdoorsy activities for adventure enthusiasts. Begin your journey by exploring the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a vast expanse of pristine desert landscapes with numerous hiking trails, providing breathtaking views of the Sonoran Desert. For a unique experience, take a hot air balloon ride and witness the stunning Arizona sunrise.


Golf enthusiasts can tee off at world-class courses surrounded by scenic desert panoramas. Paddle along the Salt River for a refreshing kayaking adventure or embark on a horseback riding expedition through the picturesque landscapes of the Tonto National Forest.

Scottsdale’s vibrant Old Town is perfect for those seeking a blend of outdoor exploration and cultural experiences, with its eclectic mix of shops, art galleries, and alfresco dining options. Whether you’re seeking thrilling experiences or a peaceful retreat in nature, Scottsdale has something for everyone.


Fun Things to Do in Scottsdale, Arizona

Nestled in the heart of the desert, Scottsdale, Arizona, invites adventure seekers to explore its natural wonders. From scenic trails to panoramic views, the city offers a diverse range of outdoorsy activities. Let’s delve into the seven best things to do, ensuring you make the most of your time in this desert oasis.

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1. Hiking in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Hiking in McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Embark on an immersive journey through the expansive beauty of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona. Miles of scenic trails beckon, inviting you to explore the captivating landscapes of the desert. As you traverse the renowned Tom’s Thumb Trail and Gateway Loop Trail, prepare to be mesmerized by not only breathtaking views but also by unique rock formations that narrate the geological history of the region.


Stand in awe of the desert’s timeless beauty, where each step unveils a story etched in the rocks, providing a profound connection to the rich natural heritage of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This adventure promises not only a physical journey through the trails but also a captivating exploration of the desert’s geological tapestry.

2. Hot Air Balloon Ride

Indulge in the enchantment of Scottsdale by elevating your perspective with a hot air balloon ride. Whether embarked upon at sunrise or sunset, the balloon becomes a floating vantage point, unveiling a panoramic canvas of the desert and mountains. This mesmerizing journey offers a visual spectacle, capturing the vastness and natural grandeur of Scottsdale’s unique desert landscape. Drift above the arid beauty as the balloon gracefully navigates the skies, providing a serene and immersive experience that encapsulates the boundless allure of the desert.


It’s a truly magical adventure, allowing you to witness the transformation of colors and shadows dancing across the rugged terrain. A hot air balloon ride in Scottsdale promises not just a scenic voyage but an unforgettable encounter with the expansive beauty that defines this desert oasis.

3. Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden

Delve into the marvels of the Sonoran Desert at the Desert Botanical Garden, where nature unfolds in a vibrant tapestry. Towering cacti and resilient succulents take center stage, showcasing the diverse flora that thrives in this arid landscape. As you traverse the garden’s trails, you’re immersed in a living exhibition that not only captivates the senses but also imparts insights into the unique and fascinating ecosystem of the desert. The curated pathways wind through a world of botanical wonders, providing a sensory journey through the intricate beauty of the region.


Each step reveals the resilience of desert plants, creating an educational and awe-inspiring experience within the heart of the Sonoran Desert. The Desert Botanical Garden stands as a testament to the richness of desert life, inviting visitors to connect with and appreciate the remarkable biodiversity that flourishes in this arid terrain.

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4. Salt River Tubing

Beat the desert heat by embracing a leisurely float down the Salt River, an idyllic escape in Scottsdale. Climb into an inner tube, surrendering to the gentle currents that guide you through the meandering river. As you drift along, immerse yourself in the breathtaking desert landscape that unfolds in every direction. This experience offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, allowing you to unwind amidst nature’s beauty while maintaining a sense of excitement.


Floating down the Salt River provides a unique and refreshing perspective of the surroundings, creating an unforgettable journey that harmonizes with the tranquility of the desert waters. It’s a leisurely yet invigorating adventure, inviting you to discover the serene side of Scottsdale’s arid landscape from the comfort of your inner tube.

5. Pinnacle Peak Park

Pinnacle Peak Park

Ignite your adventurous spirit with a challenging hike at Pinnacle Peak Park. The moderately challenging trail not only treats you to breathtaking views of the desert landscape but also presents opportunities to encounter native wildlife. Keep an eye out for elusive bighorn sheep and a variety of bird species, adding an exciting dimension to your hiking experience.


Pinnacle Peak Park stands as a haven for nature lovers, where every turn reveals new rewards in the form of scenic wonders and glimpses of the vibrant desert ecosystem. Embark on this exhilarating journey, and let the rugged beauty of the trail and the thrill of wildlife sightings make Pinnacle Peak Park a memorable adventure for those seeking a true connection with the natural wonders of Scottsdale.

6. Bike the Arizona Canal Trail

Embark on an exploration of Scottsdale by renting a bike and traversing the scenic Arizona Canal Trail. This multi-use path weaves through the heart of the city, offering a delightful journey as you pedal past parks, charming neighborhoods, and the unique beauty of the desert. The trail provides a perfect balance between urban and natural landscapes, allowing you to soak in the diverse surroundings at your own pace. Whether cruising through lush parks or experiencing the rugged allure of the desert, biking along the Arizona Canal Trail is a delightful adventure that unveils the city’s outdoor offerings in a leisurely and immersive way.


This cycling excursion provides not only exercise but also a unique perspective, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a refreshing and flexible exploration of Scottsdale’s diverse landscapes.

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7. Rock Climbing at McDowell Mountains

Rock Climbing at McDowell Mountains

Satiate your craving for an adrenaline rush amidst the McDowell Mountains, where fantastic rock climbing opportunities await. Catering to both beginners and experienced climbers, the diverse routes provide a chance to ascend to new heights and conquer the rugged beauty of the terrain. Feel the thrill as you navigate the rocky surfaces, challenging your skills against the backdrop of the breathtaking McDowell landscape. The mountains become a playground for adventure seekers, offering a dynamic experience that combines the excitement of climbing with the reward of panoramic views from the summit.


McDowell Mountains serve as a natural haven for those seeking an exhilarating outdoor pursuit, where each ascent becomes a personal triumph against the backdrop of Arizona’s stunning vistas. Whether a novice or seasoned climber, the McDowell Mountains beckon with an invitation to conquer their peaks and savor the unmatched sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the summit.

Final Thoughts

Scottsdale, Arizona, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of activities that allow visitors to connect with nature and experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. From hiking through scenic trails to white-water rafting on the Salt River, there are endless opportunities for adventure and exploration. The serene hot air balloon rides, horseback riding excursions, and off-road tours provide unique perspectives of the desert landscape. For those who prefer a more leisurely outdoor experience, golfing on the picturesque courses is a popular choice. No matter your preference, Scottsdale’s great outdoors offers something for everyone to enjoy and create unforgettable memories.



Are there beginner-friendly hiking trails in Scottsdale?

Absolutely! The McDowell Sonoran Preserve offers a range of hiking trails suitable for beginners, providing a chance to experience the beauty of the desert without strenuous difficulty.

What is the best time for a hot air balloon ride in Scottsdale?

The best time for a hot air balloon ride is during the early morning hours, allowing you to witness the mesmerizing Arizona sunrise.

Can I rent kayaking equipment in Scottsdale for the Salt River?

Yes, there are several rental companies in Scottsdale that provide kayaking equipment for a refreshing adventure along the Salt River.

Are there guided horseback riding tours in Tonto National Forest?

Absolutely! Tonto National Forest offers guided horseback riding tours, allowing you to explore its picturesque landscapes with the assistance of experienced guides.

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