Experience some of the best outdoor adventures in Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding area. Enjoy a ride in a hot air balloon ride, visit the Desert Botanical Gardens, tour a local innovative farm and more!
If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you know that I just returned from an incredible trip to the Phoenix area. It was my first trip to Arizona and as I boarded my plane to return home, I already wanted to book a trip back. The desert is majestic and unlike anything I had every experienced before. Phoenix is filled with beautiful blue skies, unique desert scenery, fresh local food and exciting adventures. Today, I am sharing the best outdoor adventures in the Phoenix area, including Mesa, Scottdale and Gilbert, Arizona. This post is just one in a series of posts recapping the best things to see, eat and do in the Phoenix, Arizona.
Here are my top picks for the best outdoor adventures in Phoenix and the surrounding area:
(1) Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Desert
I wanted to experience a hot air balloon ride when we went to Napa Valley last year, but we didn’t have an opportunity in our itinerary to do it. When I planned my trip to Phoenix I knew that I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to fly over the desert in a hot air balloon. We booked our flight with Hot Air Expeditions for the morning after arriving to Phoenix. We were still on East Coast time so it wasn’t difficult to wake up early for the morning sunrise launch.
I could write an entire post about my experience flying in a hot air balloon over the desert. In fact, I returned home and realized I took over 1,000 photos of the experience. From pick up at our hotel to the final post-flight breakfast, everything was incredible.
Lifting off the ground in a hot air balloon and climbing to close to 5,000 feet in the air is an experience unlike any other. While our balloon was preparing to launch, we saw other balloons lifting into the air. Clear blue skies and beautiful weather make Arizona a great place to enjoy a hot air balloon ride.
I don’t enjoy selfie pictures but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take one 4,000 feet in the air. It is also proof that I was actually in the basket and up in the air!
Our captain maneuvered low over the desert and we spotted wild burros, jackrabbits, saguaro cactus and more! Can you spot any animals in the pictures below?
The captain looked for a good place to land and the on-the-ground balloon chasers crew met us at the landing spot. I have to admit that I had no idea what it would be like to land in a hot air balloon. After all, the only thing guiding you is the wind, your captain and some hot air. There are no emergency brakes. But the landing was calm and I always felt safe with our captain throughout the flight and landing.
After landing, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and champagne toast. The experience flying in a hot air balloon over the desert is an experience I will never forget. In fact, now I am seeking out destinations that feature hot air balloons. The experience is beautiful, majestic and peaceful. If you have any doubts at that you will like it, just go. I can’t wait for my next flight!
Don’t miss this short video featuring my adventure in the Hot Air Balloon!
(2) Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden is conveniently located in Phoenix. The garden is a great place to spend the morning, afternoon or even a full day. It also contains one of the best collections of arid-land plants from deserts around the world. I have never seen so many different species of desert plants in my life. Before visiting the garden, I didn’t realize how many plants actually grow in the desert.
The best thing about the garden is that you would never even know that most of it is a garden. With the location of the garden in the middle of Sonoran Desert, many of the plant species are native. The Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail and the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail are two walking trails that make you feel as if you are in the middle of the desert. In fact, the walking trails are my favorite thing about the garden and should not be missed.
In addition to the desert loop trails, the garden has wildflowers, cactus from around the world, herbs and more. The garden also has a lovely restaurant, garden shop and numerous restrooms and water fountains located throughout the gardens. We visited during a hot day and there were many places to stop, rest and refresh ourselves with water.
The Desert Botanical Garden is a must-see for any trip to Phoenix. The landscape, plants and scenery are incredible. It is also a great way to spend the day outdoors exploring the desert.
(3) Farm & Agricultural Tour
Who knew that there are so many agricultural opportunities in the middle of the desert? Visiting farms and agricultural spots in the middle of the desert provides a unique experience to learn about how many of the local chefs and restaurants source their food.
Farmers pride themselves on the ability to grow fresh, local ingredients in a organic, sustainable and efficient way. In fact, the desert is the perfect climate for growing many things because of the minimal pests and a year-round growing season.
One of the first stops on a desert farm tour should be True Garden, a vertical aeroponic food farm in Mesa, Arizona. The indoor greenhouse grows beautiful organic leafy greens using less water, less space and no chemicals, pesticides or herbicides. I was able to take a behind the scenes look at how they grow these leafy greens in the middle of the desert.
True Garden offers workshops and events where you can learn a little about how the are using innovative practices to grow beautiful produce. They also sell their produce at their own local farmer’s market and to local restaurants and markets.
Next stop on a desert farm tour should be Agritopia, a unique urban farm community. The farm community has it’s own coffee shop, honor system farmer’s market and organic farm. Don’t forget to stop at Joe’s Farm Grill for a bite to eat!
You will be amazed at how many plants actually grow in Arizona. The plants are green and everything from olives to grapes to wheat grow in the desert soil.
One of my favorite destinations on a farm tour that is also fit for foodies is the Queen Creek Olive Mill. Olives are grown and pressed on the farm. You can experience a tour and tasting at the mill, view the beautiful olive trees and shop in the small marketplace. The mill is a great place to enjoy the outdoors and then cool off.
Don’t miss their olive oil cupcakes and other sweet treats!
(4) Hiking, Watersports and more!
With sunny weather year round there is always a reason to enjoy the outdoors in the Phoenix area. Yes, the temperatures are hot in the summer, but you can enjoy an early morning hike and then swim or paddleboard in a local lake to cool off. In the fall, winter and spring the weather is gorgeous for any outdoor activities.
Phoenix is home to plenty of hiking trails. In fact, many of the hiking trails were located within walking distance to our accommodations. Check out Tom’s Thumb’s Papago Park and Pinnacle Peak in Phoenix, just to name a few. Also check out Usery Mountain Park in Mesa. The park offers hiking, biking and horseback riding with beautiful views of the Sonoran Desert.
With many options to choose from, I can’t wait to return and experience a hiking trip with one of the local outfitters!
Thank you to Visit Phoenix, Visit Mesa and Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau for offering me the opportunity to experience the best that the Phoenix area has to offer. As always, all opinions are my own.