Terrific Ways to Spend the Day Outdoors in Phoenix and Scottsdale

Explore the Valley of the Sun via urban hikes, strolls down boutique-lined streets and a tour of Desert Botanical Garden.

There’s no tiptoeing around it: Springtime weather in the Valley of the Sun is splendiferous. There’s almost no reason to be inside a building at all between sunrise and moonrise. Here are some of the best ways to spend that glorious span of time outside, featuring our picks of things to do, including a hike up a spectacular mountain, wandering boutique-lined avenues and exploring a desert garden.

Morning: Urban Hiking

Walk a level, paved trail in Papago Park, an undulating and challenging path around Pinnacle Peak, or a steep and strenuous summit route on Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak. Then again, everyone knows about these classic parks; enjoy a quieter commune with nature at North Mountain Park in Phoenix, where trails vary from sand to sharp rubble (watch those ankles), or Lost Dog Wash in north Scottsdale, where an attractive welcome ramada leads to intertwined, not-too-tough trails. Bring water. That bears repeating: Bring water. Drink it whether you feel thirsty or not. It’s a desert out there, and dehydration headaches are lousy. Then pick your patio for breakfast on Scottsdale Road. D’lish does a nice low-carb plate and keeps kombucha on hand. Morning Squeeze goes for broke with the “Hillbilly Highrise” of country-fried steak, hash browns, eggs and sausage gravy. Scramble makes breakfast pizzas on flaky croissant-like crusts. For more info, check out our page showcasing recommended hiking trails in the Valley of the Sun.

Camelback Mountain view from Cholla Trail

Midmorning: Boutique Villages

Keep your walking shoes on as you wander the area’s upscale boutiques. The valley’s best places to do this include Scottsdale Seville, Hilton Village, Gainey Village, Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons. Sure, you’ll have to step out of direct sunshine to fondle the luxury wares in each store—super-scented candles at Hilton’s Linen Tree, “illustrated” Sticks furnishings at Gainey’s Two Plates Full, hammered silver jewelry at Kierland’s Platella—but you’ll remain very aware of how good you’ve got it every time you change purveyors.

Noon: Juice Bars

Juice bars are crazy-popular right now, and they’re an efficient way to nail a recommended daily allowance of angelic ingredients without picking up a knife and fork. Grab a pre-bottled “Turmeric Flush” or “True Alkaline” from Kaleidoscope. Ask a counter-jockey at nekter to add beets (sweet) or broccoli (vitamin-rich) to any prescribed blend. Step up to the sidewalk window at Juby True’s Scottsdale Quarter outpost to summon “Little Miss Sunshine” or an “Afternoon Delight.” For more healthy hydration choices, follow our guide to juice bars in the Phoenix area.

Juby True at Scottsdale Quarter

Afternoon: Desert Botanical Garden

While away the afternoon among the spiny, swollen and sun-loving cacti and succulents of Desert Botanical Garden. Lovingly maintained, meticulously labeled beds and berms showcase Arizona foliage as if it were fine art. Strolling docents are happy to indulge any questions you may come up with along the way. Bonus: Meet the woman in charge of the Garden’s agave and aloe collections, Starr Urbatsch, and follow her one-day itinerary for travelers visiting Phoenix.

Dining outdoors at Phoenix-area farm-to-table favorite Quiessence

Evening: Outdoor Dining

Many restaurants in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Tempe go to great lengths to provide exquisite patios in addition to stellar menus—and patrons eagerly lap up the experiences. (In other words, try early to request your table on the terrace.) Among establishments with outstanding combinations: The House Old Town Brasserie (elegant comfort food) and Sumo Maya (sushi and Mexican) in Scottsdale, Quiessence (farm-to-table) at The Farm at South Mountain in Phoenix, and House of Tricks (fancy American) in Tempe. For more options, check out this list of waterfront dining restaurants in the area.