Oh, you thought I was done with Scottsdale content? Never! 😜 I’m back with a round-up of 12 of the best outdoor Scottsdale activities!
I always get questions on what to do, so I thought it would be fun to put together a list to inspire you for your next trip to Scottsdale.
Especially as we begin to venture out more (wooo vaxxed and waxed, baby!), but still kinda want to keep our distance from people, Scottsdale has so many fun outdoor activities to offer, perfect for this transition period we find ourselves in.
So pack up your adventure gear, casual outfits, and sunscreen so you can experience Scottsdale and everything it has to offer.
12 Outdoor Scottsdale Activities
A lot of Arizona is known for its hiking, and Scottsdale is no different!
Pinnacle Peak Park is one of the more popular hikes in Scottsdale. You hike all the way to the top of Pinnacle Peak to get a gorgeous view of mountains and rocks.
If you get there early enough you can watch the sunrise at the peak. That will never be my lived experience since I’m the opposite of an early bird, but if that’s your thing, I’m sure it’s beautiful!
The McDowell Sonoran Preserve is another popular spot because you can see rows of desert habitats and even go horseback riding.
The hiking at McDowell is super easy—you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to finish one of these trails. To mix things up you can go on a bike tour and bike on one of the bike trails.
2. Horseback Riding
Horseback riding was by far one of my favorite things to do while in Scottsdale. There’s really nothing cooler than riding through the desert on a horse.
You might even get lucky and see a band of wild horses—they’re so beautiful!
I booked my horseback riding tour here with Fort McDowell Adventures.
Everything you’ll see on your tour is just stunning. The mountains in the backdrop and being surrounded by different cacti just feels so magical—almost like being transported to a movie set.
Go kayaking on the Salt River with Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch. On a hot day, there’s nothing better than cooling off in the river. This is another one of my absolute favorite outdoor Scottsdale activities.
While kayaking, expect to see sights of the Bulldog Cliff, Cacti, and again if you’re lucky, some bands of wild horses. It’s seriously such a fun outdoor activity to try while you’re traveling to Scottsdale!
Be sure to layer on that sunscreen to prevent you from burning in the heat while sitting in your kayak. You’ll get a nice mini arm workout while you’re paddling out there.
4. ATV Tour
Doing an ATV tour is a super popular outdoor activity to try in Scottsdale. Everyone likes the Desert Wolf Tours, where you go on a full 3-hour to 3.5-hour tour through the Sonoran Desert.
You’ll get to see gorgeous mountains, ancient Indian ruins, the Old Stage Coach Trail, river crossings, and a freshwater oasis.
Learn about all the native plants and animals in the desert by getting an amazing tour from the super helpful tour guides, and get a bit of a rush speeding through the desert.
5. Outdoor Shopping
If you’re in the mood for a little retail therapy, Scottsdale has plenty of outdoor mall options like Scottsdale Quarter. Old Town Scottsdale has plenty of fun shops to check out too.
After you’re done shopping you can enjoy the variety of restaurants and entertainment around Kierland Commons. You can easily spend the whole day here just relaxing and grabbing some new things for your wardrobe.
This spot has everything to keep you busy and has a lot of Instagrammable spots to get that perfect shot for your Insta.
If you’re looking for more places to shop the Scottsdale Fashion Square is the place to go and is a popular mall in Scottsdale.
6. Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Gardens offers tranquility while exploring desert plants in the Sonoran Desert.
While you’re there, you can explore the many trails throughout the gardens. Be sure to check out their events calendar to not miss out on their festivities and exhibitions.
When I came here I got to experience the Electric Desert and Luminarias in November—everything is beautifully decorated and you’ll have an unforgettable time.
7. Sonoran Desert Jeep Tour
The Sonoran Desert Jeep tour is a must-do! They offer two different types of tours: the regular one or the one during sunset.
You already know what I’m going to recommend—the sunset desert tour. There’s nothing more breathtaking than exploring the desert while watching the sunset in the background.
This tour is so much fun and you’ll get to go on a scenic drive to see Tonto National Forest and the panoramic lookout point overlooking the historic Great Western Trail.
While on the tour you get to learn about the desert’s native plants, animals, and history.
8. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is a great place to bring the family. You get to ride a 1950-vintage Allan Herschell carousel throughout Scottsdale to visit a variety of shops and museums.
The park is 30-acres located in the heart of Scottsdale. There are a ton of play areas—perfect if you have kids—and plenty of park space to relax on the grass.
You can enjoy a number of fun events the park hosts, just be sure to stay up to date with their events calendar to grab tickets.
9. Old Town Scottsdale
Spend the afternoon in Old Town Scottsdale, which is pretty much downtown Scottsdale.
There is so much to do in this vibrant and fun part of town like shopping, eating, visiting museums and art galleries, wine tasting, and bar hopping.
Everything has an old Western aesthetic to it and there’s a lot of history here (like Porters Western Saloon, which is now a bar but used to be Scottsdale’s first post office).
While you’re walking around definitely keep your eyes out for the 45+ permanent public art installations. They’re all super cool and make for Instagrammable backdrops.
10. McDowell Mountain Golf Club
If you love golfing then you’re going to love stopping by McDowell Mountain Golf Club. With 18-hole golf courses, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
After a long day of golfing, you can enjoy a nice meal out at the Mesquite Grille and Patio. Have your meal overlooking the mountains.
If you’re looking for more golfing, check out Troon North Golf Club to get a few more rounds in.
11. Hot Air Balloon Ride
Wrapping it up with a super fun outdoor activity, a hot air balloon ride! Catch stunning views of Scottsdale up on a hot air balloon with Hot Air Expeditions.
With a bird’s eye view, you can really see everything! If you can try to catch a sunrise hot air balloon ride—there’s really nothing like it.
It feels like you’re the only person in the world as you’re flying way up in the sky.
12. Outdoor Dining
There really are plenty of Scottsdale outdoor activities to try on your next vacation there. I hope you found this travel guide helpful and if you’re planning a trip to Scottsdale, have the best time!
If you decide to try any of these definitely tag me @wtfab on insta so I can see your pics—it always makes me so happy seeing all of your photos!
Thank you to Experience Scottsdale for sponsoring this post!
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The best outdoor activities in Scottsdale are:
– Horseback riding
– Hot Air Balloon Ride
The best places to visit in Scottsdale are:
– Old Town Scottsdale
– Desert Botanical Gardens
– McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Yes, Scottsdale is definitely worth visiting! There are so many fun outdoor activities to try with your friends and family.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.