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The Best Parks in Phoenix
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The Best Parks in Phoenix

Picture of Lauren Gruber
Updated: 9 February 2017
Phoenix, the scorching capital of US state Arizona, is a sprawling metropolitan region known as ‘The Valley of the Sun’. With sultry warmth prevailing here all year round, where better to enjoy a ramble in some of the best parks in the country? Stunning, spacious and historical park areas abound here, spaces which add an exotic and wild flare to the cosmopolitan city scene. With astonishing petroglyphs, exciting biking trails and gorgeous natural scenery, this should be your top choice for a scenic and fun park trip in America. Read ahead for our guide to the best parks and recreation areas in Phoenix.

Papago Park

Boasting breathtaking scenic views of the monumental red sandstone formations, Papago Park truly should not be missed when in Phoenix. Here you can wander around Hole in the Rock and Hunt’s Tomb, a white pyramid at the top of one of the hills here, and a historical formation which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can easily climb the sandstone to get a view of the skyline of Downtown Phoenix, and the rocks also provide a perfect spot in which to bask in the vivid colors of a glorious Arizona sunset. And as if that wasn’t enough, the park is home to the world-class attractions of the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Gardens; visitors to Papago will be spoilt for choice with activity possibilities.

Address and Telephone: Papago Park, Curry Rd & College Ave Phoenix, AZ 85073 602-495-5458

The view of the oasis in Papago Park.
The view of the oasis in Papago Park I ©John Fowler/Flickr

Japanese Friendship Garden – Ro Ho En

Located in Downtown Phoenix, the Japanese Friendship Garden is a classically tranquil piece of paradise, a space dedicated entirely to illustrating the beauty and wonder of Japan. The garden abounds with native plants from the country, and is home to Japanese art, authentic sculptures and an idyllic, large pond filled with koi fish. Visitors here are provided with sprawling green spaces in which to stroll, and can enjoy authentic Japanese tea ceremonies in the Musoan tea house every third Saturday of the month. These shows are presented by volunteers adorned in traditional dress, and give an illuminating insight into a unique and entirely different culture.

Address and Telephone: Japanese Friendship Garden, 1125 N 5th Ave Phoenix AZ 85003 602-256-3204

The beautiful architecture and gardens in the Japanese Friendship Garden.
The beautiful architecture and gardens in the Japanese Friendship Garden I ©L Hoffheins/Flickr

South Mountain Park

Encompassing 17,000 acres, South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the United States, and is a space brimming with adventure and history. The emblematic hiking icons of Camelback Mountain and Superstition Mountain are found here and provide the perfect place for trekking and biking, and South Mountain, situated here too, boasts gorgeous vistas of the city and horizon after an amble to the top. Visitors here can look out for beautiful ancient petroglyphs carved into the rocks by Hohokam Indians, and archaic stone structures are also dotted around the site, each dating back hundreds of years. A plethora of picnic tables, BBQ grills and verdant spaces offer many spots for rest and relaxation in an incredibly picturesque area here.

Address and Telephone: South Mountain Park, 10919 S Central Ave Phoenix, AZ 85042 602-495-0222

The beautiful trails and mountains at South Mountain Park.
The beautiful trails and mountains at South Mountain Park I ©Kenneth Hagemeyer/Flickr

Dreamy Draw Recreation Area

The wild landscape of Dreamy Draw features a dramatic and diverse desert with secluded valleys and high mountain peaks. The impressive and striking setting is the home to a wealth of creatures including howling coyotes and colorful lizards, and giant sage shrubs dot the setting here for miles. Rocky dirt trails, such as the 2,000-foot tall Piestewa Peak, provide adventurous rambles for enthusiastic walkers, and there are also some paved trails for those looking for an easier stroll. Picnic areas are nestled around in quiet areas here, and are great places in which to recline and soak in the quiet and compelling scene of the park.

Address and Telephone: Dreamy Draw Recreation Area, 2421 E Northern Ave Phoenix, AZ 85021 602-261-8313

The mountain range in Dreamy Draw Recreation Area.
The mountain range in Dreamy Draw Recreation Area I ©cyclotourist/Flickr

Civic Space Park

Civic Space Park in Downtown Phoenix is the ideal place to enjoy a quiet lunch or some peace and quiet in the city. The park is home to the A.E. England Building Gallery, a vibrant local art space, and the entire area is always bustling with locals and chatty students. The overhead light installation here reading ‘Her Secret is Patience’ is mesmerizing at night, with its appearance changing with the wind. With live music performances often hosted here, Civic Space Park is elevated as a modern and fun urban space, and sustainable design features help to keep it both clean and visually compelling.

Address and Telephone: Civic Space Park, 424 N Central Ave Phoenix, AZ 85004 602-262-7490

Children play on the light installations at Civic Space Park with the large main piece centered above.
Children play on the light installations at Civic Space Park with the large main piece centered above I ©RightBrainPhotography/Flickr

By Lauren Gruber