Top 5 Adventurous Ideas for an Arizona Family Vacation
With more than 300 days of sunshine every year, there’s no better place to go during the cold winter months than the warm desert of Arizona, which boasts the greenest desert in the US and arguably one of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in America.
Whether horseback riding among iconic Saguaro cacti, awing over the wonder that is the Grand Canyon or learning about the unique flora and fauna (trust me – it’s more interesting than it sounds!), Arizona offers an amazing array of activities for the whole family.
My 5 Favourite Adventures for
Arizona Family Vacations
1. A Day on Mount Lemmon
Mount Lemmon, located just outside of Tucson, is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. In fact, during the coldest winter months, its summit is covered in snow while golfers and cyclists continue to enjoy the comfortable mild climate below.
Mount Lemmon features great beginner-friendly rock climbing, perfect for learning new skills, as well as phenomenal hikes showcasing indigenous wildlife and spectacular mountain vistas. It’s also a part of Arizona’s well-known “Sky Islands.” These bold, forest-clad mountain ranges are isolated from one another by expansive valleys of grassland or desert. In the arid basin and range country of southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico, these mountains receive sufficient rainfall and snow to support a wide diversity of flora and fauna.
2. The McDowell Mountain Preserve
The McDowell Mountain Preserve is a vast, permanently protected, sustainable desert habitat bordering the city of Scottsdale. Presenting a rainbow of bright flowers, towering green cacti and unique trees, Arizona’s Sonoran Desert offers a landscape unlike any other in the world.
This region has been legendary since the earliest wandering of nomadic hunter-gathers, with stories furthered by the great Meso-American cultures, accounts of European discovery, and the intrepid expansion of white civilization to the west. Whether you enjoy a fantastic hike to the prominent Tom’s Thumb Peak, or take on the Brown’s Ranch trail system on a mountain bike, you’ll escape civilization and head into the desert, passing by unique granite boulders, small mountain peaks and unusual desert critters.
And as if that weren’t enough, the views are sure to astound!
3. Sunset Horseback Ride & Dutch-oven Feast in the Desert
Saddle up on horseback for an absolutely gorgeous ride through the Sonoran Desert at sunset. Watch as the sun’s rays highlight the Saguaro cacti, Palo Verde trees, and fiery red Ocotillo blossoms on this easygoing ride.
At the end of the journey, indulge in a gourmet Dutch-oven feast around the campfire. As you’re enjoying dinner, savour the aroma of your dessert baking over the hot coals while you listen to wild stories of the Old West and admire the constellations of the night sky.
4. A Day on the Salt River
Float gently down the river on a raft, pilot your own kayak, or try stand-up paddle boarding on a beginner-friendly river. The inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddle boards are stable and easy to maneuver, creating the perfect platform for splashing, relaxing, or wildlife viewing.
The Salt River is an indispensable oasis in the vast Sonoran Desert, attracting a multitude of birds and wildlife – on most trips wild horses and bald eagles will also make an appearance (see—I told you the fauna were cool)! Take time to appreciate the surrounding mountain peaks and giant cacti, but keep a careful eye out for the river otters as well. Along the way, you’ll learn about the natural history of the area and receive expert paddling instruction.
5. Fly & Hike in the Grand Canyon
A one-of-a-kind journey to the Grand Canyon is sure to be a major highlight. Board a chartered flight in which every passenger gets a window seat and prepare to be wowed as the narrated flight to the Grand Canyon soars above the Tonto National Forest, the Red Rocks of Sedona, and past the San Francisco Peaks, including Humphrey’s Peak, Arizona’s highest point. Upon reaching the Grand Canyon, the air tour continues with a 30-minute scenic flight over the widest and deepest part of the canyon.
After landing at the Grand Canyon Airport you can venture into the national park for an on-the-ground comparison, contrasting the panoramic vistas of the Grand Canyon from the ground with what you just saw from the sky. Then hike down a series of switchbacks to Ooh-Ahh Point, where the landscape opens up to afford 360-degree breathtaking views of this natural wonder.
After dropping almost 1,200 feet in elevation and descending through more than 40 million years of geological history, ascend the trail to the rim for time to explore the unique shops and museums of Grand Canyon Village.