Living a healthy lifestyle, for many, may seam boring or too redundant. Without heading off into a tangent about the health benefits of activities, which just about everybody on the planet knows, trying to think outside the box may prove to be a winner for many when it comes to fitness. Breaking up the monotony of a daily exercise regiment like going to the gym, running, yoga, etc. with outdoor activities can provide the necessary diversity to keep the fitness passion burning longer…therefore properly maintaining a fine tuned machine.
Most Arizona residents know there are almost an endless amount of outdoor activities to do throughout the state, thanks to the sunny weather, rolling canyon landscapes, and active outdoor communities. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the Greater Phoenix area has an average annual high temperature of 85 degrees, and sees the most sunshine compared to any other major urban area in the United States. Arizona offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, cycling, mountain biking, parks, events, etc.
For residents or visitors looking for ways to stay active here are 6 free outdoor activities to help you stay fit, and cash in on Arizona’s beautiful scenery.
1. Cycle, walk, or hike portions of the Apache Trail
This under-utilized outdoor playground sits within a short drive of Phoenix and remains one of Arizona’s true masterpieces. The Apache Trail loop has historic routes as a major passageway for the Apache natives through various mountain ranges. Today, the Apache trail is mostly paved and accessible to vehicles, cyclists, runners, and hikers. The 40 miles of scenic landscape include stops at Canyon Lake, Theodore Roosevelt Dam, Apache Junction, and Tonto National Forest. Portions of the trail are narrow and winding, therefore, caution is advised. The official Apache Trail website has information on attractions, events, and trail maps.
2. Explore the outdoor art scene
Stay active while browsing Arizona’s many outdoor art galleries, perfect for a casual family outing. Events such as the Scottsdale Artwalk and Phoenix’s First Friday feature local artists, gallery pieces, crafts, and outdoor installations. Both events typically feature up to 100 different artists/displays. Visitors can absorb the vibrant culture while supporting the promotion of local artists.
3. Hike Camelback Mountain
Camelback Mountain, Echo Canyon’s highest point at 2,704 feet, is a popular hiking area, especially during Arizona’s winter and spring months. Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation website advises biking to the trailhead to avoid the hassle of having to park, since it’s a busy destination. Hikers can observe the desert vegetation, including prickly pear cacti, cholla, and saguaro, and may spot a few critters such as rattlesnakes, cottontail rabbits, and antelope squirrels.
4. Have a picnic and explore North Mountain Park
North Mountain Park is an equally popular destination, with summits and trails at varying levels of difficulty. North Mountain Park, part of the Sonoran Desert preserves, is full of history with its abandoned cinnabar mines and century-old campgrounds. With over 20 miles of desert trails sprouting from the North Mountain visitor center, hikers can spend an entire day exploring the various routes. Pack plenty of water, snacks, and sandwiches for an afternoon picnic stop, and enjoy the open desert space. Arizona residents can also learn about North Mountain’s geology and plant life with the visitor center tours through the exhibit halls.
5. Volunteer at the Nina Mason Pullian Rio Salado Audubon Center
Their mission statement says it all, “To connect people with nature, using education, science and advocacy to protect birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and earth’s biodiversity.” The Audubon Center, originally an industrial dump, is a true testament to the powerful transformation of an environment and ecosystem. Visitors can walk the Audubon trails, or volunteer during the monthly conservation workdays. Every third Saturday of the month, volunteers of all ages are invited to help with basic upkeep, to plant gardens, and build artificial habitats for wildlife.
6. Make a splash
What’s a long, hot day without the promise of something cooling and refreshing? Children love splash pads and fountains, which are free, quick way to cool off in the Valley of the Sun. Arizona splash parks such as CityScape Fountain, City of Peoria Splash Parks, City of Glendale Aquatic Playground, and El Mirage Splash Plaza are low-key, pop-up jet fountains that can bring hours of playtime to families and children. Most parks include seating and tables to rest.