Things to do / Travel Guide
The rugged beauty of southern Arizona has captivated and awed visitors for centuries. Spectacular natural rock sculptures, 200-year old saguaro cacti, and delicate desert wildflowers are just a few of the reasons why a scenic drive through the region is an experience not to be missed.
The Desert Foothills Scenic Drive is a six-mile drive that begins north of downtown Scottsdale at the intersection of Scottsdale Road and Happy Valley Road. Alongside the paved road are informative signs that will tell you about the cacti and other native plants, such as palo verde, ocotillo, creosote, and mesquite that dot the landscape. Further on are unforgettable views of Pinnacle Peak, Black Mountain, and the McDowell Mountains. The drive ends at the Boulders, a spectacular rock formation that provides the backdrop for the world-famous Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa.
East of Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa is the Apache Trail, located in the Superstition Wilderness. This approximately 45-mile drive, which varies from paved roads to bumpy dirt paths, will take you past the Goldfield Ghost Town, the high-rising Weaver's Needle, Canyon Lake, the sharply turning Fish Creek Hill, which drops 1,500 feet in three miles, and Apache Lake. The drive ends at the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. To get there, take U.S. Highway 60 to Apache Junction and turn on Arizona State Road 88, which takes you straight into the Superstition Wilderness.
Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway leads to the upper reaches of Mt. Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range and is one of the most scenic drives in the region. As you climb up the 28-mile mountain drive, you'll pass through amazing desert rock formations, cool mountain forests, and see an incredibly diverse range of vegetation and animal life. To get there from Tucson, take the Tanque Verde Road to the Catalina Highway, which becomes the Hitchcock Highway at the Forest Service boundary.
The Cactus Forest Drive is an 8-mile paved road through the Rincon Mountain district of Saguaro National Park. The main attraction is the display of the distinctive saguaro cacti, some of which are around 200-years-old, and other desert foliage. To get there from Tucson, drive east on Broadway or Speedway Boulevard to Freeman Road. Take Freeman Road south to Old Spanish Trail. Turn left onto Old Spanish Trail heading south. Follow the signs to the Saguaro National Park entrance.