Beat The Heat Visit The Cool Places In Our State
Here are some picks of the top ten fun things to do during the summer in Arizona.
July 1, 2015
The wonderful thing about living in Arizona is that we have such a range of altitudes and ecosystems. When it's too cold up north, we can mess around in the desert, and when the desert is broiling, we can either keep cool at one of the desert reservoirs or head up to higher altitudes and enjoy cooler weather.
We enjoyed an unseasonably cool and wonderful May, but now that June and July are here, the summer weather has fully set in. So here are my picks of the top ten ways to enjoy the summer outdoors in Arizona, (not necessarily in order).
1. Slide Rock/Oak Creek Canyon - Both of these are in the Sedona Area and both are very popular summer spots. Water is the key. There are also a lot of great hikes in the Sedona area. Some are very hot unless you go first thing in the morning, but some are mostly shady and also lead you to water, such as the West Fork of Oak Creek Trail. The red rocks and spectacular formations in the Sedona area are world famous, and there are plenty of restaurants and shops if you'd rather do that. There are many nice campgrounds in the Sedona area as well. There are fees for parking in this popular area, so before you go, make sure you check online for advice on where to park, how much it costs, and best times to visit.
2. The Pinaleno Mountains - This may be the most fantastic mountain escape you never heard of. It's one of Arizona's many mountain island areas and it's absolutely gorgeous. The Pinalenos are just outside Safford. Take the road up to Riggs Flat Lake and you'll pass lots of great loop hikes and places to pull off and picnic. Riggs Flat Lake is a beautiful blue jewel at the top of the mountains and you can fish or picnic or hike in the cool forest.
3. Prescott - There are a host of outdoor opportunities in the Prescott Area, from four-wheeling the Mingus Mountains to swimming, fishing, and hiking. Two of my favorite places to hike in Prescott are lynx lake and watson lake. lynx lake in particular is great for kids. The trail that circles the lake is flat and mostly smooth – in fact, the first part of it is stroller friendly. Also, this trail has lots of shade and you can see the lake the whole time. watson lake has fewer trees and therefore less shade, but the boulders are spectacular. If you're in Prescott you should at least go visit just to see the boulders.
4. Flagstaff - The hiking and fishing and BOATING opportunities around Flagstaff are superb. lake mary offers pike fishing and motor BOATING, and there are trails everywhere. My favorites are the trails up on the way to the Snowbowl – Kachina, Aspen Loop, Lamar Haines, and Humphrey's Peak trail. The forest is gorgeous in the summer, and at those altitudes (9000+), the weather is glorious. There are tons of campgrounds and hotels and motels in and around Flag, and lots of fun things to do even with the smallest kids. I recommend the Arboretum (it has a nice little trail, too), Riordan Mansion, Bearizona, and a sunset hike in Buffalo Park. Life doesn't get much better than that!
5. Springerville - We found so much to do around Springerville it isn't even funny. We loved Wenima Wildlife Area – great trails, the Little Colorado River, deer, birds – it was awesome! Also excellent was the Sipe Mountain Wilderness Area, although there is less shade here. Becker Lake is a beautiful trout lake just outside town, and there are trails galore. I love this place.
6. Pinetop-Lakeside - This is the first place we ever took our granddaughter Trinity hiking. She was about 5 years old and she absolutely loved it. We went to every little lake on the map, and there are plenty. We hiked around the lakes, had a picnic at the park, and then her favorite: We visited the Ranger Station. Now I'm not sure if they still do this, because she is headed to NAU this fall, so that was about 13 years ago, but they gave her a little Smokey the Bear bag with a pencil, pictures to color, and all kinds of little goodies. She was thrilled! We had a great time and it was cool and pleasant.
7. Pine Mountain Wilderness - This is a recreation area in the mountains near Globe. We drove up there one day and we were pleasantly surprised by the nice campgounds and the lovely pine forest. There are small creeks that may be running as well. There are plenty of hikes here, but most of them are out and back, and since it's on a mountaintop, you'll be going uphill one way. If you have two vehicles, you might want to park one down below then drive up to the top of the trail so you can go downhill the whole time. Even in the pine forest, it gets pretty sweaty hiking uphill.
8. Ramsey Canyon - This world-class birding site is just outside Sierra Vista and has a marvelous shady trail that follows a sparkling creek for about a mile. Parking is limited here, so get there early. There is also a small fee. Look it up online before you go. The Sierra Vista area has lots of places to camp and hike, and many of them are up in the mountains where it will be much cooler.
9. Desert Lakes - Bartlett Lake is my favorite desert lake: Its tall yellow cliffs, beautiful desert, and great ramps and parking, not to mention the awesome bass fishing, make it a great destination. You can swim, fish, camp, boat, look for the otters, picnic, or just drive around and enjoy the beauty of this lake. If you go past the Bartlett Marina to the campground, you'll come to a sweet campground below the dam where the water is cool and there are plenty of trees. Canyon Lake, Lake Pleasant, Saguaro Lake, and Lake Powell all have lake cruises where you can relax on board a comfortable, shady boat and learn all about the area from tour guides. You get to see the whole lake and maybe even enjoy dinner and a drink while you soak in the views. All of the Salt River Lakes and the Colorado River lakes offer fine BOATING opportunities.
10. Mt. Lemmon - Just outside Tucson is Mt. Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains with tons of recreation opportunities including hiking, swimming, and fishing. Elevations go up to 9000 feet, so it's nice and cool, and it's close by Tucson with so many things to do, including the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, the Titan Missile Museum, Madera Canyon, Sabino Canyon, and Saguaro National Park. Admittedly, the attractions in the lowlands are a bit toasty this time of year, but if you hit them early in the day before you head up the mountain, you can have a blast without roasting.
Before You Go, Be Sure
Before you go anywhere, be sure you are protected from head to toe and inside and out.
Sun protection is a must in Arizona, even when you are in the high country. In fact, especially when you are in the high country, as higher elevations increase the risk of sun damage.
It's a fact that your skin can absorb many chemicals, so if you would like a natural solution, you might want to try Rocket Pure products. They have a line of sunscreens, lip protection, foot powders, and skin balms that are all natural with no harmful chemicals to seep into your bloodstream.
You should also wear a hat with a nice wide brim and if possible, clothing with built-in SPF. These are widely available at outdoor stores like Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops.
You also need to be sure you are carrying a lot of water. Don't head off on a hike with a 12-ounce bottle in your hand. In my family, we have little day-hiker packs with built-in water bladders that hold at least a gallon of water.
It doesn't take long to get dehydrated in Arizona, regardless of where you are or what you are doing. Some symptoms of dehydration are crankiness, headache, weakness, dizziness, and nausea. What a way to ruin a vacation, right?
So play it smart – take lots of water, and keep that sunscreen slathered on. Arizona is a blast in the summer – keep it safe and happy.
By the way, I have written about most of these areas at length in previous issues of Arizona BOATING and Watersports/WesternOutdoorTimes, so check their back issues online for more info and photos. Go to the search bar on http://www.azbw.com or http://www.westernoutdoortimes.com.
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