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11 Places to Visit Near Phoenix: Top Small Towns, Parks, Attractions

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There’s nothing quite like a visit to the desert, even if you’re staying in the city. Arizona’s unique climate makes for an incredible experience. Naturally, Arizona’s capital, Phoenix, boasts plenty of perks of its own.

Sometimes, though, you need a break from the skyscrapers. That’s why we’re here: to tell you about the must-see places to visit near Phoenix.

We aren’t going to send you on hours-long weekend trips to the Petrified Forest National Park or the red rock buttes of the Grand Canyon—no. We’ll take you from downtown Phoenix to nearby sights that offer unforgettable outdoor adventures, ample hiking, and the occasional small town.

These scenic drives will only take up a little of your time. They’ll only be a few hours, at most, with most of the options laid out below just a half-hour’s ride away from downtown!

1. South Mountain Park

South Mountain Park Preserve, Arizona Skyline
Pritha_EasyArts / Adobe Stock

Address: 10919 S Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85042-8302

This park is a beautiful example of the desert landscape. Take a quick day trip to South Mountain Park (about 15 minutes down the road from Phoenix), and you’ll see what we mean: incredible hiking trails, breathtaking valley views, and three different mountain ranges await.

Explore the Gila, Guadalupe, and Ma Ha Tauk mountains, the hallmarks of the park. This location is excellent for mountain biking, picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, and sightseeing. Visit the Mystery Castle, constructed in the 1930s. It has become a gorgeous architectural attraction.

With 16,000 acres of natural beauty, this park is perfect for the whole family. It’s one of the largest municipal parks in the United States! No wonder it’s been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride.

Things to Do:

Accommodations:

2. The Desert Botanical Garden

Different cacti in a Desert Botanical Garden, one of the best places to visit near Phoenix, Arizona
Oleg Kovtun / Adobe Stock

Address: 1201 N Galvin Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ 85008

A lovely quick trip from Phoenix is the Desert Botanical Gardens. This popular destination is located by Papago Park in Tempe, Arizona, along the Phoenix and Scottsdale borders. It’s only 15 minutes away from the center of town and next door to Phoenix Zoo.

You can visit the gardens year-round, but it’s best to go in the springtime when you’re guaranteed to experience an explosion of color. This time is when these plants bloom brightest, with vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows.

It is warm even in the winter months, so if you’re cautious about heat but still want to experience the brilliant blossoms, we recommend stopping by in early February. If you’ve got a long layover at Phoenix Sky Harbor, consider visiting the garden with your free time.

Things to Do:

  • Peruse the desert blooms for $25-$30 (children under two and members are free)
  • Enjoy music in the garden and other events
  • Check out Phoenix Zoo with the kids
  • Papago Park and the Hole in the Rock

Accommodations:

3. Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Winter Home

Taliesin West, architect Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home.
Lar / Wikimedia Commons, Public domain

Address: 12621 N Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85259

If architecture interests you, we have a great stop to add to your list. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home is located near Phoenix, just a half hour down AZ-101 to Scottsdale.

Since dubbed Taliesin West, it’s been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark. It’s also the current headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Perhaps unexpectedly, this home is not only a tourist destination because of its architecture; it also draws attention due to its status as the birthplace of the organic architecture movement. The buildings and landscapes were designed to be in harmony with the environment, and as you’ll see for yourself, that design lives on today.

Things to Do:

  • Explore the property with audio or guided tours (ranging from $20-$54 in price, depending)
  • Learn about the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Accommodations:

4. Apache Junction

Apache Junction Sign and horseback riders
Rosemarie / Adobe Stock

Apache Junction is a great contender if you want to escape from one city to another. Just 35 minutes from Phoenix, the spirit of Arizona flows freely here, as this landmark serves as both the home of the Superstition Mountains and the gateway to the Tonto National Forest.

Here, you can get in touch with your wild side. Apache Junction thrives on encouraging countless outdoor adventures, from early morning fishing to camping and horseback riding.

It also features a variety of downtown attractions, including the Superstition Mountain Museum and the scaly Reptile Junction, so people of all ages and interests can find something unique to explore. Local, city-wide events are published on their website, so if you are in town on a specific date, see what’s happening!

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5. Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine Tours Inc.

Goldfield Ghost Town in Arizona
Marine 69-71 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Address: 4650 N Mammoth Mine Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119-9465

If you’re looking for something truly original on the outskirts of the capital city, look no further. Goldfield Ghost Town and Mine Tours, Inc. offers a genuinely authentic, uniquely Western experience that’s fun for the whole family.

Goldfield Ghost Town is located on the historic Apache Trail, about 40 minutes from Phoenix and 10 minutes from Apache Junction. While definitively a ghost town, this hotspot is anything but abandoned.

You’ll be entertained all day with daily merchants, a coffee shop, a saloon, and a train and mine tour. Imagine your western adventure as you pan for gold and visit historic buildings—and if you’re lucky, you might even encounter an old west gunfight demonstrated by the Goldfield Gunfighters themselves!

Things to Do:

  • Shop locally
  • Train and mine tour ($8-$12 tickets, children four and under are free)
  • Pan for gems

Accommodations:

6. Lost Dutchman State Park

Rock formation and flower field in Lost Dutchman State Park
Gene / Adobe Stock

Address: 6109 N. Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119 (Lost Dutchman Campground)

Gorgeous Lost Dutchman State Park is situated beside the Superstition Mountains, an acclaimed spot just 45 minutes from Phoenix. This open space offers a wide variety of outdoor activities for your entertainment.

This includes but isn’t limited to camping (RVs and otherwise), music at the base of the mountains, full moon hikes, and “star parties,” where you can learn more about the stars and planets, guided bird walks, analyses of local plants, and then some.

The park is open year-round, although day-use gates close at 8 p.m. and are locked until 6 a.m. There’s an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle or three dollars per individual/bicycle.

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See Related: The Ultimate Scottsdale Itinerary You’ll Want to Copy

7. Superstition Mountains

Road leading to Superstition Mountain, Arizona
cherylvb / Adobe Stock

This stunning mountain range has appeared in the background of various day trips from Phoenix, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they’re a destination all on their own. An Arizona must-see, the incredible rock formations of the Superstition Mountains deserve their spot in nature’s finest art galleries.

Here, you’ll find plenty to admire. Countless hiking trails line the hills and cliffs, including but not limited to the Hieroglyphic Trail, Peralta Canyon, Wave Cave, and Boulder Canyon.

However, keep in mind that if you’re driving from Phoenix, you can expect your journey to various trailheads to last between an hour and two hours. They start at different points and vary accordingly.

Things to Do:

  • Peralta Canyon (32 min from the mountain base)
  • Wave Cave (44 min)
  • Boulder Canyon (19 min)

Accommodations:

8. Wickenburg, a Classic Cowboy Town

Cowboy competition in Wickenburg, Arizona
FiledIMAGE / Adobe Stock

One hour and ten minutes from Phoenix brings you to a classic gem: Wickenburg, a cowboy town that sticks to its roots. It dates back to the mid to late 1800s, when Henry Wickenburg traveled to the area in search of California gold, and the eventual discovery of Vulture Mine delivered those wishes.

You don’t have to attend a rodeo in Wickenburg, but you’re more than welcome to explore. Here, the land is preserved as an oasis in the desert—specifically, the Hassayampa River Preserve, a fertile floodplain that houses and protects endangered critters.

Get in touch with more local history at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, or take a break at Kay El Bar Guest Ranch. You’ll earn your spurs before you know it!

Things to Do:

Accommodations:

  • The Los Viajeros Inn, a short trip down the road from the Desert Caballeros Western Museum
  • This cozy Wickenburg home, where you can explore the Wild West to your heart’s content

9. Hieroglyphic Canyon Trail

Panoramic view of Hieroglyphic Canyon Trail in Gold Canyon
PAUL / Adobe Stock

Address: Hieroglyphic Trailhead is located in the Lost Goldmine Trailhead – E Cloudview Ave, Gold Canyon, AZ 85118

One scenic drive and 50 minutes later, you’ll find yourself well on your way to a beautiful, family-friendly hike. Located in Gold Canyon, Arizona, the Hieroglyphic Canyon Trail is a 3-mile easy/moderate course with an approximate elevation gain of 574 feet.

The trail takes you out and back, so you’ll make your way to a boulder-filled canyon and see the incredible history carved into stone, then make your way back to the start. Wildflowers grow along the route in the spring, and you can bring your dog with you, so long as it’s leashed!

Remember that it’s hot in Arizona in Spring, Summer, and most of Autumn. If you’re going hiking, we recommend doing so between mid-October and April.

Things to Do:

  • Don Donnelly’s D-Spur Ranch and Stables (20 min)
  • Dinosaur Mountain Gold Canyon golf courses (10 min)
  • Peralta Canyon (25 min)

Accommodations:

10. Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle in Arizona.
eqroy / Adobe Stock

Address: 2800 Montezuma Castle Hwy, Camp Verde, AZ 86322

Here’s a stop history buffs can’t miss: the gorgeous Montezuma Castle. This national monument is located about an hour and 30 minutes north of Phoenix, near Sedona and the village of Oak Creek.

Estimated to have been used and built between 1100 and 1425, these well-preserved structures are a gateway to the past. The castle itself is 20 rooms, firmly situated in a limestone cliff.

According to the National Park Service, it operated as a sort of ancient “high-rise apartment,” for the Sinagua. Sinagua were a group of people who began building such structures as early as 1050 CE.

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11. Sedona

A cliffside view of red buttes and Devil's Bridge, Sedona.
The frightening view at Devil’s Bridge, Sedona. (Lana Valente / ViaTravelers)

In Sedona, you’ll find more natural wonders. Last but certainly not least on our list, this town is a gorgeous amalgamation of red sands and rock.

Of all the top places near Phoenix to explore, its more than likely what you picture when you imagine Arizona: amazing views of the desert and bright orange buttes. Upon entering Sedona, you’ll find spirituality is heavily connected to the heart of town.

Considered a sort of “global power spot,” people come to stay from all over to experience its healing qualities firsthand. You can decide how you feel about it for yourself—whenever you take a break from hiking, countless fine-dining restaurants as well as crystal and metaphysical shops, await your perusal.

Of course, you can always make time for some gorgeous treks. Cathedral Rock is a famed moderately challenging hike that you’ll find here, although beginners should tread with caution—getting to the top requires some rock scrambling!

Things to Do:

  • A tour of the Sedona Vortex by Jeep
  • Cathedral Rock trailhead (13 min)
  • Slide Rock State Park (12 min)
  • Devil’s Bridge trailhead (26 min)

Accommodations:

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