The Wild Side: Get to Know Phoenix's Parks

Tuesday, 04 September 2018

The Wild Side: Get to Know Phoenix's Parks

Did you know that Phoenix’s Maricopa County has the largest county parks system in the United States? Or that South Mountain Park, just a 20-minute drive from downtown Phoenix, is one of the largest municipal parks in the world?

The Valley of the Sun is an incredible place to get out and explore the great outdoors. Despite expected high temperatures in the mid-90s F, the low humidity makes the heat easier to handle, and the desert's cool, dry temperatures in the morning and evening are ready-made for outdoor activities. But because you’ll be partaking in all sorts of ISPA goodness during the day at the 2018 ISPA Conference & Expo, you’ll be inside when it’s hot and free to roam when it’s not. If you do go hiking in the daytime before of after September 24-26, remember that Phoenix is the sunniest major city on Earth: be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen.


If you're looking for a quick walk or run,  go to Margaret T. Hance Park—just a 15-minute walk from the Sheraton Grand Phoenix—which features walking paths and a Japanese Garden. Or, take a quick Lyft (be sure to use the code ISPA2018 to receive 20% off of two rides) east to Papago Park. Located next to the Phoenix Zoo, the expansive park is a perfect place to see unique sandstone formations during a walk or trail run.

You can also head just north of downtown to Steele Indian School Park, a 75-acre park with running and walking paths; an amphitheater; and the Circle of Life, a monument and walkway that depicts the history of the Phoenix Indian School. The Grand Canal, located adjacent to Steele Indian School Park, also features a run/walk trail along the water.


South Mountain Park is a one-of-a-kind way to experience unaltered desert landscape in the heart of the city. Encompassing 25 square miles of low mountains and scrubland, South Mountain Park features more than a dozen trailheads, so there’s sure to be a trail as gentle or strenuous as you might want. It also features accessible trails and horseback riding. If you’re up for a moderately challenging hike, don’t miss a trip to South Mountain Park’s “hidden valley,” where you walk through a natural tunnel into a desert valley filled with boulders, cliffs and saguaro cacti.

Interested in a panoramic view of the Phoenix cityscape? Take the a short, mile-long hike up the Lookout Mountain Summit Trail in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, located north of downtown. The peak affords a sweeping vista of the sprawling Phoenix metroplex that you won’t find anywhere else.

Nighttime Trail Walks

Don’t think that you have to experience Phoenix’s wild side during the daytime only; in the evenings, after Conference closes for the day, Maricopa County offers a variety of moonlight hikes and nature walks led by Park Rangers. With the starry sky overhead and the unique desert landscape around you, they’re sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Check out the Maricopa County event calendar to see if a nighttime hike fits your schedule:

For more information on Phoenix's parks, visit and

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