Winter outdoor adventures in and around Scottsdale

Go beyond the golf courses in this Arizona resort town for some desert adventure. Photo: Jill K. Robinson

HALF MOON BAY, Calif., November 28, 2012 — The desert surrounding Scottsdale, Arizona offers much more than just a backdrop to a resort swimming pool or golf course. Outdoors enthusiasts choose the Sonoran Desert for its proximity to the city, its milder temperatures in winter, as well as its exotic vegetation and wildlife. If the vast old-west landscape is luring you, here’s how to get the best of your outdoor time in Scottsdale.

Great outdoors

With miles of open space around the city, it’s not hard to find an ideal spot to embrace the beauty of the desert. Closest to downtown Scottsdale is Camelback Mountain, where hikers and rock climbers head in the early morning hours to watch the sunrise. But if you’re not an early riser, the expansive city views are there all day long. In north Scottsdale, Pinnacle Peak is the choice hike for early risers.

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve has more than 60 miles of trails. (Photo: Jill K. Robinson)

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve has more than 60 miles of trails. (Photo: Jill K. Robinson)

The McDowell Sonoran Preserve has more than 60 miles of shared-use trails winding through 21,400 acres of desert. Hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and even four-legged hikers (on leash) enjoy the vast outdoor options on the trails. Rock climbers head to Tom’s Thumb, Sven Slab, or Granite Ballroom to test themselves against the vertical walls.

There are also water-based adventures in the desert, with river rafting and kayaking on the Salt River, offering the perfect opportunity to cool off in the summer heat. And to get a bird’s eye view of the entire region, an amphibious seaplane takes passengers from the McDowell Mountains to the Superstition Mountains with a brief water landing in Roosevelt Lake.

Aside from the easiest hiking outing, it’s often best to find a reliable outfitter for your excursion. In the Scottsdale area, 360 Adventures offers rock climbing, hiking adventures, or nearly anything outdoorsy. Arizona Outback Adventures has full- or half-day hiking, biking, rafting, or kayaking outings, as well as bike rentals. Eager to get in that seaplane? Contact Desert Splash Adventures to reserve your seat.

The Salt River is ideal for kayaking and rafting adventures. (Photo: Jill K. Robinson)

The Salt River is ideal for kayaking and rafting adventures. (Photo: Jill K. Robinson)

Where to Stay

There are a variety of hotels in the Scottsdale area, from budget to luxury. On my visit, I stayed at two different properties.

Built in 1929, the Royal Palms Resort and Spa was originally a summer retreat, and its serene spot among citrus groves makes you feel like you’re miles away from anywhere else. Instead, you’re a short distance from downtown Scottsdale. The 119 rooms scattered around the grounds of the former estate range in size from comfortable guestrooms to bungalow-style casitas to spacious villas. Rooms include plush pillow-top mattresses, flat-screen TVs, comfortable robes, and 24-hour room service. Rates start at $295 per night and vary depending on time of year and type of room.

The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North has 210 rooms (including 22 suites) in one- and two-story luxe adobe casitas scattered near the foot of Pinnacle Peak offer a true “out in the desert” feeling. Patio doors open to a terrace or balcony with Sonoran desert views, which are often best at sunrise and sunset. Rooms include down duvets and pillows, an LCD flat-screen TV, CD player, DVD player, and plush robes. Rates start at $179 per night, and vary depending on time of year and type of room.

Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Jill K. Robinson

An award-winning journalist and adventure seeker, Jill K. Robinson has been a columnist with The Washington Times, Communities section since 2011.

Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, American Way, Every Day With Rachael Ray, Robb Report, Westways, Journey, Let's Go with Ryanair, World Hum, Gadling, Lonely Planet and more. She lives in a small California beach town near the big wave surf spot, Mavericks, and divides her time between writing about travel, running a kayak business and trying to wring awe-inspiring adventure out of every day.

Always eager to take a leap into the unknown and experience new things, Jill shares adventure sport and travel highlights—even when the adventure isn’t adrenaline pumping or bone crushing. Adventure is sometimes only a state of mind.

Find Jill on and Twitter @dangerjr 

Contact Jill K. Robinson


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