The Greater Phoenix area is both an innovative and contemporary urban oasis, and a deeply historical place with an ever-present past. Throughout its sprawling landscapes, you’ll find countless places dedicated to highlighting and honoring the city’s Indigenous history and cultures. In addition to traditional museums and galleries, Phoenix’s mountains, shops, restaurants, and spas prove that to truly know a place, you have to first explore its roots.
1. The Hieroglyphic Trail
Despite its location in the heart of the rugged Superstition Mountains, the Hieroglyphic Trail is considered a relatively easy hike. Perfect for families and beginners, the 3-mile round-trip trail is gently sloped and features unique views of the southern end of the mountain range. In the winter and spring, a waterfall gives way to flowing streams and pools of water nestled among the boulders.
But the most rewarding part of the trail—and the reason it has become one of the more popular hikes in Greater Phoenix—is what visitors find at the end: hundreds of petroglyphs. Most of these incredible rock drawings can be found on the far side of the pools and are believed to have been left by the Hohokam, a civilization that thrived in Central Arizona between 500 and 1450 A.D. Some of the petroglyphs are thought to be almost 2,000 years old, so please be respectful and enjoy them from a distance.
2. Lost Dutchman State Park
Rumored to still house gold from its mining days, Lost Dutchman State Park offers 320 acres of pure adventure. Due to its incredible location at the base of the Superstition Mountains, the park is a popular place for hiking, camping, sightseeing, and geocaching. The mountain range has been a source of mystery and legends for ages; the area is dotted with ancient cliff dwellings and caves.
With so much ground to cover and so much to do, it’s easy to see why you could spend days exploring Lost Dutchman. If you want to stay the night, the park offers both tent and RV camping, as well as cabin rentals, which can be reserved in advance. Entrance to the park costs $7 per vehicle ($10 on the weekends and holidays) and you can visit year-round.
3. The Heard Museum
Founded in 1929, the Heard Museum is considered to be one of Phoenix’s first cultural attractions. And while the museum has grown immensely in the past century, its core mission has remained the same: to be the world’s preeminent museum for the presentation, interpretation, and advancement of American Indian art. The Heard Museum works hand-in-hand with Native artists to give visitors an authentic, first-person perspective on the region’s Indigineous communities. The award-winning exhibits and collections housed here have earned the museum international recognition.
The Heard regularly hosts events and festivals—including the annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest in March. When visiting, be sure to set aside a few hours in order to fully explore both floors and the large outdoor courtyard.
4. Arizona Museum of Natural History
The Arizona Museum of Natural History is ideal for all ages, with a multi-level space full of floor-to-ceiling exhibits and interactive galleries. The museum is constructed in a way that immerses visitors in the past, giving them the opportunity to better understand and appreciate Arizona’s native animals and Indigenous communities. One gallery highlights the Hohokam peoples, historic inhabitants of the Phoenix Basin. Another big draw to the museum is the outdoor Mesa Grande Cultural Park, the site of a temple mound built by the Hohokam.
5. Aji Spa
Located within the Gila River Indian Community at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, Aji Spa offers unique ways to connect to the surrounding Sonoran Desert and its earliest inhabitants. By blending contemporary spa treatments with traditional Native healing practices, Aji (a Pima word meaning “sanctuary”) provides a sense of rejuvenation and relaxation thousands of years in the making. The tribal-owned and -operated spa offers experiences inspired by local legends, practices, and traditions.
Guests can choose from therapies that utilize sacred ingredients such as prickly pear and various clays, oils, and teas. If you have the time, check out the Mustangs and Massage package, which includes a morning horseback ride in the desert, followed by a 50-minute massage and a delicious lunch at the Aji Café.
6. Fry Bread House
For nearly 30 years, Fry Bread House has been serving traditional Tohono O’odham cuisine. This cozy restaurant located in Phoenix’s Melrose District has turned its main attraction—a simple, deep-fried dough filled with a variety of sweet or savory toppings—into an award-winning entrée. Cecelia Miller opened this hidden gem in 1992, and today her family carries on her legacy by giving guests a true taste of Tohono O’odham comfort food.
The menu here is so notable that it garnered James Beard recognition in 2012, making it one of only three Arizona restaurants—and the first Native American restaurant—to win the James Beard America’s Classics award. Popular items include the beef stew, red beef fry bread, and chocolate butter sweet fry bread.
7. The Native Art Market
The Native Art Market began as an open-air weekend market where Native vendors and artists could sell jewelry, paintings, sculptures, pottery, and tapestries. In addition to browsing individual booths, visitors can sample a wide variety of Native foods and enjoy live music and dance performances. Due to the immense popularity of these weekend markets, mother-daughter duo Denise Rosales and Heather Tracy recently brought the Native Art Market to a brick-and-mortar shop in Old Town Scottsdale.
Now customers can learn about Native history and culture, connect with artists, and shop for beautiful artwork every day of the week. The open-air market still takes place every Saturday and Sunday from November through March, and the Old Town shop is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.