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Mountain hikes and lazy rivers: Phoenix's perfect pair

Mornings on the trails, afternoons in the pools

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Created by Visit Phoenix - October 5th 2017

The awe-inspiring mountains around Phoenix make for some pretty incredible hikes. Best done in the cooler hours of the morning, these hikes provide endless views of the desert and the city, pass by caves and cool natural features, and offer a glimpse of the plants and wildlife in the Sonoran Desert. But if you're looking for a way to unwind after your date with nature, don't fret. If there's one thing Phoenix has more of than mountain trails, it's luxury resorts with extravagant pools. There's no better way to unwind and reward yourself after a morning summit hike than a long afternoon soak in your hotel's lazy river. Natural beauty meets ultimate relaxation: There's no better way to spend a day.

Mountain Trails

Gold Canyon, AZ

Get an early start and explore the 2.9-mile trail to Wave Cave, located in Gold Canyon, Arizona. Totally off the beaten path, the Wave Cave trail doesn't have any official trail markings and is a moderate to intense hike, but for those up for the adventure, the sights are simply incredible. You'll be rewarded with a unique photo op on the surfboard-shaped rock formation at the mouth of the cave. There is a $15 permit required for hiking Wave Cave. Visit between September and April when the weather is best for views and a hike you won't soon forget.

Echo Canyon Trail and Recreation Area

Hike Echo Canyon Trail to the top of Phoenix's Camelback Mountain and prepare to be blown away by the views of the valley below. This 1-3 hour hike along the 1.23-mile one-way trail is the perfect excuse to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of all your real-world responsibilities. The full trail is recommended only for more seasoned hikers; there's a steep elevation gain and lots of boulders to climb over. But a half-mile trek still offers a taste of Echo Canyon beauty. In addition to breathtaking views, the trail offers a look at some of Arizona's diverse wildlife, including cottontail rabbits, snakes, lizards, and more. As with most hikes in the sunny state of Arizona, the earlier you start, the better. Make sure to bring lots of water... it's suggested you pack at least one liter of water for each hour you'll be outside.

Lookout Mountain Preserve

With two distinct trails to choose from, Lookout Mountain Preserve, located in the heart of Phoenix, is the perfect stop for your entire group. Take the Lookout Mountain Circumference Trail (Trail #308), and make your way around the mountain, or choose the Lookout Mountain Summit Trail (Trail #150), and take the mountain peak head on. With several access points where you can stop and take in the views, the Lookout Mountain Preserve is an excellent hiking spot, especially for those looking for something a bit easier than the trail to Wave Cave or Echo Canyon.

Venture up Piestewa Peak's summit trail, a mountain named in honor of Lori Piestewa, the first known Native American woman to die while serving in the US military. Along the way, take in the diverse wildlife and vegetation of Phoenix’s mountains. With rock formations 14 million years in the making, Piestewa Peak is also home to an abundance of lizards, native flowers, and a handful of mammals-- including coyotes, jackrabbits, squirrels, and small foxes. Piestewa Peak is the second highest peak of the mountains in Phoenix, and the view certainly doesn’t disappoint. It's a well-marked but tough climb to the peak, and if you're looking for something a little easier, the Dreamy Draw Recreation Area and Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area, both of which surround the base of the mountain, have other trails of varying difficulty.

Lazy River Resorts

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Arizona Grand Resort and Spa

Book a stay at the top-rated Arizona Grand Resort and Spa, just miles from the Phoenix airport, and return for an afternoon of comfort and luxury after an invigorating morning hike. Offering top-of-the-line spa treatments, a state-of-the-art gym, and a golf course with a stunning stretch of holes running alongside the ruggedly beautiful South Mountain Park and Preserve, the Grand has plenty to keep you busy. With a friendly atmosphere and recently renovated modern rooms, Arizona Grand Resort and Spa is the perfect choice for a getaway, whether you're with the whole family or on a romantic escape. Definitely don't miss out on the Oasis Water Park. It's got private cabanas for rent, a 25-person hot tub, the 8-story Slide Canyon Tower with three adrenaline-pumping slides, a wave pool, and Zuni River, which features side-by-side double inner tubes for lazy river relaxing with a friend.

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Another hotel with a tricked-out pool (among other sweet amenities) is Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort. The hotel features suites and private casitas, all done in a sleek, modern, Spanish-Mediterranean-meets-Southwestern style. Several onsite dining options, state-of-the-art meeting spaces, and the luxurious Tocasierra Spa, Salon & Fitness Centre are all included with a stay as well. But the main draw for many will be the River Ranch Water Park. It boasts 4 acres of fun, including a water slide, pool, waterfalls and an awesome lazy river-- along with mini golf, shopping, a kids' camp, and an ice cream parlor. Smaller pools with cabanas are also spread out across the property, so you're never too far from relaxation.

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JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa

Surrounded by the beautiful Arizona mountains, the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is a dreamy escape. It's got everything you'd want from a first-class resort, including a state-of-the-art fitness center, incredible spa, and the Wildfire Golf Club-- with two full golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo. Guest rooms include high-speed internet, recently-renovated fixtures, and scenic balconies; six onsite dining experiences ensure that you have access to pretty much anything you could want right at the resort. Adding to the experience is the unforgettable pool, which features waterslides, misted cabanas to beat the heat, an island with a waterfall, and, of course, a relaxing lazy river where you can float your worries away.

While known for its beautiful desert views and incredible mountain hiking trails, Phoenix also offers world-class luxury and fine dining unlike anything anywhere else. There's nothing like spending the morning taking on a rewarding mountain hike and spending the afternoon unwinding before a five-star dinner. If you're looking for outdoor adventure, complete relaxation, or something in between, Phoenix is the ultimate destination.

Visit Phoenix

Southwest character and urban adventure meld perfectly in Phoenix, where real cowboys, rugged mountains and the kind of cactus most people only see in cartoons share a sunny landscape with up-and-coming craft breweries, desert trails, scenic roadways and colorful art districts.