So you’re headed to Glendale, Arizona for the Super Bowl. Congratulations to you, and whatever team you’re there for. You’ll undoubtedly have plenty of Super Bowl parties on your agenda, but in between mass consumption of cold beer and hot wings, you might want to get outside and explore the magnificent desert landscape that makes up metro Phoenix. The red rock peaks and vast, sprawling terrain make for some of the best wide-open outdoor adventures in America. So whether you’re into summiting mountains or paddling down a river, here are the best things outdoor adventures near Glendale, Arizona.
Explore the Thunderbird Conservation Park
If you’re staying near the stadium, the closest spot to get out into nature is the Thunderbird Conservation Park, about 15 minutes from State Farm Stadium. This 1,185-acre park boasts 15 miles of trails, traversing the desert hills around Glendale. To see most of the park, jump on the Coach Whip trail, a five-mile path that runs through hills, river washes, and valleys. For the park’s best views, trek up the Coach Whip, Ridgeline, and Summit Loop, which takes you to Thunderbird’s highest point via a trail across the mountain tops. It’s only about two miles and can be done in an hour or less.
Paddle down the salt river
Generally, people associate Phoenix with water sports about as much as they associate Seattle with suntans. But you’ll find aquatic adventures along Lower Salt River, a serene, scenic desert oasis perfect for exploring the region by water. You can grab a kayak or paddle board at Arizona Outdoor Adventures and spend the afternoon soaking up the sun as you paddle past red stones, curious sand-carved formations, and plenty of diving rocks if you feel like cooling off. Head out early and you might even catch some wild horses out for their morning drink.
Hike up Saddleback Mountain
The quintessential Phoenix hike is the journey to the top of iconic Camelback Mountain. Though the trail is only about 2 and a half miles, it’s not a simple stroll to the summit. You’ll be climbing over boulders, across crevasses, and moving almost straight uphill the entire time. The payoff is worth it, though, as you’ll be treated to a panorama of the entire valley. If that hike sounds a little too intense, you can also try the Tom’s Thumb Trail, which leads to a thumb-shaped rock on top of desert peak. Or Pinnacle Peak near Scottsdale which takes you along some of the city’s most famous golf courses.
Soar over the valley in a hot air balloon
While the views along hiking trails are spectacular, nothing compares to the perspective one gets when floating over it in a hot air balloon. Rainbow Ryders offers daily hot air balloon excursions around the valley, and though the routes change with the winds you’ll almost always get passes over the city’s mountains, as well as birds-eye views of golf courses, rivers, and staggeringly impressive homes. While the trips might vary, each ride ends with a traditional glass of champagne and toast to a successful voyage, with no mention of the fact it’s barely 9 am.
Ride the city’s bike trails
Cycling through the desert is another fantastic way to explore Glendale and Greater Phoenix. The cities offer hundreds of miles of bike lanes and trails, easily explored with a rental from Sonoran Cycles, or Pedego if you want to go the E-bike route. Once you’ve gathered your steed, pedal out to Grand Canal or Skunk Creek Linear Parks, which each offer a few miles of paved trails. If mountain biking is more your thing, the Thunderbird Conservation Park has seven mountain biking trails ranging from easy to very difficult. For an even bigger challenge, take your bike to the Phoenix Mountains Preserve northeast of downtown Phoenix. Ride along Trail 100, the 21.5-mile main trail through the park that offers fantastic scenery and options to branch off into harder terrain.