If you love being outdoors then visiting Arizona is a must destination for you. There are so many opportunities to go hiking and enjoy the beautiful scenery. In the past, we have always visited Scottsdale and we were surprised that we have never visited Tempe. I am sure that we drove by and didn’t realize how much there was to discover. I thought I would share my top 5 things to do in Tempe, Arizona.
This vibrant urban oasis is in the heart of Metropolitan Phoenix. Tempe is a college town, home to Arizona State University (ASU), one of the largest universities in the country. Tempe has it’s own personality making it a hidden gem.
Top 5 Things to Do In Tempe, Arizona
1. Hike Hayden Butte Preserve
Hayden Butte Preserve, also known as ‘A’ Mountain, has a rich cultural history beginning with the prehistoric Hohokam (1 AD -1450 AD), recognized today as the Four Southern Tribes of Arizona (Gila River Indian Community; Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC); Ak-Chin Indian Community; and the Tohono O’odham Nation). Ancient petroglyphs remain on the Butte, and it is a sacred site of the Four Southern Tribes of Arizona.
Hayden Butte Preserve is located right in the heart of town making it accessible for anyone to enjoy a quick hike and take in the magnificent views from the top. The parking is super easy and there is a paved trail making this hike easy for almost anyone. It was an easy hike (although steep at times) but the path is paved. The sunset views from the top are amazing.
2. Papago Park
If you are in Tempe you can’t miss the iconic hole in the rock. Papago Park is typically smooth with little elevation gain, providing easy access for walking, hiking, mountain biking or trail running. The park is split into east and west sides by Galvin Parkway.
You will find the intriguing formation on the park’s east side that features a main chamber that looks out over nearby lagoons and the distant downtown skyline and is great for views (especially at sunset). The trail to the chamber consists of steps that rise 200 feet in just a short 1/10 of a mile. The formation is thought to have been used by the ancient Hohokam civilization to track the position of the sun through a hole in the rock “ceiling.”
Don’t try to climb to the hole from the front, unless you want a challenging hike. The hole is easily accessed by hiking to the back side of the mountain. There are paths that will lead you to the iconic hole. Once up there, we were amazed at the spectacular views.
Check out some great things to do in Phoenix as well.
3. Mill Avenue
The iconic Mill Avenue is the best place to eat, drink and hang out with the locals. Downtown Tempe is well-known for its locally owned restaurants, bars, and shops.
4. Desert Botanical Gardens
The Desert Botanical Gardens are such an unexpected surprise in the middle of the desert. I didn’t realize how large the botanical gardens are and how much there is to see. If you are a bird watcher then you will be in heaven as this is a birding sanctuary.
We made our way around all the loops:
Desert Discovery Loop Trail
Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail
Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail
Center for Desert Living Trail
Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail
With 50,000 desert plants nestled amid the red rocks of the Papago Buttes at Desert Botanical Garden you can literally spend the entire day strolling through the trails and taking in the towering cacti and alluring succulents and brilliant wildflowers.
5. Tempe Town Lake
Tempe Town Lake is another unexpected surprise. I never thought I would see a lake in the middle of the desert. This reservoir occupies a portion of the dry riverbed of the Salt River as it passes through the city of Tempe, Arizona just north of Tempe Butte. Tempe Boat Rentals offers one of the best ways to enjoy Tempe Town Lake. With a selection of kayaks, rowboats, stand-up paddleboards, pedal boats, and electric boats, there is sure to be something to fit your needs. We took the pedal boats out for a spin. It was a lot of fun and a great workout. It is a great way to get a different view of the city.
There are so many things to do in Tempe and we just got a taste of what this hidden gem has to offer.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by The Tempe Tourism Board. All opinions are my own.
If you are planning a trip to Arizona you may enjoy these related Arizona posts:
- Top Must-Do Hikes in Sedona
- Upper vs Lower Antelope Canyon
- Hot Air Balloon Arizona
- Scottsdale Arizona Travel Guide
- Mountain Shadows Resort
- Hotel Valley Ho
- JW Marriott Scottsdale Spa
- The Hermosa Inn