One of the longest, meanest and most rewarding hikes in the Superstitions begins at the Reavis Ranch Trailhead. From this trailhead, you can work yourself deep into the wilderness and onto several of the area's most scenic walks.
Twelve miles in, in Roger's Canyon, you'll reach one of the finest Salado cliff dwellings in the region. Vandals apparently aren't willing to hike 24 miles round-trip. The cliff dwellings are in pristine shape.
Obviously, this is not a hike for the weak or ill-prepared. Take all precautions necessary for a long, difficult hike in the desert. There are many switchbacks, washouts, sharp drop-offs, sharp rocks and other obstacles that make this trip not only one of the most beautiful in the area, but also the most dangerous.
Oh, how we hate to give this away, but here's our usual route (which is, by the way, unmarked and unnamed): After parking at the landmark known as Hole-in-the-Rock, head west by northwest toward the Big Buttes on McDowell Road. After you cross Galvin Parkway and close on the Buttes, you'll strike a trail that takes you gently around them, or you can path-find your way over them, which is technically quite challenging and a heckuva lot more fun. Once past the Big Buttes, head due south toward Saddle Butte. Climb up to the saddle and then scramble down the other side. Head south by southeast across the washboard. Re-cross Galvin and head due east, where you'll soon find yourself in the Phoenix Zoo parking lot. Look to your left for the nuclear pond and follow its southern flank to another trail that borders the north side of the zoo. Your next landmark -- no, it's not a desert mirage -- is the odd-duck pyramid, situated incongruously upon a small butte, which houses the corpse of Arizona's first governor, George W.P. Hunt. From the pyramid, look north toward Hole-in-the-Rock and set your star by it.
We usually finish with a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Valley from atop the Rock, followed by a windows-down, moon-roof-up, stereo-blasting drive on Galvin, the Valley's only truly crooked street. Ah, but that's another story . . .
The 323-acre Arboretum, founded in the 1920s by mining magnate Colonel William Boyce Thompson, is the state's oldest and largest botanical garden. And beyond that, it's arguably the state's greatest place for a leisurely stroll.
This year, thanks to plentiful rains, the colors should be particularly beautiful. Arboretum officials estimate the peak color season will be from November 20 through December 5.
Thanksgiving weekend, the Arboretum will be hosting its annual fall color festival with music, storytellers, apple cider and numerous guided tours. It's a great event for families with guests in town for the holidays.
One of the most spectacular shows of color, and one of the most easily accessed, is Picacho Peak State Park 60 miles south of Phoenix, which, if you didn't know, is that giant solitary mountain you nearly run into on your way to Tucson.
During peak wildflower season, drivers along I-10 have been known to stop along the freeway to gaze at the outbreak of Mexican gold poppies along the mount's eastern slope.
This isn't smart. Better to come into the state park and take one of several trails allowing you to stroll amid the yellow-orange meadows.
At which point you'll realize the poppies aren't alone. A host of other beautiful, albeit more subtle, flowers dot the historic peak throughout the spring.
The park is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. The trails close at sunset.
President Teddy Roosevelt described the route as "one of the most spectacular, best-worth-seeing sights in the world." It's a gem no matter what time of year, although late summer can pose extra hazards from monsoon rains and washouts. The drive is doable by passenger car, but is best done in an SUV. The descent down a narrow gravel road into Fish Creek Canyon is one you'll never forget, and is guaranteed to scare the wits out of Aunt Minnie from Queens. Your guests may want to slit your throat before you reach historic Roosevelt Dam, but by the end of the day they will sing your praises for taking them on the drive of a lifetime.
To get there from Apache Junction, go north on State Route 88 toward Apache Lake. The paved road becomes a graded gravel surface after Tortilla Flat, a tourist trap with all the usual goodies but no pay phone. The less adventurous may want to turn around here. Otherwise, continue to Roosevelt Lake and take State Route 188 toward the twin copper towns of Miami and Globe. Go west on U.S. 60, and be prepared for a wild two-lane mountain road through Devil's Canyon, the Queen Creek Tunnel and on into Superior.
To get there from Phoenix, take U.S. 60 east to Florence Junction, then head south on State Route 79 through Florence (which becomes Pinal Pioneer Parkway). Continue on to Oracle Junction, then go east on State Route 77 toward Mammoth, where the route turns northerly and follows the San Pedro River. Just north of Dudleyville, veer left on State Route 177 and continue to Superior and the intersection with U.S. 60.
The program is all about coaching children to enjoy running with fun activities in a safe, motivating, noncompetitive environment. The folks who run this junior race marathon know what they're doing, and all they ask in exchange is about $35 monthly for one session a week, or less than $9 a session. That's a hell of a lot less than most sports that kids are involved in these days. As for the "equipment," a pair of sneakers, a ball cap and a bottle of water about covers it.
No experience necessary; just a smile and a willingness to run around for an hour or so. On many weekends, the kids get to see how they're doing at race competitions all over the Valley. Then they get to eat pizza.