Coronado Park

Situated in the Coronado historic district is this spacious, urban park with two lighted basketball courts. One slab of concrete usually has families and kids playing around while the other one features fast-paced pickup b-ball. A men's league (complete with referees and a scorer's table) reserves one of the courts on Monday and Wednesday nights, but some teams are often short of players, so just ask to run with them and they'll most often let you join in. Park hours are from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Best Place for Pickup Basketball, East Valley

Freestone Park

Freestone Park

Nestled at the east end of this 65-acre park are four regulation-size, rim-rocking basketball courts with some of the most competitive games around town. Each court is lighted for nighttime hoopin', and the lanes are painted purple and orange (an ode to the Phoenix Suns), which kind of makes you feel like a pro. If you get tired of balling, then there are plenty of other super-fun activities, such as batting cages and a skate park as well as chill-out spots by the man-made lake. Park hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Best Place for Pickup Basketball, West Valley

Sueño Park

Sueño, a Spanish word for "dream," is exactly that when it comes to pickup BB at this west-side park. Students and alumni from neighboring high school basketball powers Trevor Browne and Carl Hayden flock to the lighted courts, which makes for some serious games. The park is infamous for hosting games with the ankle-breaking skills of the Brown family — most notable is professional basketball player Gerald Brown, who suited up with the Suns for a season. Hours are from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Chandler Skate Park

To the uninitiated, Chandler's Snedigar Park looks like an abandoned water park in post-apocalyptic-drought Phoenix. There's an empty swimming pool with a ladder, giant concrete steps to nowhere, and what appear to be several kiddy pools surrounded by towering palms. But to anyone with a worn left sneaker and a full deck, this is a playground of the imagination. Those "swimming pools" are bowls where seasoned skaters try sick tricks like the 540-degree McTwist, named for modern legend Mike McGill. The park also features k-rail obstacles, a flat bar, and several ledges and rails for sliding and grinding. With 35,000 square feet of cement, this place sure beats faking it on the Xbox.

Duck and Decanter
Lauren Cusimano

Remember that time you spilled beer on the floor and Spot got totally wasted? Yeah, that isn't going to happen at Duck and Decanter's Lappy Hour. On the other hand, if you're tired of meeting new friends who turn out to be — gasp! — cat people, then this once-monthly event might be for you. Guests are invited to bring their well-behaved pooches along for a meet and greet over sandwiches and drinks. It's a great way to network with like-minded folks, but don't be surprised if the girl you bring home afterwards is a little on the hairy side. Local animal shelters usually bring unwanted pups ready for adoption to Lappy Hour, and it can be awfully hard to resist those puppy-dog eyes.

Even when it's hot, our retriever-Lab mix Rosy still needs exercise and something to relieve the boredom of the same old smells coming from the patch of grass in the backyard. But taking her for a walk in the summer is a form of animal abuse unless you adhere to certain rules.

Like the vampire dogs in I Am Legend, our pup doesn't touch sidewalk if there's sunlight on it. And we let her splash around in whatever water may be available — which is part of what makes the Tempe campus of Arizona State University so attractive for canine recreation.

Not only is the campus a beautiful place for a walk — you'll see throngs of busy young people, cool architecture, art, flowers, feral cats, and more — but it's got great water features to cool off Rosy's paws.

We love watching her romp through the stepped fountain with mini-canals near the Business School. The circular fountain near the Memorial Union is just deep enough to cool her lower body when she lies down in it.

Once soaking wet, her black fur probably feels a whole lot better when we resume the walk in 100-plus-degree evening heat.

No signs are posted saying we can't take our dog for a dip, but it seems like a good idea to limit the splashing to just a few minutes, out of courtesy to this fine institution.

And, of course, leave the dog shampoo at home.

For those who don't favor their pooches large — or, God forbid, don't even own a canine or two — there's not a lot worse than getting bumped off the trail on a meditative nature hike by someone struggling to maintain control of their over-excited old Lab or fearsome-looking pit bull. But we've found a spot where big dogs (on leashes, natch) rarely bother anyone but their handlers — and it's a wonderful walk, to boot. At two easy miles in length, the trails are wide and easy to traverse, so much so that park rangers encourage wheelchair-bound hikers to come on out. We were duly impressed by the Indian petroglyphs, etched into huge boulders around 1000 A.D. After a good rain, the pot at the end of the rainbow otherwise known as the Waterfall Canyon Trail is a 75-foot waterfall that seems incongruous in the Sonoran Desert.

But back to those pups. Not long ago, we saw a lone woman, who had to be pushing 80, walking slowly through the canyon on the return trip. Jogging hard the other way was a triathlete-looking fellow with his German shepherd in tow. The jogger yanked his pooch to the side of the trail, and the woman never blinked an eye, never had to wonder whether she'd be trampled. That's what we call a happy ending.

So you love your little rugrat of a dog, and you want to expand his (we'll make him a "he" here) world to the great outdoors. And even though you know he's spunky as hell, those little legs won't do well on, say, Camelback Mountain, and you're afraid that he'll sniff too close to a rattlesnake, scorpion, or other varmit on a less-traveled trail. We've got the answer, and it's called Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak, until the city of Phoenix renamed it after Iraqi war hero Lori), officially part of the Phoenix Mountains Park and Dreamy Draw Recreation Area. Though the hike to the top on the Summit Trail is rigorous — 1.2 miles, elevation gain of 1,200 feet — the 3.75-mile Circumference Trail is much more forgiving, for humans and pooches alike. Wonderful views of downtown Phoenix await the people, and unparalleled scents of other canine cavorters await your little fluffball. We've seen more than one little love affair (G-rated, thankfully) spring up on the trail. All you need is some water for you and your best friend — and a leash.

If Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain had a baby, it would be Hayden Butte, a.k.a. "A" Mountain. This pint-size peak next to Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium provides a quick fix for nuts like us that can't stand flat ground. The best way to start the hike is to take College Avenue north toward the mountain to where the road ends at a parking lot, just west of the stadium. Keep going through the parking lot to the marked trailhead. After a nice, gentle section, hikers must trudge up an ultra-steep, asphalt service road that leads to a series of stairs and handrails. The summit area requires a tiny bit of scrambling to let you know you're on a real mountain.

In total, it's about a half-mile from base to peak — not very much distance, but the inclines are steep enough to stir our calf muscles. If we're feeling particularly energetic, we'll run up and down two or three times. Besides the workout, though, Hayden Butte offers the delights — albeit smaller-scale — of the Valley's burlier hikes. Namely, the temporary relief from urbanism and the picturesque view from on high.

True, there are those unsightly antennas and utility boxes surrounded by a chain-link fence that take up some of the space on the peak. For now, think of it as a bit of history — the equipment has been there for 60 years. But purists, take heart — that stuff is expected to be moved to the top of the new condo towers in downtown Tempe in the next year or two, allowing for a slightly more natural-looking summit.

The view of downtown Tempe and the Town Lake merits, at the very least, a one-time pilgrimage up Hayden Butte's flanks, especially for Valley newcomers and ASU students. Try it at night, when the summer heat's cooled off and you can see the lights strung over the Mill Avenue Bridge reflected in the lake. Two words describe this hike perfectly: Short and sweet.

Lost Dutchman State Park

We once knew a chick who broke an ankle hiking at night and wouldn't step off asphalt from that day forward unless there was light in the sky. What a shame for her, 'cause any knowledgeable trekker'll tell you that the best desert hiking is nocturnal, and it's twice as good in the summer. Our favorite after-dark delight is this short-but-sweet loop, which starts at the Siphon Draw trailhead near the Lost Dutchman State Park amphitheater and follows a gradual rise along the Prospector's View Trail to the base of the Superstition Mountains. Stop to drink in the silvery view at Green Boulder, which resides in the moon shadows of some lovely, snaggle-toothed pinnacles. There are several options for the return trip, but we usually head south on the Treasure Loop Trail, traversing a mile or so of bumpy washes and magical forests of jumping chollas that gleam like fresh bone in the glare of a full moon.

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