Best Dog Park, East Valley 2012 | Cosmo Dog Park | Sports & Recreation | Phoenix

If you and your furry friend are willing to venture out to the hinterlands of Gilbert, you'll find a pot of doggy gold at the end of the earth-toned rainbow of houses you pass along the way. Cosmo Dog Park is great for both pooch and master alike, with plenty of walking trails, running and playing areas for both big dogs and "timid" dogs, and even a pond and beach area, where the furry beast can romp around or take a flying leap into the water. There are four acres of fenced-in play areas, which provide plenty of room for dogs and humans to roam. The park is named after Gilbert's first police dog, so if your best friend is looking for inspiration, he or she can aspire to no less than a local legend. A plaque near the entrance to the park memorializes Cosmo. As an added bonus, if your quadruped is anything like ours, it'll enjoy a ride home in the car after meeting some new friends.

Got a dog with a Napoleon Complex? Then this is the place for you. We like this park for its abundance of shady spots and, most important, separate play areas for big dogs and "little" dogs (with separate entrances), so you don't have to worry about any ankle-biting. There's plenty of room for running and playing, sniffing and leg-lifting too, although the "small dog" side is a bit more cramped than the "big dog" side. Water fountains are available to keep the little yapper hydrated on hot days, and plenty of seating is available under the huge trees in the small dog area. The park's open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The East Valley has a new factory of elite athletes, sending competitors to this year's games that pit them against the very best in the world. And these athletes are only 11 years old. That's right, Kids That Rip Skatepark in Mesa sent two of its skaters to X-Games 18 in Los Angeles this summer to compete on the ramps. But not every skater out there has the goods to be X Games-worthy. So why not grind bowls, ramps, and rails aplenty on smooth wood surfaces indoors instead of baking in a cement microwave outside? Kids That Rip has over 3,500 square feet of street course bliss inside an air-cooled facility that will make it feel like Dogtown at Venice Beach. There also are the previously mentioned bowls and ramps, and even a tunnel. Skate camps for kids ages 5 to 15 run throughout the summer, starting at $199 per week for park members. The park also features an all-ages open skate at $15 for a three-hour session, with a themed open skate every first Friday.

Yep, there's a skate park in North Scottsdale, and like most things in the area, it's pretty new. At 16,000 square feet, it's not the biggest skating spot out there, but it's got the tables, benches, planters, and ledges to keep you entertained, and a bowl that drops down about 10 feet. It's the second city-owned skate park in existence around here — the other one's at Eldorado Park on the other side of town — and it's a little more upscale than your typical skate park, as it's almost always spotless, with a covered patio and lights. It's connected to the city's recently built aquatic center, which probably is the best summertime perk you could ask for. It may not be the ideal facility for the more advanced skaters, but, hey, it's one of the few free things to do in North Scottsdale.

Known as the the Valley's fastest group ride, the BOS has been pounding the roads of North Scottsdale since 1981. Named for its starting point — the Bicycles of Scottsdale shop that has come and gone a few times at the corner of Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard — the weekly group ride pushes out every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. with upwards of 50 to 60 cyclists making up the peloton. The roughly 60-mile route can change slightly from week to week, depending on the moods of group leaders, but by and large, the ride rolls north along Pima Road toward Cave Creek, cutting east for some climbing loops on Happy Valley Road and Legend Trail. The ride continually ascends to the summit point on Cave Creek Road known as "The Tower," a house with a large microwave antenna, just before the turnoff to Bartlett Lake. The return trip is where the fast part comes in, as it is nearly pure downhill all the way back into Scottsdale, and this group moves. If the idea of riding in a bunch is a bit intimidating, the route still is among the Valley's best, cutting along the scenic high Sonoran Desert along iconic landmarks such as Pinnacle Peak and Reata Pass.

South Mountain may be known worldwide as one of the planet's best mountain bike playgrounds, but imagine an alternate mountain bike trail system that combines a bit of everything from that premier park: a good dose of National, add some Desert Classic, a dash of Mormon, a pinch of Javelina, and smidge of Alta. Mash 'em all up and drop the results on the east end of the Valley, and, presto, there lie the Hawes Trail Loops.

It may be a vastly smaller network of single-track than its big brother to the west, but it twists like a rattlesnake ready to strike, with climbs and drops that keep even the most technically capable riders on their toes. Hawes and its accompanying trails take riders up to mine shafts and through a forest of cactus leading to some of the best views in the East Valley. The primary trailhead is on the east side of Power Road (if you start heading downhill to the river valley, you're too far) with a small parking area across Power that holds about 10 cars (otherwise plan on parking at the Walgreen's at Power and Thomas Road, about two miles south). The most ride-able loop is a combination of Hawes, Saddle, Saguaro, and Ridge trails in a counterclockwise direction, for a run of about seven miles. The trails are signed with some old wood-carved placards sitting on posts whenever the tracks intersect. For a sweet payoff, work to the top of Saguaro Trail and discover why that trail is also known as Mine Shaft.

The walls of downtown and Central Phoenix have been springing to life over the past few years, thanks to local artists looking to define this community through public art. Three specific areas of CenPho have become the home to a majority of these large-scale wall masterpieces: 16th Street, Roosevelt Row, and Grand Avenue. And there is no better way to take in this massive public museum than by bike. The three areas can be cycled on an easy, flat 10-mile circuit beginning and ending at Barrio Café on 16th Street, home to the Calle 16 Mural Project. With stops at The Hive, Roosevelt Row (be sure to check the alleys!), Phoenix Public Market, and Grand Avenue and Fillmore Street, Phoenix's finest mural artists are on display, with works by Lalo Cota, DOSE, Joerael Elliott, Jenny Ignaszewski, Rose Johnson, El Mac, and Luster Kaboom. Each of the murals speaks to, for, and about Phoenix in a unique, insightful, reflective, and provocative way, and seeing them by bike gives cyclists a chance to really stop and appreciate them as more than just wall decorations, because, after all, this art belongs to all of us.

One of the great things about Phoenix-area bike routes is that there is always a nearby ride whenever you get the urge. (You know the urge: the need to ride that just keeps building until you can't hold it any longer and you just have to go, even when it's dark.) And if you have to go at night, you might as well CRAP. CRAP stands for Car Resistance Action Party (which really just sounds like a bad excuse to call it a "CRAP Ride") and historically has been run on Tuesday nights. The ride started in 2006 as a social bike crawl from Tempe Town Lake along the Greenbelt to Old Town Scottsdale, where drinks are had. The ride then either returns along the Greenbelt path or cuts back through Scottsdale along other roads. All in all, it's a low-key 12- to 15-mile ride, and you always feel relieved and relaxed afterwards.

Part bike shop, part athletic training center, Faster is most unique because it is the nation's first shop complete with a cycling-specific wind tunnel. Discreetly tucked in the back of the shop, the tunnel is available to cyclists of any type — be they professional triathletes looking to perfect their aero tuck or weekend warriors wanting a good bike fit so their back stops hurting. They can get in the tunnel and see just how much drag quotient they create while trying to blaze to new levels of speed. This means that cyclists can go in, buy a bike, get it sized, and then get tested in a true wind tunnel to make sure they are riding that machine as fast as their physiology can possibly make it go. But the wind tunnel service does not come cheaply. Hourly rates start at $599, and the folks at Faster make no bones about the service being for athletes looking to optimize every bit of their ability and for manufacturers to test their latest developments. Either way, there's some cool science happening in the back of that shop and it's worth a trip to take a peek.

Imagine a place that enables people to commute to work or school by bike, saving loads of cash while improving fitness, by supplying the all-needed showers and safe bike haven while said folks work through the day (or night). One such harbor exists in Tempe, at the city's Transportation Center. Started as an initiative by Tempe to encourage bike commuting, operations of Bicycle Cellar were awarded to Valley cycling stalwarts John Romero and Joseph Perez. They since have turned the room that included little more than a couple of rows of two-tiered racks, lockers, and some showers into a full-fledged, full-service cycling center and retail space. Bicycle Cellar is open seven days with staffed hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Monthly and annual Cellar members have after-hours (4 p.m. to midnight) access to lock up or retreive their bikes and use the facilities, with rates starting at $35 a month for bike storage. Cellar also has a wide array of bikes for rent, and its location near Tempe Town Lake, Papago Park, and ASU means that fast, fun riding is close, no matter which direction you head.

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