A clear view of the Valley, smog permitting

When it comes to sightseeing, it's tough to beat a panoramic view to really give you an appreciation of a place -- especially one as spread out as the Valley of the Sun. North Mountain Park has all the usual trappings of a mountain park in our town -- hiking trails, a playground, a visitors center -- but the view of the city from the mountain is sweeping in scope and dazzling in its diversity, especially when seen at night.

Jillian Sloan

The sunset is gorgeous from North Mountain Park and if you see one there and hang out a little longer, the city lights by night look awful pretty, too.

The peak of the mountain is only 2,104 feet, but what makes this view so great is that you don't have to do a bunch of climbing or hiking to see it. You can just drive your car up the paved road into the park, and voila! There's your scenic view.

Visitors can sit on stone benches and soak in a sunset while marveling at our city's sprawl (on a clear day, you can't see forever, but you can see South Mountain on the other side of the Valley) and relaxing amidst the park's major plant species (which include bursage, palo verde trees, and more than 10 varieties of cacti).

Be aware though; while the city lights are superbly striking from the mountaintop, the park does get its share of shady nighttime squatters and accompanying problems. You should probably go elsewhere for a late-night make-out session.

North Mountain Park: 10600 N. Seventh St., Phoenix; 602-262-6696. Map

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