spring cactus in arizona

Springtime is the best time!

People visit Phoenix from all over the country every year for spring training, but the best part of visiting Arizona in the springtime is our great outdoors.

From blooming cacti to playful birds, we’ve got something for everyone.

Here are our five favorite ways to enjoy springtime in the Sonoran Desert.


1. Take a hike

The weather in Phoenix is perfect for exploring our vibrant state.

From Sedona to the Sky Islands, we have multiple ecoregions to enjoy thanks to our 12,563  elevation difference across Arizona.

Within this wide range of elevation, arid deserts and canyonlands, semiarid shrub, grass-covered plains, woodlands, shrubland-covered hills, lava fields and volcanic plateaus, forested mountains, glaciated peaks, and river alluvial floodplains can all be found.

During the spring, nearly 3,500 species of plants bloom and bring ecosystems to life.

Some of the best hiking locations in the state are within a few hours of Phoenix.

Here are some of our favorite trails at AZSA:


  • The Superstition Ridgeline Trail in the Superstition Mountains
  • The Inner Basin Trail in Flagstaff
  • Seven Falls Trail in Tucson
  • Cathedral Rock in Sedona
  • The West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon
  • Aravaipa Canyon Trail
  • Echo Canyon Loop in the Chiricahua National Monument
  • Antelope Canyon


If you decide to go hiking, please remember to bring lots of water and leave no trace! That includes picking up any trash you might see around the trail, so be sure to bring a small bag for that.

Seasonal winds can carry lightweight trash miles out of the city and into our nature preserves and wilderness.

It might be a little gross to pick up random trash, but those five seconds might save an animal’s life!

The Arizona Sustainability Alliance’s Adopt-A-Park Initiative is currently running several projects in coordination with the City of Phoenix to keep our local nature preserves healthy and free of invasive species (including plastic bags).

If you’re lucky, you might spot some of our wildlife!

arizona squirrel


2. Kayak at Canyon Lake

Arizona might not be known for water sports, but we actually have quite a few lakes and rivers that are plenty deep enough to paddle around in.

One of the best places to do that is at Canyon Lake, one of four reservoirs that were formed by the damming of the Salt River here in Arizona.

It’s a little over an hour outside of Phoenix, but well worth the drive!

If you’re more of a land person, there are numerous beautiful trails and hidden places to spend the day at by the lake.


3. Splash in the water at Fossil Creek

On hotter days in the valley, it’s easy to fantasize about escaping the heat to swim in a cool, hidden oasis.

The answer to your daydream is Fossil Creek, a 17-mile long perennial stream that’s located near the community of Strawberry. It’s about 2.5 hours north of Phoenix between Camp Verde and Payson, and totally worth the drive.

Fossil Creek is a rare riparian area within an otherwise arid landscape. Many plants and wildlife depend on Fossil Creek for habitat, including otters, beavers, leopard frogs, and common black hawks.

It offers beautiful scenery, shade, hiking trails, great birding, and pools that are deep enough for swimming.

This is a special place for sure –– it’s one of only two waterways in Arizona designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. The lushness of the riparian area strikes a sharp contrast to the brittle desert that surrounds it.

If you’d like to enjoy a day at Fossil Creek, be sure to grab a permit and bring some walking shoes and plenty of water with you on your trip.

Also, keep an eye out for javelina. These collie dog-sized wild pigs are plentiful in the area!


4. Watch birds

arizona hummingbird

Did you know that Southeastern Arizona is considered by many to be the best birdwatching region in the United States?

Cave Creek Canyon, Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve, Saguaro National Park and Madera Canyon are among some of the best places in the country to see astoundingly beautiful birds like the Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Elegant Trogon, Olive Warbler, Rufous-winged Sparrow, Gray Hawk, and the Mexican Jay.

Overall, Arizona’s species list of around 550 is the highest of any state without an ocean coastline. The total is aided by quite a few rare vagrants that occasionally cross the border from Mexico, such as Flame-colored Tanager and Streak-backed Oriole.

If you’re interested in spotting some of these flying wonders this spring, the Paton Center for Hummingbirds (now managed by the Tucson Audubon Society) is a great place to start your birding adventure.

Don’t forget to bring some binoculars, sunscreen, and a hat!


5. Visit Taliesin West

If you’re a fan of sustainable architecture, be sure to check out Taliesin West this spring!

Taliesin West is a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Historic Landmark nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, AZ.  It is also the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s beloved winter home was established in 1937 and diligently handcrafted over many years into a world unto itself. Deeply connected to the desert from which it was forged, Taliesin West possesses an almost prehistoric grandeur.

According to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s website, “His approach to creating an architecture that appeared naturally linked to its surroundings, both in form and material, presaged many of today’s sustainability concerns. While American society may have changed markedly since the early 1900s, the underlying beliefs that Wright worked to uphold remain remarkably pertinent.”



Written by Deanna Pratt for the Arizona Sustainability Alliance