1. The Valley of the Sun
Filtered Fact: Views of the “Valley of the Sun” (aka the Phoenix metropolitan area) can be had from the surrounding hikes and trails (to be named later in this list).
#NoFilter Fact: There’s a place in the Valley of the Sun called Chandler that is famous for its history of ostrich ranching?
2. Piestewa Peak
Filtered Fact: Piestewa Peak (formerly called and still referred to by some as Squaw Peak) is the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains.
#NoFilter Fact: The Piestewa Trail is quite literally full of schist.
3. Tovrea Castle
Filtered Fact: Tovrea Castle was originally bought by stockyard mogul E.A. Tovrea in 1932 and remained in the Tovrea family until it was purchased by the city of Phoenix in 1993.
#NoFilter Fact: Yo, let’s be real. It kind of looks like a wedding cake, doesn’t it?
4. The Desert Botanical Garden
Filtered Fact: The garden is home to approximately 21,000 plants representing 3,931 plant classifications in 139 plant families.
#NoFilter Fact: LOL at this quote at the gardens about living in the desert being written by a guy named “Forrest.”
5. Camelback Mountain
Filtered Fact: Camelback Mountain derives its English name from its shape, which resembles a camel.
#NoFilter Fact: There is also a unique rock formation on Camelback Mountain that looks like a praying monk, and not surprisingly, it’s called The Praying Monk. DOES ANYONE ELSE SEE A PATTERN HERE???
6. South Mountain Park
Filtered Fact: Originally called “Phoenix Mountain Park,” South Mountain Park is the largest municipally owned (read: city, not state) park in the country.
#NoFilter Fact: This is the only place in the world you can find the special “orange-tailed chuckwalla,” which is unfortunately not quite as goofy looking as it sounds, but close!
7. The Superstition Mountains
Filtered Fact: The Elvis Memorial Chapel is dedicated to memorabilia from popular movies and television shows that were filmed at Apacheland, including Charro, which famously starred Elvis Presley.
#NoFilter Fact: Following the Arizona State Law that “all mountain ranges must be named for shapes or stories about them,” the Superstition Mountains’ namesake superstitions include a secret mine that’s been lost for over a century, and a hidden portal to the underworld.
8. Dobbins Lookout
Filtered Fact: Dobbins Lookout is a contender for best views of Phoenix, along with the Gila Valley Lookout.
#NoFilter Fact: For those who find the idea of a 1,000-foot+ elevation gain hike slightly nauseating, GREAT news: the lookout is also accessible by car.
9. Mystery Castle
Filtered Fact: The story of the castle Boyce Gulley built for his daughter was so compelling, it inspired a story in LIFE magazine.
#NoFilter Fact: Boyce Gulley never lived to see his wife and daughter move in to the castle, but he did leave explicit instructions to wait two years after his death before opening a trap door in the house. When LIFE came to do the story in 1948, the door was opened, and the mystery revealed. You’ll have to take the tour to find out.
10. Hole-in-the-Rock, Papago Park
Filtered Fact: Papago is known for the strange Hole-in-the-Rock foundation (pictured above) as well as for its smooth and easy trails, making it ideal for family hikes and beginner’s mountain biking.
#NoFilter Fact: Papago is also known for housing the white, pyramid-like tomb of George W.P. Hunt, who was Arizona’s first governor and the proud owner of the nickname “The Old Walrus.”
11. Deer Valley Rock Art Center
Filtered Fact: The Deer Valley Rock Art Center is an archeological preserve that is home to 1,500 Native American petroglyphs, some of which were made over 10,000 years ago.
#NoFilter Fact: The Phoenix New Times cautions, go see the Will Bruder-designed Art Center “…before the secret gets out, and the place is flooded with Architectural Digest-waving hipsters.”
12. And Saguaro Cactus Sunsets (Pretty Much on Every Hike)
Filtered Fact: The Saguaro Blossom, which grows on the cacti, is the state flower of Arizona.
#NoFilter Fact: Even though the spines keep animals from eating them, Saguaros make excellent “hotels” for birds, which certainly means there must be a chain of Saguaros known as “Nest Westerns.”