Mesa, Arizona is an outdoor playground with endless sunshine and stunning desert scenery. Located just outside Pheonix and surrounded by the rugged Sonoran Desert and Tonto National Forest, Mesa draws nature-lovers from across the country. Spotted with magnificent Saguaro cactus, the region offers top-notch mountain hiking, watersports, cultural attractions and agri-tourism sites. Mesa is the third largest city in Arizona, and with average temperatures of 86 degrees, the city makes perfect base for an affordable sunny escape.
Here are five of Mesa’s best outdoor attractions.
Hike The Superstition Mountains
Lace up your hiking boots and hit the Apache Trail to take in breathtaking views of volcanic cliffs rising 2,000 feet from the desert. Enter the spectacular Tonto National Forest and follow the footsteps that Native Americans and hopeful prospectors took over 100 years ago. Visit the Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum to see the artifacts, history and folklore of the Superstition Mountains and surrounding region.
This innovative urban farming community has been getting a lot of attention lately. Recently profiled in New York Times, Agritopia has become a symbol of the growing farm-to-table movement spreading across America. The innovative urban village has a working farm as the central focus of the close-knit, welcoming neighborhood. The Agritopia community is made up of 160 acres, including five acres dedicated to organic farmland. A patchwork of specialty crops, including lettuce, artichokes, peaches, dates, are grown here depending on the season. Same-day harvest is sold at the nearby Farm Stand, an honor-system farmers market, as well as being served at Joe’s Farm Grill, the renowned farm-side restaurant. Curious visitors to Agritopia can stroll the farm’s pathways to view the crops and see firsthand how fertile Arizona’s desert landscape truly is.
Visit The Queen Creek Olive Mill
Can olives grow in the middle of the Sonoran desert? You bet. And, they’re actually pretty tasty. Visit Arizona’s first working olive farm and mill to sample fine olive oils infused with just about any tasty ingredient you can dream of – chocolate, basil, chili and lemon (the list goes on). Try tasty balsamic glazes in various flavors like strawberry and fig and bring home some treats to share with family and friends. Enjoy a full-length tour of the mill and tasting before indulging in house-made gourmet sandwiches and moist cupcakes made with olive oil. Take your lunch outside and enjoy the warm Arizona climate in the mill’s lush olive grove.
Go StandUp Paddleboarding
Standup paddleboarding in the desert? Yes, you read that correctly. On Saguaro Lake you can paddle your heart out while surrounded by spectacular desert scenery. Located in Tonto National Forest, the lake is ideal for standup paddleboarding as its waters are calm and the sun shines all year round. No Snow SUP, Mesa’s premier standup paddleboarding shop, rents paddleboards at great rates and offers lessons that include transportation from the SUP shop to Lake Saguaro.
Stroll Through Desert Botanical Gardens
The world’s finest collection of arid-land plants from deserts around the world. On five outdoor trails, you’ll learn about desert living, the plants and people of the Sonoran Desert, and stunning local and international desert wildflowers. Established at this site in 1939, the garden now has more than 21,000 plants, including 139 species which are rare, threatened or endangered. Time your visit to catch an outdoor concert performance – after dark the gardens are lit beautifully.
Photos courtesy of Visit Mesa and Desert Botanical Gardens