When everywhere else is cold and grey and people enjoy being inside, we, desert dwellers, finally venture outdoors. It is the best time to visit Phoenix, when weather is perfect, the sky is still blue, and being outside is a pleasure.
Since everyone knows this, the city’s population quadruples this time of the year. Not only we get a lot of visitors, but we also have “snowbirds”, retirees who spend the winter here.
What do you do in the middle of the desert in the winter? Most of us go outdoors, and enjoy hiking of biking.
We have lots of trails to choose from in nature preserves in and around the city. We can even find ourselves alone in the desert on some of them.
For those who seek different attractions, the city offers options to enjoy the outdoors.
Visit the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve
Located in Northwest Phoenix, the Deer Valley Preserve is an indoors/outdoors museum. It showcasing ancient left by the Hohokam and the Patayan in this area. It is rarely visited, even by residents, so you’ll have a chance to be alone among petroglyphs, some of them 7,000 years old.
Start your visit at the indoors muesum, to learn about the ancients who left them behind. Then head outside and walk among the huge boulders filled with petroglyphs.
Take a Hike in South Mountain Park
To see more petroglyphs, head over to the other side of the city, to South Mountain Park. The largest nature preserve/park within city limits in the US, South Mountain Park is worth a full day to explore. Look for petroglyphs on the trails. But even if you don’t find many, enjoy the outdoors in the greenest desert of the country, with great views of the city below.
Learn About the Ancients at Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Site
After looking at petroglyphs, head into the city to learn more about the Hohokam, who created them. The best place to do this is Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological site.
The museum preserves and showcases ancient buildings, a garden and ball court. Stop in the indoor exhibit to learn more about the ancient people who made their home in the desert before air conditioning.
Head outdoors to check out the remains of their civilization. They knew how to build a home to use the natural conditions for heating and cooling it. Also known as the canal makers, you’ll see one of the canals they dug in ancient times, still in use today. They built most of the canals in Phoenix still in use today, thousands of years ago.
Walk Through the Desert Botanical Garden
To understand the desert around you, you might want to learn about the native plants surrounding you. The best place to do this is the Desert Botanical Garden. You’ve seen it in the garden of the Hohokam, but you’ll understand better the concept of gardening in the desert. You’ll also learn about all the native species of plants in the Sonoran Desert.
The Botanical Garden is committed to the conservation of the biodiversity of the deserts of North America. They are especially concerned and working with the Southwest region. Leader and coordinator of the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance, it cares for the desert preserves around Phoenix.
Enjoy the Outdoors at the Phoenix Zoo
Another conservation site, the Phoenix Zoo showcases animals from all around the world.
While you visit, notice how the animals are cared for. They all have large habitats, but the staff goes beyond it. They go out of their way to assure that the animals live as close as possible to how they would in the wild.
The conservation program at the Phoenix Zoo helps to preserve diversity in nature. They have a breed and release program for some of the most endangered species. One of their special project is the black-footed ferret. You’re not going to see any of them in exhibits though. They are susceptible to human illnesses, and the stress of being on exhibit would also harm them. Still, when you visit the other exhibits, you know that you are helping with rehabilitation of endangered species.
Encounter Animals at the Wildlife World Zoo
Another zoo, on the West side of the city, the Wildlife World Zoo offers a different type of experience. This one has Arizona’s largest number of exotic and endangered animals.
The Wildlife World Zoo is also dedicated to helping species survivals as well. In particular, they work hard for rhino conservation. They also award money, support, and staff to other organizations that work for wildlife conservation.
Learn About Local Wildlife at the Southwest Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
If you care about local wildlife and conservation, the Southwest Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is the one of the best place to visit. You do need a vehicle that handles dirt roads, since to reach the Center you’ll have to drive through a few miles of dirt road. You also need to register for a tour in advance, since they don’t have regular opening hours.
They don’t have animals from all over the world. What this Center is doing instead, is rescuing desert animals that got injured, or displaced in any way. Most of their animals get rehabilitated and able to live in the wild. Those are their temporary residents.
But, a few of the animals they rescue cannot be returned to the wild. They become permanent residents and you can visit them, or even “adopt” them. My daughter adopted Leonardo, the Jaguar/leopard, because she was moved to tears by his story.
The Center also helps with the rehabilitation of the Mexican wolves and returning them into the wild.
Try to go on a tour later in the day. If you are there at dusk, you’ll be able to listen to the wolves howling. They really howl in harmony, you wouldn’t believe it unless you heard it. It is some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard.