Arizona has endless amounts of hiking! Hiking is one of my favorite ways to get outside and moving so that's one of my favorite things about here, there's always something new to explore and see!
Each hike has it's own unique path, landscape, and breathtaking views. These are just a few that I've done in my time here and I'm always looking for new hikes so please comment and let me know your favorites too!
CLAY MINE TRAIL - CAVE CREEK AZ
Clay Mine Trail was the first hike I did by myself in AZ so I guess it holds a special place in my heart. It's a short and sweet trail in Cave Creek Regional Park, only 1.6 miles out and back but it's got some fantastic views! The name comes from a cool, eery mine located on the trail. The entrance to it is closed off but it's still something cool to see! The CMT can be looped into the Overton Trail for a longer hike, which is definitely on my list to do.
SPUR CROSS TRAIL - CAVE CREEK AZ
Let's talk about Spur Cross Trail for a second.....SO FREAKING COOL! I did this hike with a group of friends and TBH, we kind of winged it and explored, I'd say we saw just about every inch of the Spur Cross Conservation! There are definitely some parts of steep climbs and crossing over streams but overall that added to the experience. Plus, the landscape and views are just uh-mazing!
BROWN'S RANCH/BROWN'S SUMMIT - SCOTTSDALE AZ
The pictures don't even do this one justice, the views from Brown's Summit were unbelievable! This hike is located in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and there's a number of trails you can take around or up to the summit on Brown's Ranch. We started at the main entrance (at the end of Alma School Rd.) and took Brown's Ranch Road to the Brown's Mountain Trail to Brown's Summit Spur, up to the summit (about 1.5 miles). You can take the same way back but we came down the other side of the mountain and looped around, so it was probably around a 3-4 mile hike. The trail is pretty flat until you start to make your way up the mountain and then to the summit but it's a pretty moderate climb and doable. I'd love to do this hike again at sunrise or sunset because I can't even imagine how beautiful it must be!
PINNACLE PEAK TRAIL - SCOTTSDALE AZ
Pinnacle Peak Trail is definitely a tourist spot but totally worth dealing with a bit of a crowd. It's about 3.5 miles out and back with some pretty awesome views overlooking the surrounding areas. About 1.5 miles up, you'll come to a scenic point with a dope 360 view!
SUNRISE PEAK VIA SUNRISE TRAIL - FOUNTAIN HILLS AZ
I absolutely loved, loved, loved Sunrise Trail!! A few reasons why...one, I did it shortly after it snowed and the mountains still had snow peaks and it was so gorgeous. Two, at the top, somebody left a notebook for people to write notes in and it included messages from everyone who's hiked up to the top, so special!! It was just under 4 miles up and back but is a steady incline with amazing scenery so time flies!
WAGNER TRAIL LOOP - SCOTTSDALE AZ
The Wagner Trail Loop, located in McDowell Mountain Regional Park is so peaceful and you feel absolutely immersed in nature. It's about a 2 mile loop starting from Wagner Trailhead then hopping on the Granite Trail to circle back. The trail is completely flat so it's the perfect stroll for clearing your mind and getting some of the best views of surrounding mountains in every direction!
DEVIL'S BRIDGE TRAIL & CATHEDRAL ROCK TRAIL - SEDONA AZ
I've done both Devil's Bridge Trail and Cathedral Rock Trail twice already and I'd do them 100 more times! I'd be bold enough to say these both should be on your top 10 things to do before you die list. Sedona, in general, is just such a special place! There's something magical about the red rock and it's energy. I know that sounds hippie-dippie but trust me, these hikes will literally blow your mind and are unlike anything you've ever seen or experienced before.
This time I was lucky enough to have parents that just built a house in a new development, Trilogy Verde River in Rio Verde. It's surrounded by 360 mountain views and I'm still in shock in how gorgeous it was, it felt like I was staying on a 5 star resort. Some people who buy houses there do rent out so if you're looking to stay at a house where you can cook and have some privacy, definitely look into it! There's also an unbelievable amenities like the pool area, sports courts, golf course, club house/fitness center, etc.
CAREFREE COFFEE ROASTERY
This mom and son owned coffee shop was right up my alley, it had a local yet hip vibe. They roast their own coffee right on site and it was freaking delicious. I had a cafe au lait with almond milk and dashed some cinnamon on top. The menu was simple and had a good selection of gluten free/vegan baked good options. They also do house made waffles, I had a bite of my moms and it was unreal. Unlike any waffle I’ve had, the texture was crispy but soft like a crepe on the inside. I wish I knew their secret!! The mom did tell us they use a vanilla bean infused sugar for the waffles and for their infused cold brews/matcha. AMAZING. My parents took me here on my last morning in Arizona but it will definitely be my first stop next time I visit.
On my next trip back to Arizona with my friend Michelle, we found ourselves back here pretty much every morning for the Nitro Cold Brew. Creamy, bold, and de-li-cious. The weather was much warmer this time so we got to sit out on the patio to soak up some rays. The graffiti wall also makes for great insta-worthy photos. ;)
Carefree Coffee will definitely be my go-to coffee shop in Arizona. Lars, the owner, is such a cool and friendly guy who took the time to chat with us and give us some recommendations on what to do in the area. He seemed to know just about everyone who came in which is always a good tell tale sign that people are coming back for a reason!
So I found out about this place via @gypsykait Instagram and boy am I SO glad I did. One of the best dinners I’ve had out in awhile. I could tell beforehand just by scoping out the menu that it was going to be good but it absolutely exceeded my expectations! It was so hard to decide what to get since everything sounded amazing but I decided on the organic goat cheese stuffed chicken which also was topped with fig jam and came with mushroom risotto cakes. WOWOW was it freaking GOOD! The skin of the chicken was perfectly crispy and I absolutely love anything that has goat cheese (and fig). The mushroom risotto cakes were also unreal! My mom had a grapefruit glazed salmon which she loved, I also took a bite of and agreed it was delicious.
Because it was girls night out, we had to celebrate with dessert. We got to go up to the dessert case and check everything out. Our waiter was a gem and took the time to tell us what everything was and gave some recommendations. As soon as he said “cheesecake” I was SOLD, it’s probably one of my favorite things in the world. This one was a cashew honey cheesecake which had a crust that tasted like a cashew cookie and was topped with caramel. I mean…..CMON!? Can you get any better?? It was to die for and I would eat 10, any day. My mom decided on a vegan chocolate tart that was sooooo fudge-y and rich. Also a 10/10.
Overall, I gave Herb Box an A+, the service was fantastic, the interior was gorgeous, vibe was great, and the food was excellent. They also use fresh local ingredients, organic where they can, and have a good selection of GF, Vegan, Vegetarian items. Next time, I'd love to try their brunch!
Herb Box has officially landed one of my favorite restaurants of all time. On this trip, we had brunch on our first morning and dinner on our last night, talk about coming in and going out with a BANG!
The brunch was just as fabulous as I imagined, we actually all decided on the buckwheat pancakes with bacon. They were amazing, of course! So fluffy with a crisp coating, just as a pancake should be. The bacon was also perfectly crispy, you better believe no strip was left behind.
For dinner, we started with the vegan nosh board which had kale pakora, crispy brussel sprout chips, korean cauliflower, and crisp edamame. Talk about an explosion of flavor and textures, holy *ish*! Just when we thought things couldn't get any better, the main coarse (which we all split) came out, butternut squash enchiladas and thai baby back ribs. Three letters is all I got....W.O.W! Just typing this I'm having serious withdrawals and need to get back there ASAP.
There's something to say about restaurants that use quality, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. You can 100% taste and feel the difference. I've walked away from every meal there feeling satisfied, nourished, and impressed!
KALE & CLOVER
I remembered K&C from last time I was in Arizona, it was in the same plaza as a Starbucks we went to. On the way back from the airport this time, I was absolutely starving and needed something to hold me over before dinner. I remembered the words “Juice & Smoothies” on their window so we stopped in for me to get a smoothie. I didn’t realize it was also a great spot that had healthy options for salads, bowls, sandwiches, and even some meals. I got a banana bread smoothie which had banana, maple syrup, flax seeds, cinnamon, almond butter, & almond extract (I also added kale). It legit tasted like banana bread, the almond extract is a genius idea and I’ll definitely be re-creating it at home! We also grabbed a salad to take home to have with dinner. It was the “Kale Power” which had kale, sweet potato, apple, quinoa, and pine nuts.
I requested we go back the next day so I could try out some of their juices. I decided on two infused waters they carry from Kaleidoscope Juice (a juice spot in AZ): Strawberry Collagen Water (strawberry + lemon + ginger + cayenne + collagen + spring water) & Alkaline Chropyll Water (chlorophyll + lime juice + spring water).
Kale & Clover is a great spot for grab and go or a quick sit down lunch/breakfast. Their meals are designed with health in mind and seasonal ingredients. They also have a selection of GF, vegan, & vegetarian options.
TRUE FOOD KITCHEN
If you follow anyone on Instagram who lives or has been to the West Coast, then you know about TFK. Trust me, it lives up to the hype. It's exactly what it sounds like, real, fresh, and whole foods. The atmosphere of the restaurant also screams fresh, it's very open and airy with natural elements like wood and plants. My favorite part is the cleverly placed quotes like "You are what you eat so don't be cheap, easy, or fake." ;)
My friend Michelle and I found ourselves here twice, both for lunch and dinner the next day. For lunch, we started with the kale guacamole which (wait for it........) has pink grapefruit in it! It's little twists like that which take something from good to great. I can make guacamole at home but I'd never think to do that! For the main, we split fish tacos. Two girls from New England are used to fresh, quality seafood so we were skeptical but were definitely proven wrong. The fish was flaky and cooked perfectly. The toppings were balanced wonderfully as well with texture and tang. Overall, 100.
Our last night, on the way to the airport we stopped for the "last supper" at TFK. We were dying to try the butternut squash pizza so we split that along with a seasonal ingredient (winter) salad which at the time had brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, white bean, pomegranate, mulberry, and a horseradish vinaigrette. Both unique and absolutely delicious. The pizza had an almond ricotta on it, that you couldn't tell apart from the dairy version, it's texture and taste was just as good!
True Food Kitchen has multiple locations throughout Arizona and is definitely a must try! If anything, do it for the gram. :P
Kaleidoscope is a millennial's dream! All the superfoods, the adaptogens, the collagen, the bulletproof, you name it, they got it. Kale & Clover carries Kaleidoscope juices and flavored waters which is how I found out about it and I wanted to check out one of their locations so we stopped at the downtown Scottsdale one. This location is quaint and bright with a cute outdoor bar to enjoy your drink outside.
We grabbed some smoothies to hold us over for dinner. I got the "Bulletproof" with a few adjustments, of course (so high maintenance). My version was: mixed berries, avocado, brain octane oil, coconut milk, peanut butter and collagen. Not super sweet, which is how I like my smoothies. Michelle and I also split a charcoal lime water, which was so refreshing after being in the sun all day!
Fountain Hills is absolutely gorgeous and a fun spot to walk around on a sunny day (which is every day in Arizona). The fountain there is the highest in the U.S and you'll catch it go off every hour for 15 minutes, it's quite the sight! Surrounding the fountain is a beautiful park with mountain views and shops/restaurants. Another fun and cool feature is a set of statues of the U.S Presidents, try not to sit on Abraham Lincoln's lap....impossible! :P
FOUR PEAKS 4X4 ROAD
Driving the trail up through Four Peaks mountain is definitely one of the coolest experiences I've had. It's about a 28 mile drive along a path through the mountains with unbelievable views. You do need a truck, SUV, or jeep with four wheel drive because the roads can get bumpy & steep. It'd also be an unreal experience with an ATV! There's a few scenic stops along the way to pull over and take photos but the whole drive is gorgeous. If you're willing to live life on the edge (you'll drive along some narrow roads along cliffs) and experience something memorable, definitely check out the Four Peaks 4x4 road.
DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN
If you truly want to experience the beauty of the desert habitat, take a visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens. Such a relaxing and humbling activity to just stroll through the gardens, appreciating the beauty of nature. It was an extra cool experience being from the opposite side of the country because all the plants and cacti are things you're not used to seeing! While we there, we got lucky because the cacti were in bloom and flowering! There also was a butterfly exhibit with thousands of butterflies flying around a greenhouse, something you also don't see every day. Throughout the gardens, you'll also see some pretty unique modern art. If you can get down with some plants and some art, add the DBG to your to-do list in AZ!
Click here for my post on some of my favorite Arizona hikes!