Outdoor Family Activities in Scottsdale

By local contributor
Annemarie Kruse

Scottsdale is full of exciting outdoor activities for the whole family. Take a break from playing in the pool or trying to convince the kids to fall in love with golf, and get outside to explore the Sonoran Desert.


Go for a Hike

Scottsdale is full of hiking trails but none are quite like the Bajada Nature Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This easy hiking trail is ideal for kids and adults alike because it is completely barrier free, only a half-mile long and has no elevation gain. Educational information and interactive exhibits keep the kids engaged, while access to additional, more moderately challenging trails offers flexibility to those who want them. Stewards of the preserve are often available to answer questions about snakes, scorpions, bats, bobcats and all sorts of exciting creatures that call the preserve home! Kids love this hands-on perspective of the Sonoran Desert and it’s a terrific way for adults to learn something, too.


Pedal Away the Day

The Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt is a paved, multi-use path that travels north to south along much of Scottsdale’s length. This path is a favorite for weekend bike rides and is a fun adventure for kids of all ages. The Greenbelt is easy to access from downtown or central Scottsdale, and offers lots of options to stop and eat, sightsee or play in one of the many parks along the way. Some of Scottsdale’s resorts, like the Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch, offer rental bikes on property, or you can rent bikes when you arrive in town. REI Co-Op Experiences offers rental bikes and even rental trailers for the smallest explorers in your family.


Float the Salt

In summer, locals flock in droves to the Lower Salt River just east of Scottsdale to go “tubing.” This all-day event is popular for those who want to enjoy a party atmosphere and a full day in the sun. Others might prefer a quiet morning kayak trip that offers the same river views but a completely different experience. Jump in the river to cool off and stay on the look-out for bald eagles, wild horses and even river otters! There are various options around town for renting kayaks or for taking a guided kayaking tour. The banks of the Salt River are also a great spot for an afternoon picnic and a refreshing swim. Granite Reef Recreation site is less busy than many others and offers options to explore among the reeds and catch river snails in addition to stunning views of iconic Red Mountain.


Ride the Rails (with a little imagination)

Children of all ages, including the young at heart, can spend blissful hours at Scottsdale’s McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park. Learn about the important part the railroads played in Arizona’s history, and then catch a thrilling ride on the scale-model rail cars through a two-acre desert arboretum. The park has railroad themed play areas and grassy knolls to encourage the imagination and keep the kids entertained by the magic of the trains.

These are just a few of the many outdoor family activities you’ll find on your visit to Scottsdale. The city is filled with multi-purpose places designed to help each member of the family feel like this is the best vacation of their lives. Enjoy lazy rivers, splash pads, and the mystical allure of Butterfly Wonderland. Exploring Scottsdale is fun for kids of every age, from adult on down.