Insider Tips From Local Experts

Scottsdale Stories

Magic Hour: 5 Best Places to Watch Sunrise & Sunset in Scottsdale

It’s no secret that both sunrises and sunsets in Scottsdale are spectacular. Our “golden hour” is more like “magic hour,” with the entire sky either glowing bright orange and pink or transforming into perfect cotton candy watercolors.

Sure, you can catch a glimpse of Mother Nature’s incredible twice-daily show from just about anywhere, but there are certain hotspots that allow you to really experience the magic. Whether you prefer to enjoy it from a mountain summit or on a shaded patio with a cocktail in hand, we’ve got the insider info on where to find the best sunsets and sunrises in Scottsdale. 


McDowell Sonoran Preserve – Sunrise & Sunset

Hiker at Gateway_DG

With 30,580 acres and more than 225 miles of trails, Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve has several prime spots for photographing those golden moments of light right after sunrise or leading up to sunset in Scottsdale.

Since the overnight hours are reserved for the Preserve’s crepuscular and nocturnal animals, it’s important to note that trailhead gates open right around sunrise and close promptly at sunset. But not to worry! You’ll still be able to catch the magical desert light with these vantage points in close proximity to trailhead parking:

  • Gateway Trailhead (sunrise): A short stroll across the Gateway bridge (just past the trailhead building) opens up to a glorious expanse of saguaros, prickly pear and cholla that glow as the sun rises over the McDowell Mountains.
  • Fraesfield Trailhead (sunrise or sunset): Head for the trailhead view deck at either end of the day! In the morning, the sun rising over the Four Peaks mountain range turns the sky juicy shades of yellow and orange. At sunset, the Four Peaks themselves take on rich hues of red and purple just before the sun dips below the horizon.
  • Browns Ranch Trailhead (sunset): The aptly named Sunset Vista Trail, located south of the parking lot, climbs a small hill that rewards you with fabulous western views. Best of all, you’re just minutes from your car for an easy exit before the gates close.

Use this handy chart of open and close times to plan your “golden hour” photo ops in Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve!


Piestewa Peak - Sunrise & Sunset

Piestewa Peak Sunset

Less than 100 feet shorter than Camelback Mountain, Piestewa Peak is one of the most prominent mountains in the entire Valley. It should come as no surprise, then, that it’s also one of the most popular destinations for watching the sunrise or enjoying an incredible sunset near Scottsdale.

So what’s the catch? The best views from Piestewa Peak require some serious effort: a 2.1 mi/3.3 km  roundtrip hike that goes practically straight up the mountain. In just one mile, the trail gains a staggering 1,148 feet in elevation! However, it’s well worth it, as this bucket list Arizona hike rewards you with sweeping views of the valley, from the Superstitions in the east to the White Tanks on the west side, the McDowells to the north, and South Mountain to the south. Due to the 360-degree views, Piestewa is equally impressive at sunset and sunrise. 


Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, A Gurney’s Resort & Spa – Sunset

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain is perhaps best known for its divine spa and for having one of the best pools in the valley, but it also tops the list for where to watch the sunset in Scottsdale. Specifically, you’ll want to head to the patio at jade bar, which is ideally positioned to take in the sun setting behind Camelback Mountain. As an added bonus, jade bar runs a perfectly timed happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.


Orange Sky at Talking Stick Resort – Sunset

Rooftop Bars_Orange Sky2

Orange Sky continuously reminds us of how the chic rooftop bar and restaurant got its name. Perched on the 15th floor of Talking Stick Resort, the restaurant features floor-to-ceiling windows and 360-degree views, but the best seats in the house are on the building’s west side, where you can take in panoramic sunsets that seem to linger for hours. Dinner reservations are highly recommended, as is arriving early to enjoy a cocktail or two on the open-air patio. 


Outrider Rooftop Lounge – Sunset

Outrider Cocktail

Another one of Scottsdale’s best rooftop bars, Outrider sits atop the Canopy by Hilton Scottsdale Old Town hotel. It faces Camelback Mountain and has unobstructed views to the north and south, offering larger-than-life sunsets over the sparkling city below. If you’re wondering where to watch sunsets in Scottsdale in the heart of Old Town, this is the perfect choice! Outrider offers an evening small bites menu along with cocktails and local craft beer, but does not accept reservations.

Based in the East Valley, Taryn has lived in Arizona most of her life. She loves exploring our stunning, diverse state and especially enjoys discovering quirky hidden gems - as well as new local breweries and great happy hours! When she isn't adventuring, Taryn writes for clients including PHOENIX Magazine and runs her own travel blog, Chasing Trail.