Hey everyone, welcome to On The Rocks! I’m Claudia Faust and usually, I take you on a NEW adventure every week but I’m sure you’ve noticed. . . Arizona is EXTRA hot these days. Thanks to the heatwave and my sensitivity to smoke (thanks, asthma) I couldn’t make it out for my weekly hike – yes, I’m crushed. The good news is, I still wanted to share some of my favorite adventures to escape the heat this weekend. I have a summer bucket list full of so many amazing waterfall hikes, fishing trips, and other outdoor activities that I can’t wait to get to. But for now, I’m ranking my top 3 ways to cool down when the desert hits the triple digits!
Number 3: Horton Creek – Payson, AZ
Horton Creek was a pleasant surprise and a pretty decent workout. Located just 20 minutes outside of downtown Payson, Horton Creek is a perfect day trip. The trail is 8.2 miles long with a hefty 2,500+ feet of elevation gain. This trial may be a bit too difficult for young kids or someone who doesn’t exercise often but is perfect for someone looking for a shady workout. The trail follows the river for nearly the entire 8.2-mile trek with plenty of opportunities to cool down in the creek.
Waterproof hiking boots and a packed lunch will make this trail a very enjoyable getaway. We saw some wildlife on this hike as there were plenty of birds and we even came across a Western Coral Snake. You don’t have to worry much about the sun beating down on you because the trail is almost completely enclosed by trees and will keep you cool! We took our time on the hike so we could stop by the water as much as possible and eat lunch by the spring. The whole trek took about 3.5 hours to complete. Happy trails!
Number 2: Water Wheel Falls – Payson, AZ
So it looks like Payson is the spot to beat the heat, huh? Water Wheel Falls was on my bucket list for a long time. Don’t wait as long as I did to make the trip out to Payson, you won’t regret it! Water Wheel Falls is an easy trail that’s just 1.6 miles with 150 feet of elevation gain. This trail is an absolute BLAST! The entirety of the trail hugs the Verde River and has a few “steep” sections but beautiful views to match. When you get to the waterfall there’s a perfect spot to jump in and enjoy the very cold water!
I recommend either wearing waterproof hiking boots and bringing along a pair of sandals to change into OR wearing a pair of hiking sandals. If you have a pup like me, just know that once the temps hit the triple digits their paws are at risk of severely overheating or burning. Yes, the trail is mostly along the water but there is a sand section in the beginning and a rock section in the middle that will put your fur babies at risk. While pups don’t love to wear them, I suggest having them wear a pair of dog boots.
There are plenty of gorgeous spots to post up for the day and enjoy swimming in the cool water. Have fun!
Number 1: Kayaking on the Salt River – Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch – Mesa, AZ
Kayaking on the Salt River is hands down my favorite outdoor activity in the state. Truthfully, I’m not sure this activity can ever be topped!
I discovered the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch two weeks after moving to Phoenix a few years ago. I moved in the middle of June, it was 115 degrees, and was desperate to get outdoors. Once I kayaked the Salt River through the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch I couldn’t get enough. Now I’ve adventured the Salt River by Kayak several times and still can’t get enough.
The best parts about booking your kayaking excursion through the Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch are the friendly staff, directions for kayaking, a bus ride back to your car, and the drop-dead gorgeous location!
The wildlife you’ll encounter is nearly endless. From birds to fish, to river otters, and wild horses…every twist and turn has excitement in store!