Updated: Oct 11, 2019
One of the most accessible parks and hiking areas within the city of Phoenix, Papago Park is one of the easiest places to snap Instagram quality photos while enjoying a desert oasis.
Papago Park is only minutes away from downtown and the airport and is known for the giant red buttes and iconic hole-in-the-wall outlook that provides stunning photos of Phoenix and the amazing Arizona sunsets.
Surrounding the park is The Phoenix Zoo, The Desert Botanical Gardens, well-stocked lagoons for fishing and the Papago Golf Course.
Getting to Papago Park is easy and parking is plentiful and free. The park, however, is a very busy spot for tourists and locals alike, so weekends and evenings may seem crowded.
The trails in Papago Park are typically smooth with little elevation gain, providing easy access for walking, hiking, mountain biking or trail running. The park is split into east and west sides by Galvin Parkway with parking on each side.
The West Side offers paved trails that loop around the large red butte and the smaller butte. The trail is about 2.5 miles in length and can be accomplished by even the most amateur hikers, as well as those with mobility issues. The parking lots feature water fountains, picnic areas but no washrooms.
The East Side offers trails including an interpretive nature trail to learn about desert flora and fauna of the region. as well as a short hike inside Hole-in-the-Rock, the park's most popular scenic viewpoint. Restrooms, drinking fountains, picnic ramadas are available near the parking areas.
For most individuals, the Hole-in-the-Rock formation and outlook is the ultimate destination when visiting the park. The main chamber can be accessed easily by about 200ft of steps about 1/10th of a mile from the East Side and the main chamber looks out over nearby lagoons, the distant Phoenix skyline and especially picturesque during the beautiful, colorful sunsets of Arizona. The formation is thought to have been used in ancient times by the Hohokam civilization to track the position of the sun through the hole in the ceiling.
The White Pyramid
Visitor's to the park may wonder why there is a large white pyramid in the park and this point of interest is where the first of Arizona, Governor Hunt is entombed. A short hike takes one to the tomb and from here you can also get good pictures and views of the Phoenix Zoo and the Hole-in-the-Wall feature.
Other Nearby Attractions
The Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo is adjacent to Papago Park and offers visitor's a wonderful zoo experience where encounters and a beautiful landscaped park is a feature. Look for an upcoming Travel Guide for the Denver Zoo.
The Hall of Flame Firefighting Museum
The Hall of Flame Firefighting Museum is just a minute from the Zoo across the road. The Hall of Flame Fire Museum and the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes has almost an acre of fire history exhibits, with over 90 fully restored pieces of fire apparatus on display, dating from 1725 to 1969. Most of the exhibits are American, but they also have pieces from England, France, Austria, Germany, and Japan. The Hall of Flame sponsors the National Firefighting Hall of Heroes, which honors firefighters who have died in the line of duty or who have been decorated for heroism.
The Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden offers the world's finest collection of arid plants from deserts of the world in a unique outdoor setting. The Garden has more than 50,000 desert plants on display throughout five thematic trails that illustrate topics such as conservation, desert living, plants and people of the Sonoran Desert, and desert wildflowers. Visit the Garden and enjoy specialised tours, special events, seasonal exhibits, concerts, family activities, Gertrude's restaurant, Patio Café and the Garden's gift and plant shop.
Remember if you are visiting Papago Park and the area, Phoenix temperatures, especially in the summer, can reach dangerous levels. Always carry adequate water, wear sun protective clothing and hats and seek shade. Hiking in the summer is advisable in early morning or late into the evening when the sun has yet to scorch the land.
Images courtesy of Visit Phoenix, D Squared Productions and Adam Rodriguez
Did you enjoy reading this article? Consider tipping us and buying a cup of coffee for our hardworking independent travel journalists. Who knows, the life you save, may be your own.