Mesa, Arizona, is located in the majestic Sonoran desert, and with more than 330 days of sunshine annually, it’s the perfect spot to go out into nature and enjoy the outdoors. The Crème de la Crème team invites you to explore some of the best nature-filled experiences to see around Mesa.
Usery Mountain Regional Park
Usery Mountain Regional Park contains 29 trails for long or short hikes and offers views of the Superstition Mountains. One available hiking trail is the Wind Cave Trail, a climb that rewards you with seeing the wind cave at the end of the hike. Usery mountain is the best spot to see desert flora, including the saguaro cactus blooms. You’ll also spot plenty of cacti, including the barrel cactus and the jumping cholla cactus.
You may also spot some desert wildlife, including chipmunks and lizards. For those looking for more adventure, you can visit Usery mountain regional park by horseback or mountain bike. Usery Mountain Regional Park is open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. from May 1 to Oct. 31, and 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily from Nov. 1 to April 30 and is located at 3939 N. Usery Pass Road in Mesa.
The Salt River offers gentle currents and breathtaking views, and while kayaking or rafting the river, you’ll get exceptional views of the Sonoran Desert and the Superstition Mountains. You can also journey down the river in a lazy inner tube for the ultimate relaxing water experience. You can begin your journey from the Saguaro Lake Ranch and travel down the river, where you’ll see wild horses on the surrounding land.
Salt River’s path goes through the Tonto National Forest, where you can see and hear nature surrounding you. There’s also the option of hiking and horseback riding along the river, and cottages are available for rent if you want to stay on-site. The Salt River is located at 13020 N. Bush Highway in Mesa.
The Apache Trail
The Apache Trail is a historic trail that spans 120 miles and got its name from the Apache Native Americans who initially used it to traverse the mountains. The trail winds through the Superstition Mountains and the foothills of the Tonto National Forest with twists and turns and incredible views.
There are several stops along the trail to check out. One of the stops is the Superstition Mountain Museum, where you can tour a small museum and then head out to the grounds to see a mining town and old film sets. The Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center is at 567 Apache Trail in Apache Junction.
Goldfield Ghost Town
Goldfield Ghost Town is another scenic stop along the Apache Trail. This town was a bustling place during the first gold strike of 1892 and now is a historical destination if you want to step back in time and get a sense of how things used to be in this region. There are merchants, a bakery, a saloon, a train, and a mine tour.
You can pan for gold in the mammoth gold mine, see an old wild west style gunfight, and stop into the Mammoth steakhouse and saloon to grab some grub and wet your whistle. Goldfield Ghost Town is located at 4650 N. Mammoth Mine Road in Apache Junction.
Continuing on the Apache Trail, another stop is Canyon Lake, 13 miles and 20 minutes away, taking you through a beautiful stretch of the trail. Canyon Lake is an artificial lake, and there are no houses along it, so you step right into an area of pristine natural vistas that take you back in time with 28 miles of untouched shoreline. The lake is surrounded by coves, natural caves, sheer rock faces, and formations where you can look for birds, deer, javelina, and Big Horn Sheep.
You can bring your boat, rent a boat, or take a cruise on the Dolly Steamboat, which offers nature cruises and dinner cruises. The nature cruise lasts 90 minutes and gives an overview of birds, land formations, and the area’s history. There’s also on-site camping available at Canyon Lake Marina and Campground, located at 16802 Arizona State Route 88 in Apache Junction.
While visiting Canyon Lake, stop by the Tortilla Flat, an authentic Old West town located just a few minutes from the lake. Once a stagecoach stop in 1904, now there’s a boardwalk with shops and eateries to visit at Tortilla Flat. When you get hungry from shopping, stop by Superstition Saloon and Restaurant for a bowl of spicy chili and a glass of old-fashioned sarsaparilla. Then stop by the country store for gelato to cool you off after the chili. Tortilla Flat is located at 1 Main St. in Tortilla Flat.
Apache Lake is 17 miles long and dotted with secluded coves, making it an excellent spot for fishing. You’ll discover an abundance of fish species, including flathead catfish, black crappie, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and walleye. The lake also has camping, hotel lodging, and boat rental available, and if you don’t wish to stay on the lake, there are day-use areas open.
Saguaro Lake is 10 miles long with 22 miles of shoreline, including Butcher Jones Beach. Saguaro Lake Marina has lots of activities to offer, from renting a slip or a boat from Precision Marine to a delicious meal at ShipRock Restaurant. The area offers ranch-style lodging, day-use areas, and boat rental. Fishing is plentiful, and fish species available are rainbow trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, and crappie. Saguaro Lake Marina is located at 14011 N. Bush Highway in Mesa.
San Tan Mountain Regional Park
San Tan Mountain Regional Park has more than eight miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking at various difficulty levels, with everything from easy to strenuous. Regardless of your trail choice, they offer unique views of the lower Sonoran Desert to take in scenic mountain views, wildlife, and plant life. You can also visit the Nature Center for more information about the area. The San Tan Mountain Regional Park is at 6533 W. Phillips Road in Queen Creek.
Whether hiking, horseback riding, water activities, or touring some quaint old towns, Mesa and the nearby area have you covered with nature activities outdoors for everyone in your group or the whole family. The staff at Crème de la Crème in Mesa hopes you can explore one or more of these excellent outdoor options.