Joe Flood from Washington, USA/–

To experience grandeur in Arizona, nothing beats the Grand Canyon. Likewise, Sedona has the market cornered on desert beauty. But for an outdoor adventure closer to home, the Phoenix area has some special spots of its own that you need to see.

You’ll find one of them at Papago Park, which is also one of our five recommended areas for beginning hikers. The landmark is called Hole-in-the-Rock and, as the name suggests, it’s a hole in a rock. OK, it’s more like a pass-through cave in a sandstone butte, but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so nicely.

You can explore the Hole-in-the-Rock and surrounding caves, or sit for a bit in the shade and take in the views of the desert and downtown Phoenix. The hike is a short tenth of a mile (it’s right off a parking lot) and only gains 200 feet of elevation. You can easily hit it on your way to the nearby Phoenix Zoo or Desert Botanical Gardens.

The trails in Papago Park are open until 11 p.m. for late-night excursions, but note that the gated roadways, parking areas, restrooms and ramadas close at 7 p.m.

Warning: As a reminder to Phoenix visitors and first-time hikers, always take multiple bottles of water with you when you head into the outdoors, especially between May and October. Even on an easy hike the high heat and low humidity can dehydrate you faster than you realize. Be prepared and stay safe.

Want more outdoor adventure? Click here for five more spectacular hikes you should take in Phoenix.

– Justin Ferris,