Mesa is Arizona’s third-largest city and visitors can take advantage of being part of a recreation paradise. Mesa is neighbor to the vast Tonto National Forest, the fifth largest forest in the country and one of the most-visited “urban” forests in the U.S. There are three lakes and two rivers that allow for water sports all year long. Birding along the riverbanks and lake shorelines are also popular.
The breathtaking Superstition Mountains to the east serve as both an iconic backdrop for the city and a gateway to adventure. Ghostly and volcanic, the Superstition Mountains rise some 2,000 feet into the desert sky and offer hiking and horse trails fit for every level of enthusiast. Venture down the Historic Apache Trail to find Lost Dutchman State Park. Hidden in the depths of this forbidding range is one of the most storied “lost mines” of the West. Five hiking trails are offered here that range in distance and elevation. The U.S. Forest Service protects these beautiful mountains as one of the nation’s most popular designated wilderness areas.
Continue down the Apache Trail to find Canyon Lake and take a “Mark Twain” voyage aboard the Dolly Steamboat, a replica of a sternwheeler paddleboat. Cruise the lake’s secluded inner waterways and photograph desert bighorn sheep and other wildlife. The 90-minute nature cruise or twilight dinner cruise is the perfect complement to the Apache Trail experience.
Located in the city limits is Usery Mountain Park offering lecture series, guided hikes, a Nature Center and plenty of opportunities for visitors to experience the beautiful desert landscape. Everything from hiking, biking and horseback riding is available along with a year round events schedule and programs to entertain and teach visitors about the Sonoran Desert. Usery Park is also home to the Arizona Model Aviator flying site and the only five-star archery range in Arizona.
Early birds can catch a sunrise flight over the Sonoran via a hot-air balloon and capture a coveted desert view from the sky. For those with a taste for out-of-this-world aerial adventure, test your fighter pilot skills at Fighter Combat International where one can go on an air combat mission and experience a high-flying aerobatic thrill ride.
For more information to plan your winter escape to the Southwest, head online toand download the free Adventure Explorer Guide.
120 N. Center St.
Mesa, AZ 85201