Although the Valley of the Sun is a sprawling place, it's mostly flat and has numerous paved bike paths, which makes bicycling a breeze as long as it isn't windy or, in the summer, too hot. In Scottsdale, Arizona Outback Adventures, 16447 N. 91st St., Ste. 101 (tel. 866/455-1601 or 480/945-2881; www.azoutbackadventures.com), rents road bikes for $50 to $95 per day, hybrid/comfort bikes for $40 per day, and mountain bikes for $40 to $95 per day. Mountain-biking trail maps are also available. This company also does half-day guided mountain-bike tours ($150 per person with a two-person minimum). Bike rentals and tours are also available from Cactus Adventures (tel. 480/688-4743; www.cactusadventures.com), which charges $25 to $100 for a 24-hour bike rental and $89 to $159 for a half-day bike tour. This company is located near South Mountain Park, which has some of the best mountain-bike riding in the city. Guided rides can also be arranged through 360 Adventures (tel. 602/795-1877; www.360-adventures.com).
Among the best mountain-biking spots in the city are Papago Park (at Van Buren St. and Galvin Pkwy.), Phoenix South Mountain Park (use the entrance off Baseline Rd. on 48th St.), and North Mountain Preserve (off 7th St. btw. Dunlap Ave. and Thunderbird Rd.). With its rolling topography and wide dirt trails, Papago Park is the best place for novice mountain bikers to get in some desert riding (and the scenery here is great). For hard-core pedalers, Phoenix South Mountain Park is the place to go. The National Trail is the ultimate death-defying ride here, but there are lots of trails for intermediate riders, including the Desert Classic Trail and the short loop trails just north of the parking area at the 48th Street entrance. North Mountain is another good place for intermediate riders.
If you'd rather confine your cycling to a paved surface, there's no better route than Scottsdale's Indian Bend Wash greenbelt, a paved path that extends for more than 10 miles along Hayden Road (from north of Shea Blvd. to Tempe). The Indian Bend Wash pathway can be accessed at many points along Hayden Road. At the south end, the path connects to paved paths on the shores of Tempe Town Lake and provides easy access to Tempe's Mill Avenue shopping district.
With more than 200 courses in the Valley of the Sun, golf is just about the most popular sport in Phoenix and one of the main reasons people flock here in winter. Sunshine, spectacular views, and the company of coyotes, quails, and doves make playing a round of golf here a truly memorable experience.
However, despite the number of courses, it can be difficult to get a tee time on any of the more popular courses (especially during the months of Feb, Mar, and Apr). If you're staying at a resort with a course, be sure to make your tee-time reservations at the same time you make your room reservations. If you aren't staying at a resort, you might still be able to play a round on a resort course if you can get a last-minute tee time. Try one of the tee-time reservations services below.
The only thing harder than getting a winter or spring tee time in the Valley is facing the bill at the end of your 18 holes. Greens fees at most public and resort courses range from $100 to $190, with the top courses often charging $200 to $250 or more. Some municipal courses, on the other hand, charge less than $60. Of course, you can save money on many courses by opting for twilight play, which usually begins between 1 and 3pm.
You can get more information on Valley of the Sun golf courses from the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau, 125 N. Second St. (tel. 877/225-5749 or 602/452-6282; www.visitphoenix.com).
It's a good idea to make reservations well in advance. You can avoid the hassle of booking tee times yourself by contacting Golf Xpress (tel. 888/679-8246 or 602/404-4653; www.azgolfxpress.com), which can make reservations further in advance than you could if you called the golf course directly, and can sometimes get you lower greens fees as well. This company also makes hotel reservations, rents golf clubs, and provides other assistance to golfers visiting the Valley. For last-minute reservations, call Stand-by Golf (tel. 800/655-5345 or 480/874-3133; www.discountteetimes.com).
The many resort courses are the favored fairways of Valley visitors, and for spectacular scenery, the two Jay Morrish-designed 18-hole courses at the Boulders, 34631 N. Tom Darlington Dr., Carefree (tel. 480/488-9028; www.bouldersclub.com), just can't be beat. Given the option, play the South Course, and watch out as you approach the tee box on the 7th hole -- it's a real heart-stopper. Tee times for nonresort guests are very limited in winter and spring. You'll pay $220 to $250 for a round in winter if you aren't staying at the resort.
Jumping over to Litchfield Park, on the far west side of the Valley, there's the Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa, 300 Wigwam Blvd. (tel. 800/909-4224 or 623/935-9414; www.wigwamgolfclub.com), which has three championship 18-hole courses. The Gold Course is legendary, but even the Blue and Red courses are worth playing. These are traditional courses for purists who want vast expanses of green rather than cacti and boulders. In high season, the greens fees are $99 to $115 on any of the three courses here. Reservations can be made up to 120 days in advance.
Way over on the east side of the Valley at the foot of the Superstition Mountains is the Gold Canyon Golf Resort, 6100 S. Kings Ranch Rd., Gold Canyon (tel. 480/982-9449; www.gcgr.com), which has been rated the best public course in the state and has three of the state's best holes -- the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th on the visually breathtaking, desert-style Dinosaur Mountain course. Greens fees on this course range from $175 to $195 in winter. The Sidewinder course is more traditional and less dramatic, but much more economical. Greens fees are $79 to $89 in winter. You can make tee-time reservations 10 days in advance over the phone or 60 days in advance online. It's well worth the drive.
If you want a traditional course that has been played by presidents and celebrities alike, try to get a tee time at one of the two 18-hole courses at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club, 2400 E. Missouri Ave. (tel. 602/955-9655; www.azbiltmoregc.com). The courses here are more relaxing than challenging, good to play if you're not yet up to par. Greens fee is $185 in winter and spring ($99 after 2pm). Reservations can be made only 5 days in advance if you aren't staying at the Biltmore and are not an Arizona resident.
Of the two courses at the Camelback Golf Club, 7847 N. Mockingbird Lane (tel. 480/596-7050; www.camelbackinn.com), the tree-shaded Padre Course is more challenging. The Indian Bend Course is a links-style course with great mountain views and lots of water hazards. Padre Course greens fee is $139 in winter ($79 for twilight play); Indian Bend Course fee is $99 ($59 for twilight play) in winter. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance.
Set at the base of Camelback Mountain, the Phoenician Golf Club, 6000 E. Camelback Rd. (tel. 800/888-8234 or 480/423-2449; www.thephoenician.com), at the Valley's most glamorous resort, has 27 holes that mix traditional and desert styles. Greens fee for those not staying at the resort is $189 in winter and spring ($109 twilight rate for 9 holes), and tee-time reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance.
Of the Valley's many daily-fee courses, it's the two 18-hole courses at Troon North Golf Club, 10320 E. Dynamite Blvd., Scottsdale (tel. 480/585-7700; www.troonnorthgolf.com), seemingly carved out of raw desert, that garner the most local accolades. This is the finest example of a desert course that you'll find anywhere in the state, and with five tee boxes on each hole, golfers of all levels can enjoy this course. Greens fees in winter and spring are $245 to $295 ($120-$145 for twilight play).
If you want to swing where the pros do, beg, borrow, or steal a tee time on the Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish-designed Stadium Course at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Scottsdale, 17020 N. Hayden Rd. (tel. 888/400-4001 or 480/585-4334; www.tpc.com/scottsdale), which hosts the PGA's Waste Management Phoenix Open. The 18th hole has standing room for 40,000 spectators, but hopefully there won't be that many around the day you double-bogey this hole. The TPC's second 18, the Champions Course, is actually a municipal course, thanks to an agreement with the landowner, the Bureau of Land Management. Stadium Course fees top out at $299 in winter ($194 for twilight play), while Champions Course fees are a somewhat more reasonable $137 in winter ($97 for twilight play).
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, 18200 E. Toh Vee Circle, Fort McDowell (tel. 866/660-7700 or 480/836-9000; www.wekopa.com), is located off the Beeline Highway (Ariz. 87) on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in the northeast corner of the Valley, and gets rave reviews. The course name is Yavapai for "Four Peaks," which is the mountain range you'll be marveling at as you play. Unlike at other area courses, fairways at the two 18-hole courses here are bounded by desert, not luxury homes, so make sure you keep your ball on the grass. Greens fees are $175 to $195 in winter. Reservations are taken up to 90 days in advance.
The Kierland Golf Club, 15636 N. Clubgate Dr., Scottsdale (tel. 480/922-9283; www.kierlandgolf.com), which was designed by Scott Miller and consists of three 9-hole courses that can be played in combination, is another much-talked-about local daily-fee course. It's affiliated with the Westin Kierland Resort and is conveniently located adjacent to the Kierland Commons shopping center. Greens fees are $199 to $209 in winter ($119 for twilight play).
The Pete Dye-designed ASU Karsten Golf Course, 1125 E. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe (tel. 480/921-8070; www.asukarsten.com), part of Arizona State University, is also highly praised and a very challenging training ground for top collegiate golfers. Greens fees are $59 to $99 in winter. Phone reservations are taken up to 14 days in advance; online reservations are taken up to 30 days in advance.
If you're looking for good value in traditional or links-style courses, try the Legacy Golf Resort or Ocotillo Golf Resort. The Legacy Golf Resort, 6808 S. 32nd St. (tel. 888/828-3673 or 602/305-5500; www.legacygolfresort.com), is a fairly forgiving course on the south side of the Valley. Greens fees are $149 to $159 in winter ($99 for twilight play). Ocotillo Golf Resort, 3751 S. Clubhouse Dr., Chandler (tel. 888/624-8899 or 480/917-6660; www.ocotillogolf.com), in the southeast part of the Valley, has three 9-hole courses centered on 95 acres of man-made lakes, and that means a lot of challenge. Greens fees are $130 to $150 in winter ($65-$80 for twilight play).
If you want to take a crack at a desert-style course or two but don't want to take out a second mortgage for the experience, try Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club or Rancho Mañana Golf Club, both of which are on the north side of the Valley. Dove Valley Ranch Golf Club, 33750 N. Dove Lakes Dr., Cave Creek (tel. 480/488-0009; www.dovevalleyranch.com), designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., is something of a merger of desert and traditional styles. Greens fees are $95 to $105 in winter ($85 for twilight play). Rancho Mañana Golf Club, 5734 E. Rancho Mañana Blvd., Cave Creek (tel. 480/488-0398; www.ranchomanana.com), makes a good introduction to desert-style courses, as it's not as challenging as some other options in the area. Greens fee is $139 in winter ($59 for twilight play).
Of the municipal courses in Phoenix, Papago Golf Course, 5595 E. Moreland St. (tel. 602/275-8428; www.papagogolfcourse.net), at the foot of the red sandstone Papago Buttes, offers fine views and a killer 17th hole. Greens fee here is $99 in the winter/spring high season. Encanto Golf Course, 2775 N. 15th Ave. (tel. 602/253-3963), is the third-oldest course in Arizona and, with its wide fairways and lack of hazards, is very forgiving. Cave Creek Golf Course, 15202 N. 19th Ave. (tel. 602/866-8076), in north Phoenix, is another good, economical choice; this course was built atop a former landfill. Aguila Golf Course, 8440 S. 35th Ave., Laveen (tel. 602/237-9601), although a bit inconveniently located in the southwest corner of the Valley, was designed by Gary Panks. In winter, greens fees at Encanto, Cave Creek, and Aguila are $25 to $57 depending on when you play and whether you use a golf cart. For details on these courses, contact Phoenix Golf (tel. 866/865-4653 for reservations or 602/237-9601; http://phoenix.gov/recreation/rec/facilities/golf/index.html#a4).
Tempe's Rolling Hills Golf Course, 1415 N. Mill Ave., Tempe (tel. 480/350-5275; www.tempe.gov/golf), on the south side of Papago Park, is another good little municipal course with economical rates. There are two executive 9-hole courses here, and cool-season greens fee is a very reasonable $24 for 18 holes. A golf cart will cost you another $22. Reservations can be made a week in advance.
Several mountains around Phoenix, including Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak, have been set aside as parks and nature preserves, and these natural areas are among the city's most popular hiking spots. The city's largest nature preserve, South Mountain Park/Preserve (tel. 602/495-0222; www.phoenix.gov/PARKS), covers 16,000 acres and is one of the largest city parks in the world. This park contains more than 50 miles of hiking, mountain-biking, and horseback-riding trails, and the views of Phoenix (whether from along the National Trail or from the parking lot at the Buena Vista Lookout) are spectacular, especially at sunset. To reach the park's main entrance, drive south on Central Avenue, which leads right into the park. Once inside the park, turn left on Summit Road and follow it to the Buena Vista Lookout, which provides a great view of the city and is the trail head for the National Trail. If you hike east on this trail for 2 miles, you'll come to an unusual little natural tunnel that makes a good turnaround point. The Holbert Trail, a 5-mile round-trip hike that passes numerous petroglyphs, is another of my favorite trails here at South Mountain Park. To access this trail, turn left at the signed activity complex just inside the Central Avenue gate and drive to the last covered picnic area near the restrooms.
Another place to get in some relatively easy and convenient hiking is Papago Park, Galvin Parkway and McDowell Road (tel. 602/261-8318; www.phoenix.gov/PARKS), home to the Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Zoo, and the fascinating Hole in the Rock (a red-rock butte with a large natural opening in it). There are both paved and dirt trails within the park; the most popular hikes are around the Papago Buttes (park on W. Park Dr.) and up onto the rocks at Hole in the Rock (park past the zoo at the information center). During World War II, there was a German POW camp here.
Perhaps the most popular hike in the city is the trail to the top of Camelback Mountain, in the Echo Canyon Recreation Area (tel. 602/261-8318; www.phoenix.gov/PARKS), near the boundary between Phoenix and Scottsdale. At 2,704 feet high, this is the highest mountain in Phoenix and boasts the finest mountaintop views in the city. The 1.2-mile Summit Trail that leads to the top of Camelback Mountain is outrageously steep and gains 1,200 feet from trail head to summit. Yet on any given day there will be ironmen and ironwomen nonchalantly jogging up and down to stay fit. At times, it almost feels like a health-club singles scene. To reach the trail head, drive up 44th Street until it becomes McDonald Drive, turn right on East Echo Canyon Parkway, and continue up the hill until the road ends at a parking lot, which is often full. Don't attempt this one in the heat of the day, and bring at least a quart of water. Although people do this hike in sneakers, I would never dream of bagging this peak without good hiking boots on my feet.
At the east end of Camelback Mountain is the Cholla Trail, which, at 1.5 miles in length, isn't as steep as the Summit Trail (at least not until you get close to the summit, where the route gets steep, rocky, and very difficult). The only parking for this trail is along Invergordon Road at Chaparral Road, just north of Camelback Road (along the east boundary of the Phoenician resort). Be sure to park in a legal parking space and watch the hours in which parking is allowed. There's a good turnaround point below the summit, and great views down onto the fairways of the golf course at the Phoenician resort.
The 2,608-foot-tall Piestewa Peak, in the Phoenix Mountains Park and Recreation Area/Dreamy Draw Recreation Area (tel. 602/262-7901; www.phoenix.gov/PARKS), offers another aerobic workout of a hike and has views almost as spectacular as those from Camelback Mountain. It is 1.2 miles to the summit, and the trail gains almost 1,200 feet. Piestewa Peak is reached from Squaw Peak Drive off Lincoln Drive between 22nd and 23rd streets. Another section of this park, with much easier trails, can be reached by taking the Northern Avenue exit off Ariz. 51 and then driving east into Dreamy Draw Park.
Of all the popular mountain trails in the Phoenix area, the trail through Pinnacle Peak Park, 26802 N. 102nd Way (tel. 480/312-0990; www.scottsdaleaz.gov/parks/pinnacle), in north Scottsdale, is my favorite. The trail through the park is a 3.5-mile round-trip hike and is immensely popular with the local fitness crowd. Forget about stopping to smell the desert penstemon; if you don't keep up the pace, someone's liable to knock you off the trail into a prickly pear. If you can find a parking space (arrive before 9am on weekends) and can ignore the crowds, you'll be treated to views of rugged desert mountains (and posh desert suburbs). November through April, there are guided hikes Tuesday through Sunday at 10am. There are also astronomy evenings and other events here. To find the park from central Scottsdale, go north on North Pima Road, turn right on East Happy Valley Road, left on North Alma School Parkway, left on East Pinnacle Peak Parkway, and left on North 102nd Way.
For much less vigorous hiking (without the crowds), try North Mountain Park (tel. 602/262-6412; www.phoenix.gov/PARKS), in North Mountain Preserve. This natural area, located on either side of Seventh Street between Dunlap Avenue and Thunderbird Road, has more flat hiking than Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak.
Another great place to go for a hike in the desert is north Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve (tel. 480/998-7971; www.mcdowellsonoran.org), where you'll find miles of relatively easy and uncrowded trails. The preserve's main access is at the Gateway Trailhead, 18333 N. Thompson Peak Pkwy., where you'll find many miles of trails. To reach this trail head, take E. Bell Road east from U.S. 101 and turn left on N. Thompson Peak Parkway. The best place to access these trails is at the Lost Dog Wash Access Area at 124th Street north of Via Linda. To reach this trail head, drive east on Shea Boulevard, turn north on 124th Street, and watch for the parking lot after you pass Via Linda. The 2.5-mile Ringtail Loop Trail is a good choice for an hour's hike.
North of Scottsdale, in the town of Cave Creek, you'll find a couple of my favorite hikes. The Black Mountain Trail is an uncrowded alternative to such popular hikes as Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. This 1-mile trail leads to the summit of Black Mountain, and from the top you can gaze out over all of Cave Creek and Carefree. Keep an eye out for lizards lounging on the rocks at the summit. To find the trail head, take Schoolhouse Road south from Cave Creek Road for 1/4 mile and park on the side of the road at the end of the pavement. The hike starts on the road that seems to lead straight up the mountain and then veers off onto the narrow trail. Both longer and less strenuous hikes can be found 3 miles north of Cave Creek at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, 44000 N. Spur Cross Rd. (tel. 480/488-6601; www.maricopa.gov/parks/spur_cross). Here you can wander by the water along Cottonwood Creek or hike up on the slopes of Elephant Mountain. In spring, the wildflowers here can be gorgeous. Best of all, this is the closest desert hiking that really has the feel of being away from the city. To reach the trail head, take Spur Cross Road north from Cave Creek Road. There is a $3 day-use fee. Also in the same general area, you'll find Cave Creek Regional Park (tel. 623/465-0431; www.maricopa.gov/parks/cave_creek), which is even larger than the Spur Cross Ranch park and has 11 miles of hiking trails. For a hike of just under 6 miles, head out on the Go John Trail. You'll find the park west of the town of Cave Creek off Carefree Highway (Ariz. 74) at 32nd Street.
The Peralta Trail, way out on the east side of the Valley in the impossibly steep and jagged Superstition Mountains, just might be my favorite hike in the entire state. Unfortunately, a lot of other people feel the same way, and on weekends, the trail is almost always packed with people. However, if you come early on a weekday, you can have this trail almost all to yourself. The route climbs steadily, though not too steeply, past huge old saguaros to a saddle with a view that will take your breath away (or was it the hike up from the trail head that left you gasping?). The view is an in-your-face look at Weaver's Needle, the Superstition Mountains' most famous pinnacle. The hike to the view at Fremont Saddle is 4.6 miles round-trip. To reach the trail head, drive east from Phoenix on U.S. 60 for 8 1/2 miles past Apache Junction to Peralta Road, and then drive 8 miles north, mostly on a gravel road, to the trail head. For information, contact the Tonto National Forest's Mesa Ranger District, 5140 E. Ingram St., Mesa (tel. 480/610-3300; www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto).
Way out on the west side of the Valley, where suburban sprawl bumps up against the rugged mountains, you'll find White Tank Mountain Regional Park, 20304 W. White Tank Mountain Rd., Waddell (tel. 623/935-2505; www.maricopa.gov/parks/white_tank), and the popular but very rewarding Waterfall Trail. This 1.8-mile round-trip hike leads past Indian petroglyphs to, you guessed it, a waterfall. Well, sometimes. Most of the year, the waterfall isn't running, but after a rainstorm, water cascades over the rocks here. Whether the creek is running or not, this is a pretty spot. You can escape the crowds by heading out on some of the park's more remote and rugged trails.
If you'd prefer to have an experienced local guide lead you on a desert hike, contact Take A Hike Arizona (tel. 866/615-2748 or 480/634-8488; www.takeahikearizona.com), which offers hikes of varying lengths and difficulty levels. Guided hikes are also available from 360 Adventures (tel. 602/795-1877; www.360-adventures.com) and Cactus Adventures (tel. 480/688-4743; www.cactusadventures.com).
Even in the urban confines of the Phoenix metro area, people like to play at being cowboys, and there are plenty of places around the Valley to saddle up your palomino. Because any guided ride is going to lead you through interesting desert scenery, your best bet is to pick a stable close to where you're staying. Keep in mind that most stables require or prefer reservations.
The most centrally located place to ride is Papago Stable, 400 N. Scottsdale Rd. (tel. 480/966-9793; www.papagoridingstable.com), which is on the north shore of Tempe Town Lake. You'll pay $30 for a 1-hour ride through Papago Park, and while the park is bordered by a freeway, it still has the feel of the desert, complete with old Indian ruins.
On the south side of the city, try Ponderosa Stables, 10215 S. Central Ave. (tel. 602/268-1261; www.arizona-horses.com), which leads rides into South Mountain Park and charges $33 for a 1-hour ride or $55 for a 2-hour ride. These stables also offer dinner rides ($45) to a steakhouse, where you buy your own dinner before riding back under the stars. Because these rides are in one of the city's most popular parks, a ride here is more of an urban experience than a genuine Western horseback adventure. For a more adventurous experience, try one of the following stables.
On the north side of the Valley, Cave Creek Outfitters, off Dynamite Boulevard at 31313 N. 144th St., Scottsdale (tel. 888/921-0040 or 480/471-4635; www.cavecreekoutfitters.com), offers 1-hour rides for $50, 2-hour rides for $70, and half-day rides for $125. Between October and May, if you are doing a 2-hour or half-day ride, you can arrange for transportation from your Scottsdale resort for $10 per person. Mid-October through mid-April, you can also ride through Cave Creek Regional Park with Cave Creek Trail Rides (tel. 623/742-6700; www.cavecreektrailrides.com). A 1-hour ride costs $41 for adults and $36 for children 6 to 12. Longer rides are also offered.
On the east side of the Valley, on the southern slopes of the Superstitions, you'll find Don Donnelly D-Spur Ranch & Riding Stables, 15371 Ojo Rd. (off Peralta Rd.), Gold Canyon (tel. 602/810-7029; www.dondonnelly.com), which charges $32 for a 1-hour ride, $60 for a 2-hour ride, and $100 for a half-day ride. November through April, overnight rides are available for $200 per person. OK Corral Horseback Riding Stables (tel. 480/982-4040; www.okcorrals.com), near Apache Junction, also leads riders through the desert near the Superstition Mountains. A 1-hour ride is $33 and a 2-hour ride is $55. There are also steak-dinner rides, all-day rides, and even multiday trips.
Most major hotels in the area have tennis courts, and there are several tennis resorts around the Valley. If you're staying someplace without a court, try the Scottsdale Ranch Park & Tennis Center, 10400 E. Via Linda, Scottsdale (tel. 480/312-7774; www.scottsdaleaz.gov/parks/srp.asp). Court fees range from $4 to $12 for 1 1/2 hours; call for hours.
If you happen to be visiting during the hotter months, consider taking the family to one of the Valley's water parks. At Mesa Golfland Sunsplash, 155 W. Hampton Ave., Mesa (tel. 480/834-8319; www.golfland.com), you can splash in a wave pool and ride a variety of water slides. This park is generally open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend (call for hours) and charges $26 for anyone taller than 48 inches, $20 for seniors and anyone under 48 inches, and $3 for children 2 and under. There are also three slides here that open at the start of spring break.
White-Water Rafting & Tubing
The desert may not seem like the place for white-water rafting, but up in the mountains to the northeast of Phoenix, the Upper Salt River still flows wild and free and offers some exciting rafting. Most years from about late February to late May, snowmelt from the White Mountains floods the river and fills it with exciting Class III and IV rapids (sometimes, however, there just isn't enough water). Companies operating full-day, overnight, and multiday rafting trips on the Upper Salt River (conditions permitting) include Wilderness Aware Rafting (tel. 800/462-7238; www.inaraft.com), Canyon Rio Rafting (tel. 800/272-3353; www.canyonrio.com), and Mild to Wild Rafting (tel. 800/567-6745; www.mild2wildrafting.com). Prices range from $119 to $141 for a day trip.
Tamer river trips can be had from Salt River Tubing and Recreation (tel. 480/984-3305; www.saltrivertubing.com), which has its headquarters 20 miles northeast of Phoenix on Power Road at the intersection of Usery Pass Road in Tonto National Forest. For $15, the company will rent you a large inner tube and shuttle you by bus upriver for the float down. Because tubing the Salt River is very popular with partying high-school and college students, I don't recommended these trips for families. Alcohol, drug use, and nudity are common on the river. The inner-tubing season runs from May to September.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.