The Cave Creek Regional Park protects roughly 3,000 acres of extremely lush Sonoran Desert. The steep and very rocky slopes offer excellent habitat for cacti, desert trees, and many other plants. Wildlife is common at the park. Birdlife is especially abundant, ranging from tiny hummingbirds to hawks. There are excellent trails through Cave Creek Regional Park that range from short and easy to somewhat difficult. The most popular and challenging is the 4.8-mile Go John Trail, which is amenable to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Guided trail rides through the park on horseback are available from late autumn through the spring. Rangers provide a variety of free, guided hikes and activities for visitors of all ages throughout the year.
Cave Creek’s historic Spur Cross Ranch, a former guest ranch was established in the 1920s. It was once a welcoming destination for visitors from all over the world. Today, it’s more than 2,154-acre expanse offers avid outdoors people a gateway into the Tonto National Forest’s scenic network of paths. Several trails from a flat wide path crisscrossing the stream to a hike up into the mountains of Skull Mesa await you. Many of these beautiful trails are open to mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers. Now a conservation area, Spur Cross contains fascinating archaeology sites and lush riparian areas which include The Jewel of the Creek which can easily be reached by two short loop trails. Towering cottonwood and willow trees along with the unusual year-round presence of water makes this lush riparian area a magnet for plant and animal life. This area is a must see for all wildflower lovers in the spring.
Desert Awareness Park is a native habitat park right in the heart of Cave Creek. A nature trail with labeled plants, natural history center, a children’s playground, and shade ramadas with grills make this an excellent picnic and play area for families.
The Tonto National Forest features some of the most ruggedly beautiful lands in the country. The cacti of the Sonoran Desert and flatlands lead into the Mogollon Rim highlands.
Perched on a hilltop is Sear-Kay Ruin, a short drive east of Carefree. It contains the masonry remains of a small village built by the Hohokam tribe. A short self-guided hike leads through the ruins. On the way to Sear-Kay the nearby Tonto Hills development is marked by the world’s largest kachina doll. This impressive 40-foot-tall sentry stands guard and is approachable by road. Drive a little further up the road and you will come to Seven Springs Recreation Area, a popular destination since the early 1900’s. Extensive hiking trails lead from the desert floor to changes in higher elevations where you can enjoy a lovely picnic site under large sycamore trees along the creek.
There are so many ways to explore the area and its incredible scenic views. One of the most exciting and unforgettable things to do in Arizona is explore the desert on an ATV (quad) or UTV (side by side). Jeep tours and hot air ballooning are also popular ways to explore the desert.
Horseback rides happen any time of the day, but our personal favorite is witnessing one of Arizona’s beautiful sunsets on the back of a horse.
MacDonald’s Ranch and Windwalker Expeditions welcome you to your horseback adventure.
There are three lakes with swimming, fishing, boating, and water skiing within a half hour drive of Carefree and Cave Creek. Fifteen miles east of Carefree are Bartlett and Horseshoe Lakes. Bartlett has picnic tables with shade and restroom facilities, boat rentals, marina, and a restaurant. About twenty miles west is Lake Pleasant, a large lake with a visitor center, restaurant, two marinas and lots of amenities. The Tonto National Forest borders the area on the north and east with its untouched desert beauty.