Take a HikePosted: May 9, 2012 in Getting Active by Craig Primack MD FACP
This summer, get a workout in the great outdoors by visiting one of Arizona’s beautiful nature preserves
It’s no secret that Arizona gets hot in the summer, leading many to flock to the air conditioning of local gyms for their workouts. But if you find yourself looking for a more adventurous way to lose weight and improve the results of your weight loss program in the Chandler or Phoenix area, the stuffy atmosphere of a gym just isn’t going to cut it. Fortunately, you don’t have to travel too far to get a workout in the great outdoors—this region of Arizona is home to some of the most diverse and breathtaking desert ecosystems in the entire world.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re well-prepared for the unforgiving nature of the desert heat. Hiking, mountain biking, swimming and other activities in our local nature preserves can be fun ways to get some exercise, but if you don’t bring along plenty of water and sun protection you’ll be sure to regret it later.
Many people think the desert is little more than a lifeless wasteland. Prove them wrong by visiting one of these breathtaking local treasures:
Tonto National Forest. At a staggering three million acres, Tonto National Forest is the fifth largest forest in the United States and attracts nearly six million visitors each year, making it the most popular “urban” forest in the country. Sharing its southwestern border with the Phoenix metropolitan area, Tonto is a short drive from just about anywhere in the region.
From deserts full of majestic Saguaro cacti to towering, pine-studded mountains, the Tonto National Forest is a place of rich biological and ecological diversity. During the summer months, many visitors seek the coolness of the Salt and Verde rivers, which connect a chain of six man-made lakes, or find shade in the high-altitude pine forests of the Mogollon Rim. With countless trails for hiking and biking and opportunities for kayaking, swimming and fishing in its rivers and lakes, Tonto has something for just about every outdoor enthusiast.
Sonoran Desert National Monument. Created to protect one of the most stunning regions of the Sonoran Desert, which is North America’s most biologically diverse desert, the Sonoran Desert National Monument spans 487,000 acres just about an hour southwest of Phoenix. With wide valleys, three distinct mountain ranges, historic trails and an extensive saguaro forest, it’s easy to see why this area was chosen for preservation. Its trails are ideal for hiking and biking, though it is a dry desert landscape without the opportunity for water sports. As such, be sure to come prepared for serious sun and heat.
Though these two parks may be the best close-by, Arizona is full of national and state preserves that attract visitors from miles and miles away. After all, the Grand Canyon, one of the undisputed wonders of the world, is only a few hours from the Phoenix area. For more information on other great places to explore, visit Arizona’s travel website.