Dreaming of big adventures? Visitors will be hard pressed to choose just one when planning their bucket list vacation to the Southwest. Mesa offers up two legendary playgrounds – the Tonto National Forest and the iconic Superstition Wilderness – where adventures and epic experiences can be had on land, on the water and up in the air!
Thrill-seekers can discover the Sonoran Desert landscape on a guided tour with Stellar Adventures. This popular outfitter offers a variety of off-road vehicles to choose from including open-air Hummer tours where they lead the way on the dusty desert trails that surround the city. For a real treat, ask about their private stargazing tours where guests can witness a full moon rising and have an incredible one-on-one telescopic viewing of Arizona’s famous night sky with a local astronomer.
Take the wheel and conquer the rocky hillsides of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Reservation with Green Zebra Adventures on a professionally guided off-roading tour. Made to withstand the rugged terrain of off-roading, traversing by Tom car is one of the more skillful ways to explore the landscape. Arizona Outdoor Fun also offers their fleet of ATVs and UTVs to visitors looking to get an up-close experience in the desert. Gear up with their top-of-the-line equipment and marvel at the mountains on every side of you during this guided, thrilling adventure on four wheels.
Apache Trail Tours offers 4x4 tours and on-road scenic journeys exploring the historic Apache Trail, just east of Mesa. Hop in one of the jeeps, take a step back in time, and enjoy the narrated ride on this scenic byway that is steeped in Arizona history. As you pass the mysterious Superstition Mountains and head into the foothills of the Tonto National Forest, the area continues to pay homage to its Western roots which took shape during the gold rush in the late 1800s.
Kart racing fans can test their speedway skills on the tracks at Octane Raceway located within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Riders can decide to be a member of the pit crew challenge and race against the clock or compete in groups where it’s all about the need for speed.
Prefer two wheels? Adventures Out West offers a one-of a-kind Segway voyage off the beaten path, where visitors can learn about desert flora and spin circles around giant Saguaros. Mountain biking enthusiasts can rejoice in the extensive trail system at Usery Mountain Regional Park, with miles of pathways to carve out an adventure on wheels. Unforgettable views are served up at every turn. The most popular path for bikers is the seven-mile Pass Mountain Trail.
There may be no better way to ride through the vast, striking Sonoran Desert than by horse like a true explorer in the wild, wild West. The journey on horseback starting out at Saguaro Lake Ranch’s on-site livery will not disappoint as they take guests out to see carved-out canyons and cliff sides alongside the Lower Salt River. Trail guides caravan up and over cactus-lined ridges for unbelievable views of Saguaro Lake and the Four Peaks Mountain Range. At sunset, visitors may even catch a glimpse of the treasured wild horse herd that dwells along the edge of the water in this region.
Saddle up at Fort McDowell Adventures for a trail ride across the stunning reservation. For a true Western adventure, “move ‘em on, head ‘em up” during a 2-hour guided cattle drive where city slickers assist local cowboys with ranch life duties.
Unobstructed views of the Valley of the Sun are best from above. Rainbow Ryders colorful hot-air balloons take you up, up, and away, while you relax and enjoy a 360-degree view of the majestic northern desert mountains at sunrise. Hot Air Expeditions also offers a birds-eye view of Arizona’s desert vistas. Once you’ve returned from cloud nine, pop the cork and enjoy a traditional Champagne toast and breakfast with the flight crew.
Family-owned Westwind Air Service takes you higher still with scenic air tours to the Grand Canyon. On their aerial tours and unique charter flights, visitors can glide above the stunning natural wonder for unforgettable views and memories to last a lifetime.
Ever dreamed of skydiving? iFly offers indoor skydiving for low-risk adrenaline junkies who aren’t quite ready to jump out of a plane. The thrilling indoor wind tunnel gives fliers sense of freedom unlike any they’ve known in a safe and fun environment.
Lake lovers can cruise along towering canyon walls on Canyon Lake aboard the Dolly Steamboat and catch glimpses of wildlife during a narrated tour. A special evening out is their dinner and astronomy cruises after sunset. For live entertainment and open-air breezes, set out on the Desert Belle at Saguaro Lake.
Paddle along Mesa’s waterways via paddleboard or kayak when you rent from one of Mesa’s many outfitters. Their permitted access to our shorelines makes hopping in and hopping off the water a breeze. Don’t rule out a peaceful float via inner-tube with Salt River Recreation. Open all summer long, this activity has a long-standing history of one of the more unique ways to cool off in the desert heat. For wet and wild fun, head out of town to the Upper Salt River Canyon with outfitters Salt River Rafting or Mild2WildRafting. Both outfitters lead guided rafting tours down roaring rapids in some of Arizona’s most secluded country. Call ahead as these seasonal experiences are only offered in the spring when enough desert rain serves up ideal conditions for a raging river.
No matter which way you choose to explore, jaw-dropping views and spectacular desert sights await outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Uncover the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in Mesa by air, by land, and on the water!