Scottsdale Wildlife and Nature Journey
While it is possible to appreciate beautiful scenery from your car or even from the inside of your rental home, the only way to truly appreciate it is to immerse yourself in it—to get outside and hike up or through the mountains or into the desert. Here are a few suggestions to kick start your Scottsdale wildlife and nature journey.
Day 1 – Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center
Start off your journey by scheduling a tour of the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center (SWCC), a non-profit rescue and rehabilitation facility focusing on wildlife that has been wounded, endangered or removed from their original environment. A wide variety of animals are housed at the sanctuary, including black bears, bobcats, coyote, mule deer, foxes, javelin, Mexican gray wolves, mountain lions, porcupines, tortoises, skunks, great horned owls, and red-tailed hawks. This is a great way to introduce kids to native (and non-native) Scottsdale wildlife in a safe, friendly way.
Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center
27026 N 156th St, Scottsdale, AZ
Day 2 – Desert Botanical Garden
Located in nearby Phoenix, with over 50,000 species of native plants spread over 140 acres in the beautiful Sonoran Desert, the Desert Botanical Garden should be on your itinerary. There are five different loop trails, each with a specific focus. Hike to the top of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail for an expansive view of the surrounding mountains. Walk through the Center for Desert Living Trail and submerse yourself in the colors and fragrances that only a desert habitat can produce. Take the Plants & People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail to learn how desert plants were used by native people. And, if the season is right, you can watch hummingbirds visiting the vibrant desert wildflowers and blooming cactus as you stroll along the wildflower loop trail.
Desert Botanical Garden
1201 North Galvin Parkway
Day 3 – Butterfly Wonderland
It’s the largest butterfly pavilion in the country, with thousands of butterflies housed in a controlled environment. After surrounding yourself with thousands of butterflies, make time to visit the honey exhibit, the live ant colony, and on Mondays watch the butterfly release.
9500 East Via de Ventura
Day 4 – McDonald’s Ranch
MacDonald’s Ranch offers everything from horseback rides, stagecoach rides and hayrides to a petting zoo. Horseback and stagecoach rides are offered for private and group experiences, and there is also a lovely moonlight tour option for each. The guides will match the right horse to your riding experience, and they have pony rides for the kids, too. The terrain is gentle and the scenery is gorgeous. Your guides will give you the history of the area, and educate you on the flora and fauna while you ride.
26540 N. Scottsdale Road
Day 5 – Desert Monster Tours
If hiking or horseback riding through the desert seems too tame, Desert Monster Tours can help you out. Their ATV/UTV tours will have you driving through the sandy washes, streams, and riverbeds, across desert plateaus, along trails winding through the beautiful Sonoran Desert. Try the sunset tour to witness the amazing vibrant desert sunset in the best of Scottsdale nature.
Desert Monster Tours
6424 East Greenway Parkway, Suite #100 – 408
Day 6 – McDowell Sonoran Preserve
The Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve is 30,000 acres of protected desert with over 120 miles of desert trails. Five trailheads start you off on your journey – hike, run, bike, or ride horseback through cacti forests, desert terrain, and mountains. Trails vary in length, difficulty, and terrain so there is a trail for every visitor. There are accessible trails too and designated rock climbing areas. The preserve is packed with desert wildlife including Gila woodpeckers, roadrunners, snakes and lizards, mule deer and javelina.
McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Day 7 – Bartlett Lake Recreation Area
Tired of just desert scenery? Head to Bartlett Lake. Part of the Tonto National Forest, Bartlett Lake Recreation Area is a perfect location for some outdoor fun. Whether you are looking for hiking, boating, water skiing, or fishing, you can do it at the lake. On your hike, you’ll pass many native desert plants—saguaro, mesquite, and blooming ocotillo—and you may encounter some of the local Scottsdale wildlife, like mule deer, bald eagles, javelina, and coyotes.
Bartlett Lake Recreation Area
East Bartlett Dam Road