In Defense of Phoenix Parks

Apparently Phoenix does not rank so well among cities in terms of parks.  I find these surveys next to worthless, since they tend to reflect the biases and preferences of the authors.  If the authors really like public pools, your city better have a lot of those or they will be ranked low.

For those considering the Phoenix area, here are three dimensions on which our parks are fabulous:

  • We have large wilderness areas and whole mountains right in the middle of the city.  South Mountain park, Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak park) and Camelback Mountain are all right in the middle of town.  The offer some of the best urban hiking and climbing I have ever encountered.  I can't think of a city I have been in with anything similar -- Boulder Mountain park is kind of similar (and better) but it is adjacent to the town, not right in the middle.
  • If you or your kids play soccer or baseball, we have some of the best sports fields options in the country.  Soccer is a huge game hear for kids and adults, and we have lots of options, including a number of indoor locations for the hot summer time.  Our baseball fields are unparalleled.  I don't like the fact we have built so many spring training locations for professional teams with public money, but the one upside is that there are a lot of beautiful baseball fields available any month except March.  My son has been playing on MLB fields since he was in 8th grade.
  • We have tons and tons of golf.   I am not a golfer, but we have over 200 courses in the county.  This means competition.  Which means reasonable rates.  And they are all open to the public (I can only think of 3-4 courses in the area that are country club courses for members only).  I can walk to two different, quality courses that have great rates, particularly after 1PM and during the summer time.

One other dimension related to recreation.  I know places like Boulder and Portlandia have the reputation of being biking cities, but Phoenix is a pretty big biking town.  No, we don't bike to work much due to the climate, but wide flat streets and large areas without much traffic and nice vistas (e.g. the Paradise Valley area) make it a popular biking area.


  1. HenryBowman419:

    The Phoenix area is relatively flat and, except for its seriously oppressive heat, is a decent place for bicycling. I have a brother-in-law who lives in Tempe and bicycles about 12 miles (one-way) to work each day. He's a bit odd (he hasn't had a car for several years), but he plainly likes bicycling, though it is killing his knees.

  2. Incunabulum:

    Not to mention that Phoenix is hot, damn hot. I don't imagine that there are a lot of people there who are going to go down to the park to read in the shade of a prickly bush or play a game of Frisbee (and for some reason, your autocorrect capitalizes 'frisbee' as if it was a proper noun - I guess they're really into that trademark stuff).
    Either you're a reasonably hardcore outdoorsy type hiking or you're staying inside with the AC on.

  3. JB:

    Phoenix is outrageously hot for only a small portion of the year. The rest of the time the parks are in play. Minneapolis has some great parks, I am sure, but doubt they get heavy usage in January and February.

  4. HenryBowman419:

    Phoenix is outrageously hot for only a small portion of the year.

    I think the "small portion" you are referencing is only from March 1st through December.

  5. Not Sure:

    The website I just checked shows the average high temperature in Phoenix in December to be 67 degrees. In March, it's 78.

  6. Bob Houk:

    You left out the North Phoenix Mountain Preserve -- great hiking in the city. I wouldn't hike there right now, but nine months of the year, it's terrific.
    Phoenix also has a lot of small parks -- I live in the central area and it's just a short walk to Los Olivos, a few acres with soccer fields and a frisbee golf course. I saw maybe 50 or so people there an hour ago.
    I've lived in a number of cities -- Chicago, LA, SF, Austin -- and I think Phoenix is probably better than any of them on parks.

  7. markm:

    Daily averages are meaningless. The temperature probably swings 50 degrees between high and low, so 67 average means about 42 at night and 92 in the afternoon.

  8. John O.:

    Definitely on the author's bias, it makes these kinds of things worthless in the grand scheme of things. Phoenix has some of the hottest summer known and its assumed automatically by many people who survey parks that it wouldn't be a fun place to be in the middle of July and August And of course it wouldn't until the sun went down. It may be hot to many people but also being acclimated is another important part and knowing when to be outside is another. Its absolutely insane to be hiking in July between 9am and 8pm as the chance of heat stroke increases rapidly as the day goes by. But you go hiking the various peaks in the evening when the sun has gone and the city lights come on, those trails are busy as they offer amazing views of the city at night.

    One of the great things about Phoenix is that its outdoor schedules is opposite must of the rest of the United States due to the fact winter takes hold and makes it just as unpleasant to be outside. So while Chicago and Boston might have parks that are fully enjoyable in the summer, their not so enjoyable in the winter. This same in Phoenix where the parks are fully enjoyable in the winter and not so much in the Summer. This is easily reflected in pricing of golf rates which go up in the fall for many of the premier golf courses in Phoenix and then fall in late spring so as to ensure an optimal price level for both the owners and the golfers. Plus any good golf course in Phoenix has the concession cart drive around the courses all day even in the heat of the summer.

  9. Not Sure:

    You might want to read what I posted again. It's not the average of the high and low temperatures during the day. It's the average of all the high temperatures for all the days in December. The temperature swing between high and low averages 20 degrees in December, not 50 degrees. The record high in December for Phoenix was 87 degrees. In 1950.

  10. ap:

    Bicycling is quite pleasant in the summer here in Phoenix at 5 am. And I'm old enough that getting up that early is not a problem, but a necessity.

  11. Dave:

    I presume you're familiar with Griffith Park in L.A.? As someone who'll soon be escaping L.A. and moving to Phoenix, I'm wondering how the Phoenix hiking areas are compared to that?