HomeArticlesRaising Outdoor Kids: Be a tourist in your own state

Raising Outdoor Kids: Be a tourist in your own state

Photos by Ron Abelar.

Don’t sit out a second spring break. Arizona offers jeep excursions, trail rides, kayaking, zip-lining and more!

Being grounded stinks. And we’ve all been grounded for a year as the pandemic has kept us home, canceled trips and forced us to reschedule plans. As we prepare for a second spring break disrupted by COVID-19, it might help to remember Arizona is basically the envy of the rest of the country this time of year. It’s beautiful right now, which means we can all be tourists in our own state.

Even the most well-traveled desert dweller can admit there’s some place — at least one — they haven’t yet seen. If we’re being honest, I keep a list of trails when I come across them, so we can plan visits next time we’re in certain areas. It’s a running “To See” list, because my brain can’t keep up.

There are so many ways to explore Arizona: by foot, by wheel, by paddle or by hoof. And even if you’ve been to a certain area a few times, there’s always a new way to see it. We recently spent an afternoon in Sedona, bumping along in a Hummer as part of an off-road tour that took us along a trail aptly named “The Cliff Hanger.” Our guide told us about the vegetation along the way, teaching us about the iron in the landscape, but also in the plants, and giving us a good scare as we clung to the side of a rocky trail that had us all screaming on the way down and back up.

Beyond the nail-biting aspect of the tour, which honestly felt like a roller coaster without a track, the tour informed us of some beautiful spots we hadn’t seen before despite visiting Sedona countless times. And it gave us a primer on a famous vortex — something the kids hadn’t really heard of yet.

We weren’t on vacation, but a jeep tour is definitely something we’d consider if we were vacationing somewhere else. And lucky us, Arizona is full of similar staycation adventure opportunities. Consider it. From ziplining, to four-wheeling to hiking to biking, Arizona is basically a mecca for outdoor excursions — and the vitamin D is good for everyone. Here are a few of our favorite touristy Arizona adventures.

Mosey along on a trail ride

Head to the outskirts of the East Valley and saddle up for a trail ride. We’ve been out to Saguaro Lake Ranch a couple times now and can’t wait to go again. They offer different lengths of trail rides, and allow kids ages 7 and up to ride. Younger kids can take part in pony rides at the stable, so they don’t miss out. And while the horse ride is fun, the views are incredible. The trail takes riders above Saguaro Lake offering views of the Goldfield Mountains, and, depending on the water level, includes a water crossing. Rides are affordable, easy to book and feel like a vacation-style excursion. Saguaro Lake Ranch Stable, 13050 N. Bush Highway, Mesa. 480-984-0335 or saguarolakeranchstable.com

Paddle to new views

We live for the water. There’s something about it we can’t get enough of. And even though we live in a desert, we’re all within a quick drive of a lake. We own a kayak and use it as much as we can, because it allows us to squeeze into canyons on the lake that we can’t see from a boat.

There’s a different kind of peace and quiet with sitting right on top of the water. For those who don’t own a kayak or paddleboard, rent one, just like you would on vacation. Explore Saguaro Lake, Lake Pleasant or Canyon Lake using your own power. Kids can do it, too! There are so many places to rent, from OfferUp — which has independent rentals — to local marinas. Rates differ, but we’ve generally seen kayaks and paddleboards rent for $25 for an hour or two or $40 for the day.

Zip away the afternoon

Get an elevated view of the Arizona landscape by ziplining above Out of Africa Wildlife Park. The experience is totally worth the cost as you zip long multiple lines over the park’s animals. If you’re lucky, you may even get a chance to hear a lion roar while you’re in mid-air. There are age and weight minimums for this activity, so be sure to make sure you qualify before traveling. And find a spot on your wall to hang a photo, because you’ll come away with a few keepers from this adventure. Out of Africa Wildlife Park, 3505 W. SR-260, Camp Verde. 928-567-2840 or outofafricapark.com

Brave an off-road adventure

Sedona offers a variety of off-road tours for families, from Sedona Offroad Adventures in a Hummer to Pink Jeep tours.

Lisa Van Loo
Lisa Van Loohttp://instagram.com/RaisingOutdoorKids
Lisa Van Loo is a Gilbert freelance journalist. Ron Abelar is an avid outdoorsman and photographer. Together, they are parenting five children. Follow them on Instagram @RaisingOutdoorKids


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