Discover the 4 Largest City Parks in Arizona


Written by Niccoy Walker

Updated: August 22, 2023

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Arizona is home to some of the largest parks, both city and national, in the country. In fact, Arizona is renowned for its parks and outdoor recreational spaces. Visitors can spend the afternoon hiking or biking through desert trails, stopping to check out the abundant wildlife of the Southwest. Check out the four largest city parks in Arizona and learn about their amenities, locations, and activities. 

1. McDowell Sonoran Preserve – 30,500 Acres

Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve

McDowell Sonoran Preserve is one of the most significant urban parks in the world.

As its name suggests, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is not actually a park, but a preserved, sustainable desert habitat. Spanning 30,500 acres, this preserve is one of the largest nature reserves in the United States. Not only is this slice of land environmentally and ecologically important, but it also serves as a vast gateway to healthy recreational opportunities for the community of Scottsdale and surrounding areas. And with over one million annual visitors, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is an indispensable resource.

The preserve is known for its vast network of interconnected multi-use trails totaling 225 miles. These trails are some of the best in the state! Visitors can use them for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. The area is also an excellent place for rock climbing, with trails leading to historic climbing crags. 

Amenities: restrooms, shade ramadas, interpretive signs, car/trailer parking, hitching rails, water troughs, covered amphitheater, water, and accessible family nature trails   

2. South Mountain Park and Preserve – 16,283 Acres

South Mountain Park Preserve Phoenix, AZ

South Mountain Park is one of the largest city parks in Arizona.

Located in Phoenix, South Mountain Park is home to a mountainous region covering 16,283 acres and preserving desert vegetation and wildlife. This park has three mountain ranges: the Guadalupe, Gila, and Ma Ha Tauk. Not only is it the largest municipal park in the country, but it is also one of the largest city parks in North America. The park’s noteworthy flora and fauna include unique species like chuckwallas and elephant trees. 

Along with an impressive lookout that rises over 2,000 feet above the desert floor, you will find 50 miles of park trails. Visitors enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Dobbins Lookout provides 360-degree, panoramic views of the valley. From October-May, visitors can also tour the Mystery Castle, a three-story building filled with funky Southwestern treasures. 

Amenities: Shade ramadas, benches, observation platform, parking, restrooms, educational center, horse stables, and picnic tables

3. Sonoran Preserve – 9,600 Acres

Sonoran Desert landscape

Sunsets and sunrises are magical at the Sonoran Preserve.

Like McDowell, the Sonoran Preserve is a nature preserve, not a city park. It comprises more than 9,600 acres of open desert in North Phoenix. This expanse of desert wilderness offers an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of busy Phoenix and allows you to explore nature among vistas and hills. Visitors can traverse 36 miles of winding trails by foot or bike that showcase rolling hills of wildflowers and cacti. And sunrises and sunsets are magical as you slowly descend the hillsides. 

Amenities: Restrooms, parking, water, different trails, trail map, and hot air balloon rides (certain times of the year)

4. Cave Creek Regional Park – 2,922 Acres

This park is home to rich history, with petroglyphs and dozens of prehistoric sites.

Cave Creek is a modern yet wild-spirited city in the desert foothills; a place where cowboy culture is alive and well, and outdoor recreation draws visitors near and far. Named for the small stream that flows through the hills and into the valley, Cave Creek Regional Park is 2,922 acres of unspoiled nature and trails. The park is home to rich history, with dozens of prehistoric sites. And as you wind your way through 11 miles of trails, you will pass rugged hills, desert vegetation, wildflowers, and riparian zones. The nature center within the parks aims to preserve wildlife corridors while providing an educational and event space.

Cave Creek Regional Park features multi-use trails perfect for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. And the difficulty levels range from easy to challenging. It’s also an excellent place for picnics and stargazing. But one of the best ways to experience Cave Creek is via RV or tent at the family campground. 

Amenities: Restrooms, 55 campsites, hookups, picnic tables, shelters, BBQ grills, drinking water, ramadas, campfire pits, and a playground    

The Largest City Parks and Preserves in Arizona: A Recap of the Top 4

RankLargest City Parks in ArizonaSizeLocation
#1Mcdowell Sonoran Preserve30,500 acresScottsdale
#2South Mountain Park and Preserve16,283 acresPhoenix
#3Sonoran Preserve9,600 acresPhoenix
#4Cave Creek Regional Park2,922 acresCave Creek

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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