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Hiking Trails In Payson, Arizona, USA

Sometimes, when I am staying somewhere, whether I am a regular visitor or just have one opportunity to pass through, I want to know about hiking opportunities right in town. I look for these kinds of trails when I have limited time, or I just lack the ability to drive more than 30 min out of town. These trails are often lesser known, and it can be hard to find good information on online. So, I wanted to provide you with a list of five hiking trails in Payson that I have enjoyed.

My goal is to give you a sense for which trail will be right for your needs, but these will not be comprehensive guides to each one. Expect this post to equip you with some great ideas for where to hike in Payson, Arizona, and point you in the direction of more information (should more be needed). I’ve also organized these so that my favorites come first.

hiking trails in payson

Five Amazing Hiking Trails in Payson, AZ

#1 Water Wheel Falls 

hiking trails in payson

The Water Wheel Falls trail is my favorite of the hiking trails in Payson, Az, because it leads to a beautiful waterfall. This is a popular spot, however, so if you want to enjoy any solitude, come early. People love swimming in the creek that comes down from the waterfall. The falls themselves are a popular Instagram photo spot due to the log ladder at the bottom. This is also a short trail, being about 1.6 miles out and back. And it is beautiful from start to finish.

However, there are some things to consider when deciding whether or not you want to visit this spot. First, about half way down the trail, you will need to cross the creek to the right, and this is not easy. I have done a lot of creek crossings in my life, but here I have been (1) flat out stopped from crossing when the water is too high, and (2) hurt myself trying to cross when the water wasn’t too high. There are huge, slippery boulders that you kind of have to shimmy between, and scale. It can definitely be dangerous. If that sounds like a little too much for you, or if you get there and have doubts, you can easily enjoy the exceptional beauty of the lower creek area on the trail. There are waterfalls in both directions even without getting to the end. (There is also a forest road that you can take that avoid the creek crossing).

On the Trail

hiking trails in payson

This is where you have to cross… so yeah, sometimes that is just a hard – no.

If you do cross, you will roughly follow the creek. The trail after this point is vastly different than the well-defined, sandy path of the first half of the trek. Now you will be navigating along spider trails, through the riparian plant life of the area. Enjoy the beautiful oasis as you go. You will know the waterfall when you find it. It is the most sheer of the falls you have seen thus far and has the ladder log.

There is not really much point to climbing up above the falls- there is private land not far from the top. So, please respect the signage.

hiking trails in payson

Crossing when the water is lower and more cross-able.

If you need to take the alternate route, which is safer but not as pretty and misses most of the creek, park in one of the paid lots (and pay the fee). Then follow the highway (VERY CAREFULLY!) to a spot on the east side of the road where a small dirt road connects with the tarmac. The road will take you up and over a hill, and then you will need to keep your eyes open for a right-hand branch that leads from the dirt road towards the creek. There is often a little ad hoc sign here, but it isn’t always noticeable. Just note that the turn off is a pretty established path at the bottom of the hill. Make it out to the creek and then head left towards the waterfall.

If you are wondering about the water wheel itself… well, it isn’t at the waterfall. The water wheel is actually towards the beginning of the trail. It is tucked away in the foliage on the left-hand side of the trail.

Safety and Fees

hiking trails in payson

The trail is on US Forest Service land within the Tonto National Forest, so please pay the fee to park. If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, bring that along; it works for US National Forest fee areas (unless otherwise specified).

ALSO, PRACTICE SUPREME WATER SAFETY HERE! I got hurt on this trail trying to cross, and people have died in flash floods here. Seriously, do not take the water for granted. It is fun, but can kill people. So, stay safe and make sure that your kids and animals are safe too.

#2 Boulders Loop Trail

boulders loop trail

(c) ABR 2020

After the Water Wheel Falls trail, the Boulders Loop Trail is one of my top favorite hiking trails in Payson, AZ. So much so, that I have an entire post about this trail. Check out my Guide to the Boulders Loop Trail for all the details.

Basically, this is a great trail if you are looking for a relatively level trek that is family friendly, and has some really variable landscapes. It’s also long enough for a challenging training hike if you time how long it takes to do the full 5+ mile loop.

This trail is on US Forest Service land, but it is also managed as part of the Payson Area Trail System, so it is free.

#3 Monument Peak

hiking trails in payson

The Monument Peak loop is a 3.5 mile loop that is also part of the Payson Area Trail System. In terms of this list of hiking trails in Payson, it is the hardest to get to if you have a tiny car. The trailhead is down a dirt road, which is normally navigable with a car, but it might make some nervous. However, when thinking about where to hike in Payson, this trail always comes to my mind because of the convenient length of the trail, and its relatively less crowded nature.

The trail itself circles Monument Peak, which isn’t quite as impressive as its name might suggest. But I enjoyed the verdant forest that the trail weaves its way through, and if you come when snowmelt is starting to melt into the spring and summer, you will find some very beautiful flows on the trail.

On The Trail

hiking trails in payson

When I visited, I found this to be a very peaceful place. There were other people parked at the trailhead, but I didn’t run into anyone on the trail. If you are looking for a trail that’s close by, but feels more removed, this is good one.

My only suggestion in regards to safety is that many parts of the trail double as OHV trails. So, as I always say when it comes to multi-use trails, watch out for other users, and make sure to walk towards the outside of the trail. This will allow people to pass safely.

In order to get to the trailhead, follow Granite Dells east until the road turns from blacktop to dirt. Down the dirt road, on the left-hand side of the track, you will find the trailhead, with a small US Forest Service sign.

#4 Peach Orchard Trail Loop

The Peach Orchard Loop Trail is another one of the PATS hiking trails in Payson, however, it isn’t on their official list of trails. So, I’m including this here because I had an enjoyable experience on the track, but it isn’t the easiest hiking trail to navigate. I think this trail is best for those who have explored other spots in their quest to uncover where to hike in Payson.

The trailhead is right across from the Payson Golf Course, and starts behind a gate that connects to a small, residential cul de sac. I found it pretty confusing when I was trying to park. But the intention seems to be that you open the gate for yourself and then park on the other side, so you are off the road and not bothering any of the neighbors.

On the Trail

The trail that leads off from there is more like a small, OHV road than anything. And it definitely is used by OHVers. I went on a weekday, so there wasn’t much traffic. Although, even then, I did see people on the road. So, I think for the best experience, it’s nice to go when there might be less people driving the road.

That, and I would also suggest referring to AllTrails or a similar map while hiking here. There are a lot of branching trails and it can be hard to follow the loop. There isn’t much signage to speak of. That, and there is a steep part of the trail that a lot of hikers have noted. I didn’t find it too hard, but I think it’s best to go up the steep part, so hiking the loop clockwise is ideal.

With all of that out of the way, there were some really special moments that I had on this trail. It wasn’t as forested as the other options on this list, so it was a view into a different side of Payson’s landscape. I loved the open spaces. I loved the evidence of ranching on the land – cows off in the distance. Moments of dramatic trees. It’s a beautiful place and I felt so removed from the city, even close by.

#5 Shoefly Ruins

hiking trails in payson

Unless you are an archeologist, I don’t think you could make a day out of Shoefly, and it is too short of a trail for a workout at only 0.25 miles. That being said, I think this is a good place to stop by, especially if you visit the Water Wheel Falls trail. Shoefly is on the way in to the waterfall trailhead out of Payson.

These ruins are evidence of the indigenous communities that have thrived on these lands for hundreds and thousands of years, and I always think it is good to visit and contemplate. What’s left might not feel spectacular, but the fact that this place has survived everything it has speaks to the ingenuity of its creators. Celebrating indigenous culture is a must, and this is one easily accessible site to do that.

Safety on the Trail

Safety while hiking should always be your number one concern, and then after that, caring for the environment and the community that you are visiting.

Along with the pointers above, for visitors, please remember that Payson is a small community that has been impacted heavily by tourism in recent years. For some people, this is great and supports their livelihood, and for others it can be stressful. Traffic can be bad, stores and restaurants crowded, and sometimes tourist behavior hurts local people. So, please, remember to be a polite guest. Drive carefully and kindly, and rather than throwing inhibitions to the wind while traveling, be extra considerate when visiting.

More on Payson and Travel in Arizona

If you are interested in learning a little bit more about visiting Payson, and want to know more about the hiking trails in Payson, AZ, I have guides to each for you.

(1) Boulders Loop Trail

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Boulders Loop Trail in Payson, Arizona

When considering where to hike in Payson, Arizona, there is no lack of amazing options. One of my favorites, however, is a family-friendly lollipop route from Cypress Trail to the Boulders Loop Trail. This is a great place to explore the forest, and enjoy some seasonal creeks. It’s also perfect for wildflowers when the weather is right, and the boulders are an all-year attraction. No matter your hiking abilities, this is a great place to give a try, you might just take a shorter out-and-back route depending on your stamina and gear.

boulders loop trail

(c) ABR 2019

Is Boulders Loop Trail Right for You?

Probably!

I’ve done this trail so many times, and it is beautiful whether you finish the whole thing or not. You can experience all the seasons in this area, including winter in Arizona. It’s very nice as a stroll, and you can turn around at any point. I’ve also done this as a trail to train for harder hikes, by seeing how quickly I can finish the 5+ miles. Besides my solo hikes, I also see families and dogs on this trail almost every time I go out. So, I think it is safe to say that when considering where to hike in Payson, the Boulders Loop Trail is a great stop for most people.

boulders loop trail

(c) ABR 2020

That all being said, there are a few things to consider. First, there is often a little bit of water on the trail. That means anyone with kids should keep an extra eye on their little ones. This trail is also in the National Forest, so while it feels like a neighborhood walk, it is fairly wild. Don’t let it fool you into not going prepared. Better safe than sorry.

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The Classic Attractions of San Diego for Nature Lovers and Culture Buffs

San Diego is one of my favorite cities in California, and I have loved just about every city that I have visited in Cali. For SoCal, I think it is something about that warm, ocean air. In the case of San Diego, however, I love its unique character and history. It has a lot to offer any visitor, from major attractions like San Diego Zoo, to cultural landmarks like Balboa Park, and natural parks like Cabrillo National Monument and Torrey Pines State Park, and huge cultural events like San Diego Comicon. While I couldn’t fit all of the San Diego Attractions into a single guide, here is a great place to start; these belong on your bucketlist for sure.

San Diego Zoo

san diego attractions

(c) ABR

The San Diego Zoo is located in Balboa Park, and I make it a point to visit this zoo almost every time that I am in San Diego. It is one of the most famous zoos in the world, and it is home to over 4,000 animals. While it isn’t the largest zoo on Earth, the sheer size of this place can be daunting for any animal lover. It feels like there is just no way that you can visit every part of the park in one day, especially if you have little kids with you. Besides being large, half the time that you are in San Diego Zoo you feel like you are either hiking down a steep hill or hiking back up.

On the bright side, you get a good work out while you’re there, but it can make seeing everything even more difficult. This sounds like a bit of a struggle, but it is something that I love about San Diego Zoo. You could literally spend all day here and still have new things to see, and there are so many animals there that I almost always end up seeing something new. Also, as a conservation scientist, I really enjoy seeing all of the interactive, educational materials at this zoo. Not only that, but the San Diego Zoo has done a wonderful job with immersive enclosures, and they have recreated a bunch of different environments that can be explored throughout the park. Really, I can’t sing the praises of this place enough. It is definite must for anyone that enjoys zoos and will be in the area.

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Experience the Living History of San Diego

The cities of the United States’ west coast aren’t known for their long histories- not like those of the East coast or Europe, Asia, and Africa. Despite that, each and every place has a long history of human habitation, culture, art, and exploration. For San Diego, that story stretches back to the first human explorers to trek across the pacific coast, and then the era of stewardship by the Kumeyaay people. The city we know today, surprisingly, began to take shape as soon as the Spaniards arrived, and then American colonists.

Coast of La Jolla (c) ABR 2013

The living stories of all these people remain on the land, and can be experienced in various ways by interested travelers. If you want to have a unique experience of San Diego, see if you can plan a trip that includes spots from throughout the city’s history. We will take you through some of our favorites, from pre-colonial times, to the emergence of tiki pop in the 1950s.

 

Pre-Colonial Times

Indigenous peoples of the San Diego Area (c) Wikicommons.

San Diego is currently a bustling metropolis known for its beautiful beaches, theme parks, and exceptional cultural attractions. But none of this would be possible without the stewardship of the indigenous people who call this land home. In particular, I will focus on the Kumeyaay people here. Although the pre-colonial history of California is full of many cultures and peoples who shaped and cared for its lands for thousands of years and who continue to do so today.

So, while my focus in this post is on history, please note that the Kumeyaay people still live in California. You can learn more about them on their website Kumeyaay.com, which includes an event calendar. One of the cool things that I learned while visiting, was that they had a historic surf zone event in August 2020 for the InterTribal Youth. I always love learning about shared loves among people, and riding the waves has long been one!

Kumeyaay basket (c) Wikicommons.

Now, for learning more about the history of the Kumeyaay people, there are a couple very good options.

First, the Barona Cultural Center and Museum focuses on the people of San Diego County, and it is located on the reservation. So, visiting is not only a great opportunity to learn. It also supports the reservation’s work to preserve and protect the history of its people. It is free to visit as well.

Second, if you are planning to visit Balboa Park (which you should), the Museum of Us has a permanent exhibit on the Kumeyaay people. It is $20 for an adult ticket to this museum, and this includes their other exhibits. They are all fascinating and well-done. Museum of Us is one of my favorite museums, and I am quite picky when it comes to this kind of attraction.

The Mission Era

san diego hikes

(c) ABR 2020

Cabrillo National Monument has a statue commemorating the landing of the Spanish on the California coast. But as with much of the Southwest, Spanish explorers were only a small part of the historic influence that Spain had on the Americas. In the case of San Diego, the area was also home to many missions which were built in the 1700s to the early 1800s.

Many can still be visited today, but some are still used as places of worship. Be sure to do a bit of research before you go so that you know the visiting hours. If you do join a mass, please note that pictures should never be taken during services.

Once you’ve visited a few of these historic buildings, you will begin to take note of how the Spanish mission-style of architecture still influences Californian buildings to this day.

Colonial Old Town San Diego

Old Town San Diego (c) ABR 2021

Of course, Spanish colonists didn’t just build missions when they settled on Kumeyaay lands in what we now know as San Diego. They built places to live, stores to serve the needs of their growing community, and everything in between. Old Town San Diego preserves both Spanish and American colonial structures in a state park.

Old Town San Diego (c) ABR 2021

Nowadays, when you visit, you can do a variety of things. First, be sure to explore the whole site on foot to take pictures of the historic buildings. Then, you might consider eating at one of the many restaurants within and surrounding the park. There is also shopping and museums to be explored. And finally, the Whaley House is also on site, and is considered one of the most haunted houses in the United States. So, ghosts tours are also something that you might consider if you enjoy those kinds of stories, and the sometimes goofy experiences that come with group tours about them.

1888 – The Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel Del Coronado (c) ABR 2013.

The Hotel Del Coronado is a San Diego icon, and its unique architecture stems from the late 1800s. At that time, the beachside town of Coronado was already popular with travelers from across the country, and beyond. The picturesque beaches, and beauty of the island have not waned, and it remains a playground for the rich in many ways. (Check the cost of housing on Coronado Island).

(c) ABR 2013

Nonetheless, I have always enjoyed visiting Coronado, to see the hotel, relax on the beach, and walk the town. Luckily, if you aren’t staying at the Hotel del Coronado, you can still explore its beautiful and historic interior. There are restaurants to be sampled, shops to be peeked in, and the lobby is a very cool space that is welcoming to all. Be sure to take in the majesty of this historic space. When I checked in late 2021, the prices for rooms at the hotel were up there at $600+ a night. So, if you are lucky enough to have the scratch to stay there, consider it. However, I’ve never been able to spend the night here, and nonetheless, I never regret visiting.

(c) ABR 2013

Luckily, there is more to do on Coronado Island than just check out the historic hotel. There is a beach that you can access past the Del Coronado. It’s pretty popular, but maintains its quality as a place to hang with family and friends.

You can also take a stroll down the town’s main street. There is a lot of good food places to try and plenty of window (and actual) shopping to do. Be sure to enjoy the other historic buildings as you go.

You can also make a loop drive out of your day and visit some other beachside areas as you go.

1902 – La Jolla Sea Cave

La Jolla Cave (c) ABR 2013

I was being a goofball the first time that I went into the La Jolla Sea Cave. And while I would still say that this particular location has the quality of a roadside attraction, if you are in La Jolla and can afford the visit ($10 for adults), it is pretty unique.

The cave is really a tunnel that has been built in the earth, connecting a sea cave to the lively street above. It was constructed in 1902 to facilitate a smuggling business, and survives today as a tourist attraction.

Tunnel to the sea cave (c) ABR 2013

If you visit, you will walk down many steps in a narrow tunnel, down from the Cave Shop to the sea cave. Knowing that it was constructed for smuggling purposes, the structure of the tunnel makes a lot of sense, and I would bet you can imagine the sneaky activities that went on there when you visit (I sure did!). If you want a little more adventure, there are also kayaking tours of La Jolla’s sea caves.

La Jolla is also a shopping and restaurant district near the ocean. So, it is a nice place for some higher-end gifts and apparel, dining, and window shopping. Parking can be a bit of a struggle on busy weekends, though, so if you want to avoid some stress, come a little earlier in the day.

1915-1916 – Balboa Park 

what to do in Balboa Park

The Lily Pond (c) ABR

I have an entire post on Balboa Park, so needless to say, I think this place is well worth a visit. The area was technically turned into a city park in 1868, but it took a form similar to what we know now in 1915-1916 for the Panama-California Exposition. The intricate, Spanish-inspired buildings, nestled among gardens and massive eucalyptus trees, definitely speak of another time.

However, in our modern day, you can also experience cultures from all over the world, and learn about fascinating history and science. Like all of the locations in this list, Balboa is a gift from the past, a place that we continue to thoroughly enjoy today.

1930 – Crystal Pier and Pacific Beach

Crystal Pier (c) ABR 2021

Crystal Pier is a uniquely built hotel that includes several sizeable cottages that were constructed over the water in 1930. Unsurprisingly, with upkeep and renovations, Crystal Pier remains an extremely popular place to stay. And luckily, the pier can be enjoyed by anyone (although the gates gave me pause when I visited). In conjunction with enjoying a long-lived dream from the 30s by walking the pier, there is plenty to do in the Pacific Beach neighborhood that surrounds Crystal Pier.

(c) ABR 2021

First, there is a beautiful beach (with bathrooms). And second, there is TONS of good food in Pacific Beach. In particular, I fell in love with the tiki speakeasy, Grass Skirt, and Afters Ice Cream. Although, admittedly, neither are from the 1930s.

1954 – Bali Hai 

For dinner, drinks, and a nice, evening walk, Bali Hai is the place to go. I included this restaurant in my guide to tiki in San Diego. It is part of the living history of San Diego, as this restaurant opened its doors in 1954, and is a famed tiki destination. While I would personally say that it isn’t the picture of modern tiki experiences due to the lack of themeing, this is still a very cool destination in the city.

The Bali Hai is a classic place for date night or a classy dinner, and its round shape, second floor dining area, and sweeping wall of windows, makes it a beautiful place to dine as well. They are famed for their mai tais, and I very much enjoyed their dinner, although it was a bit expensive.

Although the restaurant has been kept up and remains a classy hang out, there are elements of the 50s that remain with it. If you visit, particularly as a tiki fan, you will enjoy the moment in history that this place represents.

I would suggest getting a reservation before you visit, and potentially request a table near the windows.

Practical Tips

(c) ABR 2021

  • Please note that San Diego does get hot in the summer, and that electricity and wildfires can be an issue. If you are visiting, please help the community conserve resources and protect the land.
  • The best way to get around San Diego is via car. Although they have a more robust public transportation system than Phoenix, it will be very time consuming to take the bus everywhere and the train has limited reach.
  • While American culture is pervasive due to movies and tv shows, if you are from out of the country and haven’t been before, please help us by remembering that the Hollywood portrayal of American life isn’t a reflection of our actual experience. Life is difficult, particularly for communities entrenched in the tourism industry. One way you can help is by giving local manners a try– being polite to local people while traveling is always important.

Next Steps

For more San Diego, be sure to look through our guide to the city. We live a short drive away, so while we aren’t local, we have visited many times.

If you are planning a more comprehensive California trip, you will also like our posts on natural, history, and culture across Southern California and the Channel Islands.

And if you’d like to save this particular post for later, consider pinning it! It is a huge help to our little, grassroots business.

san diego hikes

Two Amazing San Diego Hikes: A National Monument and a Summit

There is a lot of great hiking in San Diego. So frankly, it can be hard to choose just one or two trails if you don’t have a ton of time. I’ve got you covered though with these two amazing San Diego hikes. The family-friendly Cabrillo National Monument trails cater to hikers of all levels. They offer history, seasonal whale watching, and a visitor center as well. For those of you looking for a workout, the Cowles Summit Trail is the place for you. The following guide will help you pick which trail is the best fit for you (or maybe you want to do both). And it will fill you in on what to expect and how to plan for each.

Read on to fit some nature into your San Diego vacation. Or if you are a local and haven’t been, maybe consider checking these spots out!

Cabrillo National Monument

A Brief History of the Park

san diego hikes

(c) ABR 2020

Cabrillo National Monument is home to several San Diego hikes. It has tide pools, land-based whale watching, as well as a wealth of historic heritage. The site was originally protected as the site of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first stepped foot onto the west coast of what we now call the United States. This made him the first European to visit this part of the world. And it signaled a wave of change that would come to the many indigenous peoples who called and still call this land home and have been stewarding it for thousands of years.

Cabrillo National Monument as it is now, is a wonderful attraction for families, but also has spaces for quiet contemplation of what these changes meant for the original Californians. If you would like to learn more about the historic and modern indigenous people associated with the land, I would suggest heading over to the Native Land Digital Map to learn more. You can also support tribes by donating, supporting their work with volunteer hours, and/or elevating their voices and stories.

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What to Do in Balboa Park on a Weekend Away in San Diego

Balboa park is really a cultural gem of San Diego, and no trip to this seaside city would be complete without a visit to this premier location. If you want to know about what to do in Balboa Park, here is a short list of what will be explored below. There are a variety of gardens, and museums of all kinds (some of them free). And on top of all that, Balboa is right next door to the San Diego Zoo, and walking distance from downtown. You could spend an entire weekend exploring this beautiful park, or you could visit different parts over time. Whatever the case, if you’ve never been and you are planning a visit to San Diego, don’t miss this special place. As I always say, it has a little bit of something for everybody.

what to do in Balboa Park

History of Balboa Park

what to do in Balboa Park

The land that Balboa Park now sits on is in the ancestral home of the Kumeyaay people, who have lived in the San Diego region for more than 10,000 years.

In 1868, post-colonization of the area, the land was designated a city park, but was not tended until Kate Sessions entered the scene in 1892. This amazing woman began planting 100 trees a year, and donating other plants in exchange for the use of some land as a nursery. Due to her tireless work and lasting impact on the place we know and love today, Kate is known as the “Mother of Balboa Park.”

More attention and investment was put to Balboa in preparation for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, at which time the park received the name it goes by today (replacing “City Park”). While much has changed in the park over time, many of the thematic ideas that we can still enjoy today were envisioned and developed at this time.

You can read more about the history of the park in Balboa Park History. 

What to Do in Balboa Park for a Weekend

what to do in Balboa Park

Inside the Botanical Building (c) ABR

If you really want to experience the park, you will need to spend at least an entire day, if not two. You could certainly spend more time in Balboa if you wanted to visit all the museums, and many elements of the park are fun to revisit.

On a nice fall or spring day, I would suggest spending the morning walking through the gardens (see below for some good options). Eat lunch at one of the park cafes or surrounding restaurants, and then go to one of the park’s many amazing museums for the afternoon.

When it is really hot in San Diego, you can also escape the heat in one of the many museums, while also getting some amazing views of the architecture and park.

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San Diego Tiki Bars and An Honest Review of Tiki Oasis

As the tiki folks who read my guide to Phoenix tiki bars know, I still have a lot to learn about the world of tiki. But we have really gotten into the scene (in my introverted way) since our first tiki bar out in Las Vegas. I’ve been to all the tiki bars in Arizona, visited tiki bars across the Midwest, started collecting signature tiki mugs… And we started our home bar with tiki recipe books. Needless to say, I really enjoy this corner of Americana. So, when we got vaccinated in the year of our Lord 2021, we wanted to celebrate with tickets to Tiki Oasis. It seemed like the biggest tiki celebration we’d probably ever have the chance to attend, and it was nestled among some of the amazing modern San Diego tiki bars. So, we made a weekend of it.

Whether you are considering Tiki Oasis in what I hope to be less strange years post-2021, or will be visiting San Diego in general and want to see the tiki sights, this little, honest guide is for you.

san diego tiki bars

The Wonderful World of San Diego Tiki Bars

San Diego is home to one of the oldest tiki restaurants still in operation in the US. It’s got the sun and sea for tiki. And its modern tiki bars are exceptionally fun.

For anyone looking to get into tiki or cross a few special places off of their tiki bucketlist, San Diego is a must-visit location. There is a tiki bar for everyone here.

Bali Hai

san diego tiki bars

(c) ABR 2021

The Bali Hai is a tiki classic, which opened all the way back in 1954. You can delve into the story of this historic restaurant on their website, but no tiki trip to San Diego tiki bars would be complete without a visit. At least, not if you’ve never been.

For as special as it is, the Bali Hai isn’t really what I would consider my jam when it comes to tiki. The restaurant is beautiful, and the views are unmatched, with its huge glass walls. But it’s really more of a classy place for date night than it is a fun-loving tiki place. The prices are higher, and the food is fancier. But it also lacks the immersion of other tiki restaurants/bars on this list. Also, while I think it is inarguable that tiki has questionable roots, there are some strong… inappropriate vibes when it comes to the Bali Hai signature tiki mug and the giant head that adorns the top of the building. I know it’s historic, but we didn’t even bother buying a mug because it just felt… a little too on the nose. I know people will have differing opinions than me on this in both directions when it comes to tiki, and I think all perspectives are legit. But for me, it was an additional element that just made Bali Hai one of my less favorite tiki spots in San Diego.

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Tempe Hiking Trails: Hayden Butte Preserve, Evelyn Hallman Park and Tempe Papago Park

If I’m being frank, Tempe, AZ isn’t known for its hiking options and for good reason. There really aren’t a lot of options in this Phoenix suburb for outdoor adventurers, and nothing supremely challenging. That being said, Tempe hiking trails do offer some good opportunities for exercise and exploring the Sonoran Desert. Furthermore, because these trails are not particularly challenging, they are accessible to more people at different levels of experience and physical needs. (I also know from experience the Tempe parks and rec department is full of amazing people looking to protect the habitats that their desert parks include). Although there are no sweeping peaks in Tempe, there are sacred lands with evidence of long-standing indigenous use. So, let’s explore what hiking you can do in Tempe, Arizona.

Hayden Butte Preserve

tempe hiking trails

ABR (c) 2019

If you are looking for a mountain from among Tempe hiking trails, Hayden Butte Preserve is for you. Also known as A Mountain, this butte is easily identifiable from the south side of the mountain by its large, cement ‘A.’ This may be painted different colors throughout the year depending on University of Arizona/ASU competition and pranks.

It’s about a 0.7 mile RT hike from the base of this little mountain to the top. But it is pretty steep, so Hayden Butte is a popular spot for exercisers. If you are working up to big mountains, and starting from little hiking experience or you are rebuilding strength, this is a great option. The trail is mostly paved and pretty wide. Towards the top, there are stairs that need to be navigated, however. And there are sections of dirt trail as well.

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Mt. Humphreys Trail: A Guide to the Arizona Highpoint

Arizona doesn’t have the spectacular 14,000 ft mountains of Colorado or the pacific states, but the state is home to the sacred San Francisco Peaks. These rise out of the crags of the Sonoran Desert to the south and the drier plains of the north, and tower over everything else in Arizona. You can see them from miles away in every direction, and when you are exploring the likes of Flagstaff, you can see evidence of the powerful volcanic activity that formed this place eons ago. Unsurprisingly, the San Francisco Peaks are home to Arizona’s highpoint, which can be reached via the Mt. Humphreys Trail. For those travelers who are willing to respect the mountain, its people, and their own safety, trying for the summit of Mt. Humphreys is one of the most beautiful adventures in Arizona. This 10 mile hike is a challenging day excursion, which is well worth the physical struggle for the spiritual experience, the beautiful views, and chance to visit the crown of Arizona.

For those interested in trying their hand at this trail, this guide will give you insight into the specifics of the Mt. Humphreys Trail, what it’s like to climb it, and how to stay safe and respectful on the mountain.

Is the Mt. Humphreys Trail For You?

This guide is not a promise of safety nor a guarantee that you can do this climb. It is your responsibility to decide if this is a challenge for you, and you are responsible for your own safety while exploring.

There is no doubt that the Mt. Humphreys Trail is not for everyone – at least not if you plan on trying for the summit. In order to do this trail safely, you need to be in good shape, have some trail experience, and be willing to change your plans for inclement weather. That all being said, this trek is relatively well-marked for most of its length, and with patience and an early start, I think it is a positive challenge. Even if you can’t make it to the top, the forest is breathtaking in the lower stretches of the trail. It’s one of the most vibrant places in Arizona. And if you make it to the saddle, you will be rewarded with expansive views of Flagstaff. From there, you can experience life above the treeline even without making it past the false summit to the peak itself.

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Three Great Places for Popsicles in Phoenix, Arizona

Everyone knows that it is HOT in Phoenix, Arizona in the summer. Hot and dry- perfect weather for enjoying a nice, cold popsicle. Store bought brands might jump right to the top of your mind, when I bring up popsicles, but Phoenix actually has some really amazing places for fresh, beautiful, frozen treats. Let me share three of my favorites, ranked. ALL of them are amazing.

Pop N’ Tea

Pop N’ Tea makes both popsicles and teas, but even as a tea-lover, I still think that the popsicles steal the show in this shop. Referred to as diamond bars, the popsicles of Pop N’ Tea have a unique appearance that makes them aesthetic and appealing. But unlike some Insta-worthy foods, these popsicles are out of this world. Made of gelato and sorbet, these are the softest popsicles- the perfect texture. The texture is only outmatched by the rich flavors and the pleasant appeal of the extra crunch that you can get by adding chocolate and/or toppings to your popsicle. The mix of flavor options and some ability to create your own mix of flavors with the popsicle base and toppings makes this an extra fun place for a light, cold dessert.

Learn more at the Pop N’ Tea website.

550 W MCDOWELL RD.

PHOENIX, AZ 85003

602-253-6310

POPNTEABAR@GMAIL.COM

Pop Stand in Rise Hotel

Pop Stand doubles as the check in for Rise Hotel, and it is proud enough of its treats to serve them to all guests checking in. Luckily, you don’t need to be a guest to get your hands on these tasty and creative popsicles. Pop Stand has a ton of different flavors, with the most eye-catching popsicles being the triple flavored treats that you can get. Each one has stripes of color representing the combinations of flavors. There are also a few alchoholic options, along with both dairy and fruit-only options. All are delicious and refreshing. In terms of texture, these are harder popsicles, and you won’t be able to get customizations. However, there are enough flavors that this shouldn’t be an issue. When we visited, I was so enchanted by the atmosphere of the hotel, that I hope I can hold a staycation here sometime in the future.

Check out Pop Stand’s website for their current flavors.

400 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013

popstand@riseuptownhotel.com

480.536.8990

AZ Pops

In my opinion, AZ Pops is the best option for health-conscious dessert eaters and/or people with dietary restrictions. The staff were very knowledgeable about the contents of the popsicles here, and most options were fresh and vegan. (Although they do have some dairy options). They also have options that don’t have added sugar and get most of their sweetness from the fruits used to make the popsicles. They also have many many different flavors, and you can customize your order by dipping into a coconut-based chocolate. These popsicles were also quite hard like Pop Stand, so if you have sensitive teeth, be sure to take your time eating them. This won’t be too problematic, as this will give you more time to enjoy their fresh flavors.

Learn more about their flavors and commitment to healthy and fresh ingredients at the AZ Pops website.

5050 N 7th St. Phoenix, Arizona 85014

602-279-0026

Learn more about the joys of exploring Arizona.

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