Baseball, great hiking add to Phoenix fun

Friday, April 10, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 15

Waking at 4 a.m. for an early morning flight to Phoenix isn’t how I’d typically want to start a day that sees me hiking a difficult trail up Camelback Mountain at lunchtime.

But with just three days to explore Scottsdale, Ariz., I was all about taking full advantage of my time. And that included hitting the trail soon after my mid-morning arrival, in part to avoid the heat of the day.

Yes, it was March but the heat comes on quickly in this Sonoran Desert community.

I didn’t travel to Arizona just for hiking, but with more than 300 miles of trails in the Scottsdale area and 200 named climbs in the city’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve, it’s a must for anyone who enjoys being in the outdoors.

Scottsdale is a city of more than 200,000 residents on the eastern side of the Phoenix metro area. There is much to do in Phoenix, but Scottsdale alone has plenty to offer visitors.

The Phoenix area is home to the Cactus League, with 15 of Major League Baseball’s teams playing spring training games in the area. Scottsdale is home to three teams, making it a logical base for spring training fans during March.

But what about the other 11 months of the year? Relaxing in the sun at one of the community’s numerous resorts is a great start.

I stayed at the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia near Camelback Mountain, where just a 10-minute walk had me at the base of the Echo Canyon Summit trail. There also are plenty of great views of the mountain for those who would rather just lounge by the three pools with a drink in hand.

The Omni Scottsdale is one of those properties where a family can spend a weekend and never need to leave.

The property’s new Chef’s Kitchen and Herb Garden helps supply the resort’s restaurants, and the Joya Spa covers the relaxation factor quite well.

I actually had a deep-tissue massage, a good thing after the hike and walking around Downtown Scottsdale.

Speaking of Downtown, Old Town gives a taste of that Old West feel while also having a selection of modern restaurants, bars, art galleries and shops. Scottsdale Stadium, the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants, is within walking distance.

And the Scottsdale Arts District, Entertainment District and Fashion Square are walkable neighborhoods with plenty of action during the day or night.

One of the highlights was a Saturday morning visit to Singh Farms. Underneath a canopy of trees, soil expert Ken Singh has created a 20-acre oasis where everything imaginable is grown in a sustainable way.

Chefs source vegetables for their restaurants during the week, and on Saturdays it is open for the community to shop for local products.

It’s just another way Scottsdale manages to find a comfortable oasis in the middle of the desert.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at